The timelessness of Cartier watches resides not only in the house’s classic design codes, but also in the subtle ways in which those codes continue to evolve. With a proud heritage spanning over 170 years, the legacy maison is renowned for pushing the boundaries with its designs and complications.
“We are here to create long-lasting objects,” says Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s director of image, style, and heritage. “You cannot separate designs [from] innovations during the creation process.”
The new Cartier collection unveiled at this year’s SIHH – from the Libre collection, to the new Santos de Cartier series, to the one-of-a-kind complicated watches – serves as an excellent illustration of the approach that Rainero describes.
One of the most topical pieces from the collection is the Révélation watch, depicting – in “hide-and-seek” fashion – the head of a panther, Cartier’s iconic house motif, in gold beads on the dial.
With a flick of the wearer’s wrist, the gold beads track slowly down the dial before settling into place, revealing the panther motif. The image holds only fleetingly before the gold beads trickle down to the base of the dial.
“The design is not only a playful [way of depicting] the panther, but is also poetic,” Rainero says. “The technical innovations shouldn’t be gimmicky, but should [make] a real [impact].”
The “hide-and-seek” depiction of the panther’s head is possible, thanks to a couple of patented innovative techniques. Rainero says that the house continues to invest in technical innovations that also have “aesthetic resonance”.
The Révélation, powered by the in-house, hand-wound Calibre 430 MC, comes in black, green or red, and has a 37mm-diameter 18ct pink gold case with a diamond-set bezel. The green and the red versions are limited to 100 pieces each.
Cartier has also been pushing the design boundaries with its other house motifs. Known for its shaped watches – from the rectangular Tank to the asymmetrical Crash – Cartier has been exploring ways in which these shapes can be artistically reinterpreted.
This year’s new Libre collection puts a modern spin on the classic Baignoire model, with its oval case. Five limited-edition references are featured in the collection – the Baignoire Débordante, Baignoire Infinie, Baignoire Étoilée, Baignoire Interdite and Crash Radieuse.
“Oval-shaped watches are very Cartier, so it’s a playground for us that’s totally natural,” Rainero says. “This time we went beyond the traditional oval-shaped watches [to] create artistic objects for your wrist.”
Each of the styles represents a reinterpretation of the classic oval shape. The Interdite, for example, has a subtly luxurious design, with oversized Roman numerals, coated in glossy black ADLC, wrapping the case.
The Débordante, however, has a more dramatic design, featuring a ring of openworked petals crafted in white gold, set with diamonds and accentuated with black spinels around the oval dial.
The Libre watches come as offerings limited to 50 pieces of the Débordante, and only 20 pieces of the Infinie.
Cartier certainly leverages its rich heritage and its know-how in high jewellery to create its luxurious evening timepieces. But the same attention to detail, and the same innovative approaches, are also applied to its everyday watches.
This year, the maison turned the spotlight on its iconic Santos de Cartier series. Created in 1904 for the aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, the timepiece marks an important milestone in Cartier’s watch designs as it was the first purpose-built modern wristwatch.
“Everything we do, to make it change or evolve, is a huge responsibility,” Rainero says.
The 2018 update of the Santos watch has focused on improving ergonomics and the comfort of the wearer, while maintaining the timeless allure of the design. Subtle changes have been made to create a sleeker shape and improve legibility – changes that might not immediately be apparent to the untrained eye – which highlight the house’s luxurious approach to adapting its iconic designs to the modern lifestyle.
An example of such a change is the optimised proportions of the dial, accomplished thanks to modern production techniques.
The iconic bezel featuring eight screws – referencing urban architecture circa 1900 – is updated to accentuate the synergy between the lines of the case and the strap.
The more obvious contemporary update to the new, more ergonomic version of the Santos is the patented QuickSwitch system, which allows the wearer to easily interchange straps – from exotic skin to precious metal. The other new feature, SmartLink self-fitting technology, also makes it easier to adjust the length of the metal bracelet without the use of a tool.
Such technical innovations can save watch owners from having to seek professional help each time they want to change the strap or the fit of the watch.
“What we [haven’t] changed, however, is the profile of the Santos design. But now it’s even more comfortable to wear,” Rainero says.
The new Santos family features a range of references in different cases, from steel to yellow gold and pink gold, as well as the two-tone yellow gold and steel combination. The watches are powered by the 1847 MC automatic movement and come in either large (39.8mm x 47.5mm) or medium size (35.1mm x 41.9mm). They are water-resistant to 100 metres and boast a power reserve of 42 hours.
A highlight from the new Santos range is a large version featuring a skeletonised movement, available in pink gold or stainless steel – a nod to the urban architecture that originally inspired the design of the Santos. It’s a rare reference combining the house’s skeletonised movement with a stainless steel case.
It is the constant innovation of Cartier and the respect with which it treats its heritage codes that have earned it a seat in the hall of fame of haute horlogerie. The new novelties launched at SIHH 2018 also highlight the house’s traditions in creating complicated movements combined with savoir-faire. The maison’s famous Mystery Clocks, first designed in the early 1910s, were the source of inspiration for two new novelties – the Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon, and the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Day & Night.
The Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon, limited to 30 pieces only and certified for the prestigious Poinçon de Genève, creates the optical illusion of the tourbillon being suspended in mid-air, with no apparent connection to the rest of the movement.
The Mysterious Day and Night took the mystery movement to the next level, combining it with another historic Cartier complication – the Day/Night indicator.