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Cartier - In all Shapes and Sizes

Cartier In all Shapes and Sizes

Cartier has always been about mastering the rest of the repertoire: square, rectangular, oval and in this case, bell-shaped timepieces

Featuring cases ranging from square to rectangular to round and even bell-shaped, Cartier’s 2021 line-up vividly demonstrates the brand’s ability to master unusual formats. While 90% of watches out there are designed as some sort of circle, Cartier has always been about deftly handling the rest of the repertoire. That doesn’t mean round timepieces are beyond its skillset, nor that its round timepieces are your average, run-of-the-mill circle. Quite the opposite in fact. Nonetheless, it has consistently proven its flair for less standard and sometimes downright unusual shapes.

First hit

Tank is a legend in its own right, a century old and one of the most ancient watches still in production in one form or another. As a matter of fact, it’s mostly been another because Tank is not a watch. It’s a family. A range. An archetypal shape that has constantly evolved and been stretched upwards as well as sideways, interpreted in narrower, wider, squarer and curved iterations. So in 2021, what Cartier names Tank Must is the original shape with the original proportions. A vertical rectangle with a height to width ratio of about 1:3:1; a straight caseband with a rounded edge; a tapered crown fitted with a cabochon stone; and a dial featuring the swordtype hands that are Cartier’s signature.

In all Shapes and Sizes

Tank Must © Cartier

Reviving the hit

Within that shape, Cartier is releasing the Tank Must in three sizes, three types of movement, a throwback to the 1980s and a harbinger of things to come. Small, medium and large cases house quartz or mechanical movements, and an absolute new feature that deserves a little explanation. The tank SolarBeat is the first Cartier watch with a solar power-charged battery. The typical Cartier Roman numerals are in fact discreet apertures which let the light shine in on photovoltaic cells. This is the kind of visionnary moves we can now expect to flourish as technology adapts to the realm of high-end watchmaking. As for the throwback, Cartier is bringing back the original Must. Released in 1977, this was an affordable, elegant, quartz watch with a non-precious metal case and a burgundy dial. It was a massive success. It had been designed to restore the past glory of Cartier, by then a dwindling brand. The result was beyond everyone’s expectations and the Must became a 1980s hit, as well as a range of accessories, all ensuring that it lived up to its name. The 2021 model is close to the orignal, with a cleaner, almost nude dial, available in burgundy, a deep green or mid-blue.

Hitting the bell

Change the ratio and you switch from a rectangle to almost a square. That’s what the Santos-Dumont feels like, although its actual dimensions make it a true rectangle. Cartier is bringing back the Santos-Dumont XL, available in steel, steel and yellow gold or rose gold versions. This is a masculine piece and contrary to what many may believe, the entire Santos line, including the present versions, comprises very slim timepieces. Cartier has fitted it with the handwound 430MC caliber, which is in fact an ultra-thin Piaget movement. This means the Santos- Dumont XL measures just 7.5mm thick and exudes undeniable elegance.

In all Shapes and Sizes

Santos-Dumont © Cartier

Take three-quarters of the narrowest Tank and give the last side a completely rounded shape. That’s the Cloche de Cartier: the one-sided intersection of a rectangle and a circle. A design born in 1920 that is literally incomparable, because how many watches out there feature their 12 o’clock at 3 o’clock? The dial’s numerals are shifted 90 degrees, making the Cloche surprisingly close to a Driver’s watch, which it is not. Despite its quirky appearance, the Cloche is no dumb bell. This smart, light, slim, and fantastically model belongs to the Maison’s high-end Cartier Privé collection, which is the revival of the brand’s original line of complicated and refined timepieces from the early 2000s. This explains why all three versions, made of yellow or pink gold or platinum, are issued in 100-piece limited editions.

In all Shapes and Sizes

Cloche de Cartier © Cartier

Repeat hit

And then there are the round Cartiers. Actually, the two round Cartiers that were massive hits in their time. In chronological order, the first is the Pasha. It used to be a large and thick man’s watch featuring a sense of oddity with its elaborate Arabic numerals in 1910s-style font and a crown-cover hanging by a chainlink. In 1985, it was 38mm in diameter and that was big. It quickly became a woman’s watch as well. In the early 1990s, timepieces underwent a major revolution: women started wearing their husbands’ watches. They went for the big ones, the chunky ones, the virile ones and in a swooping and astounding move, accessorized in the most unexpected manner. The Pasha is one of three watches that were instrumental, foundational, in that shift. In 2020, Cartier brought back the Pasha as a gender-neutral piece. That may not be a possible outcome with the Pasha Chronograph. It’s bold, it’s large, it’s not particularly thick but its busy design makes it a powerful presence on the wrist.

In all Shapes and Sizes

Pasha © Cartier

Perfect fit

In 2007, Cartier released the Ballon Bleu. This collection epitomizes the level of design acumen at Cartier. It may look round but its case is in fact a pebble. Shaped like a lens, thin on the edges and moving slowly to a thicker center, it’s rounded on both sides. As a result, it sits on the wrist to perfection. Curved, delicate, assertive, it also had its quirk: a hollowed-out crown cover created a bump in the otherwise perfectly circular bezel. Oddly enough, the Ballon Bleu had never been manufactured with a 40mm case. The fit is still perfect, the elegance intact and the style, once more, in a class by itself.

In all Shapes and Sizes

Ballon Bleu © Cartier

 

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Characterised by audacity and inventiveness, Cartier’s watchmaking history reflects a unique state of mind: “jeweller of kings and king of jewellers”. Its renown is bound up in the tradition of excellence to which it is heir. Cartier was a forerunner in the use of platinum in jewellery and one of the pioneers of watchmaking.

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