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Cartier - One Year, One Watch

Cartier One Year, One Watch

2007 : Ballon Bleu*


No doubt you’ll have heard the expression ‘It Girl’, used to describe “an attractive young woman who is perceived to have both sex appeal and an especially engaging personality”. In 2007, the term, invented by author Elinor Glyn, turned 80. And 2007 was definitely an It Year. For one thing, It Girls, along with their male counterparts the It Boys, were rushing to acquire the trendiest objects of the century: the new iPhone and the new white MacBook, both launched that year. In cinemas, It Boy Johnny Depp came out on top with At World’s End, the latest film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

And in top fashion country Italy, they were celebrating AC Milan (2007 Ballon d’Or winner Kaká’s club) winning the Champions League. Milan, fashion capital and It-Ragazza capital, remembers it to this day. On the music scene, Elton John – not only a great man, but also a style icon, whimsical dandy, and absolute It Man – celebrated his sixtieth birthday with a concert at Madison Square Garden.

Tom Jones and Kanye West, named Men of the Year by GQ magazine, performed at the same venue. Also in fashion, John Varvatos was GQ’s Designer of the Year, while the men’s fashion industry was playing musical chairs: Kris Van Assche took over from Hedi Slimane at Dior Men. The It Couturier revolutionised menswear with androgynous models and the slenderest of cuts. An It Year calls for a star watch; a stylish watch; a fashion watch; a watch with an imposing presence: the Cartier Ballon Bleu, of course.

One Year, One Watch

Ballon Bleu © Cartier

Why Cartier?

First off, for many people, the merest mention of It Girls immediately brings the Cartier name to mind. Cartier is so much more than a brand: it’s a monument to a style that’s left its mark on both watchmaking and jewellery. Few brands have a history – and a client list – as prestigious as that of this Parisian maison. Lady Di and Johnny Depp (him again) both wore Cartiers. As did The King of Cool in The Thomas Crown Affair and the formidable Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. The brand has pulled off one legendary watchmaking achievement after another: the Santos, the Tank, the Crash, and the Pasha. Each of these watches embodies the brand’s DNA; each is different; and each made its mark in its day. Cartier’s strength resides in its ability to break with tradition – even as it creates classic, almost immutable timepieces.

As a result, each new creation deserves attention – and Cartier had plenty of that in 2007 with the launch of the very round and androgynous Ballon Bleu.

Cartier Ballon Bleu – The It Watch

The Ballon Bleu’s pebble-shaped design appears classic at first sight – but then makes you look again. When it was first presented in 2007, I immediately loved the way the crown was integrated into the case – a style that had never been seen before. The crown itself is unique, too. It’s neither round nor oval, looking like a ‘baby Balloon’. And the integrated bracelet is fascinating: its rectangular links make a break from the circular shape of the case. What might have seemed ill-advised actually works really well. The dial is just as ground-breaking as the case. There’s a ‘dent’ in it to hold the crown. Some might even interpret that as a secret nod to a Pac-Man, trying to devour a Pacgum.

The Ballon Bleu may have originally been destined for the ladies, but it very quickly won over a lot of men, too – not least the captain of Pirates of the Caribbean. It was also to be seen centre stage in the rather gory series Criminal Minds, on the wrist of SSA Jennifer Jareau, played by A.J. Cook. Which just goes to show that classic watches can be worn on all occasions.

The Take from The Devil’s Advocate

He could simply yell “I’ve had enough of It” and go off to try on other, less It-like watches. The Cartier Ballon Bleu knows how to be seductive. Some models have a few minor weaknesses, though, such as the date feature and the absolutely low-class “Automatic” scrawled across the dial – something that should be prohibited by law on all watches! Other than that, the Ballon Bleu gets full marks, and will doubtlessly carry on capturing the hearts of It Girls and Boys for many years to come.

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English.

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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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