From a design standpoint, Cartier might be the greatest watch brand in the world. Models like the Santos and Tank have been around for over 100 years and, despite very little change, they’re as relevant as ever. However, while Cartier’s most famous watches hail from the early 1900s, that doesn’t mean their only great designs are from 100 years ago. This Cartier Pasha Perpetual Calendar Moonphase, for example, is based on an 80’s era design and is just as bold as its more famous siblings. Still, despite deserving it, watches like this Pasha don’t get nearly enough attention, so let’s change that.
While the Pasha De Cartier was officially released in 1980’s, there are some legends that state its origins are much older. There’s an unverified rumor that in the early 1930s, The Pasha of Marrakesh, Thami El Glaui, requested a piece unique from Louis Cartier that would be durable enough for his active lifestyle. This would make it one of the earliest “luxury sports” watches and is said to be the reasoning behind the Pasha’s crown cover and the metal grid seen over the dial of some examples. However, there isn’t any solid proof of this, and Cartier simply states that the watch “pays tribute to the Pasha of Marrakesh, a lover of fine watchmaking and lifelong customer of Louis Cartier.”
As for what we actually know, the Pasha de Cartier was officially released in 1985 as a sort of Hail Mary play to help the brand rebound after the quartz crisis. Cartier wanted a bold luxury sports watch that could capitalize on the market segment that the Nautilus and Royal Oak were successful in, and who better to help them with that than legendary designer Gerald Genta. Genta designed the Pasha to be an outlier among Cartiers many rectangular and square watches but still imbued the watch with that familiar Cartier charm. Though originally only available in precious metals, the model has since expanded to steel and includes many complications from GMT’s to tourbillions and the perpetual calendar moonphase you see here. This specific model is a rare reference from 1998; while there are plenty of quartz versions to be found, mechanical ones like this are hard to come by.
Unlike the Royal Oak and Nautilus, which look related, the Genta-designed Pasha is very distinct. Its case and lugs are deliberately not integrated with its perfectly round case and Vendome lugs, creating a pronounced visual disconnect. Additionally, the large chained screw-down crown with its trademark blue cabochon is very bold and proudly juts out from the case. This has the accumulative effect of making the case, bracelet, and crown all stand out separately from each other as focal points, and it gives the Pasha its unique and highly recognizable design.
This yellow gold perpetual calendar moonphase is perfectly sized at 38mm in diameter, and due to its complicated dial and opulent gold hue, it looks much more luxurious than sport despite its durability. As with most perpetual calendar timepieces, there is a lot of information crammed onto the dial, but even at 38mm, Cartier does an excellent job here keeping things legible. At twelve, framed by a gold flaked background is the moonphase, at three is the month and leap year indicator, at six is the date, and at nine is the day. All of the indicators besides the moonphase have the information cleanly displayed and need no explanation as to what they’re indicating, which is not always the case. Additionally, the blued steel sword-style hands are bold and stand out nicely against the silver and white guilloché dial. The hour and minutes hands, in particular, have lots of lume and are large enough to be easily located.
One small detail I really appreciate on this watch is under the crown chain hinge. When the crown is unscrewed, it reveals a small blank space perfect for an intimate engraving. I’m a big proponent of engraving watches, and the fact that this one is hidden really rings my bell, especially because the caseback is open and doesn’t allow for any other engraving options.
Inside the Pasha de Cartier is a Cartier finished ETA caliber 039 with a module developed by Gerald Genta. This watch’s mechanical movement is notable as they aren’t super common in Pasha’s from this era, especially the perpetual calendar models. Most examples on the market currently are quartz. This is a rhodium-plated, self-winding movement with a straight-line lever escapement, free-sprung balance, shock absorber, and a self-compensating flat balance sprint. Also, in addition to the perpetual calendar and moonphase complications, it possesses a hacking seconds hand for accurate synchronization. The movement has attractive but minimal finishing embellishments that include a yellow gold winding rotor, Côtes de Genève, and engraved Cartier branding.
Versus The Competition
This Pasha de Cartier is in an interesting place in the market due to its brand and age. I think Cartier overall is a bit undervalued right now, and this particular watch is from 1998, so it’s not quite vintage but not modern either. Its current market value is a little hard to pin down due to its rarity, but it’s somewhere between $15-20,000. For a solid gold Gerald Genta designed perpetual calendar, that is quite a value prop. That makes finding direct comparisons a bit difficult, but I have two alternatives worth your attention.
This IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar is much more traditional looking than the Pasha, but it still has some quirky design details like its scalloped acorn-shaped lugs and concave bezel. Inside is the automatic in-house caliber 89630, which has the perpetual calendar and moonphase complications as well as a flyback chronograph complication. Granted, this is a modern stainless steel watch without the rarity or Genta connection, but at $21,900, it’s still a great value pick if you’re looking for an interesting perpetual calendar.
Another alternative is this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Day-Date in 18k yellow gold. This watch is, of course, a cousin of sorts, with the Pasha being a yellow gold calendar watch that was also designed by Gerald Genta. This reference has been nicknamed the owl due to the subdial layout, and it comes from the same era as the Pasha being introduced in the ’80s. This is a rare and coveted reference with all kinds of great details. I especially love the ivory dial and vintage-style lettering. It is, however, a more expensive piece with this model’s asking price at $35,900.
This Pasha perpetual calendar moonphase is a rakish watch well suited for someone who’s not afraid of a little flash and is perpetually dressed nice. This is the kind of watch that compliments a summer cocktail dress or a Cubavera and fedora very well. Whatever you do, don’t hide it under a stuffy suit sleeve.
This watch being a Cartier and Gerald Genta design represents two of the most prominent design powerhouses in all of watchmaking coming together. On paper, this should be regarded as one of the most iconic watches of all time, yet it remains overshadowed by the other Cartier and Genta legends. However, like most hidden gems in watch collecting, I suspect that won’t be the case for long.