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Cartier are the flagship brand of the Richemont group, with the biggest stand at the Salon (actually two of them), yet they seem to garner little interest on the forums or very much respect from Watchnuts. And I think I know why; their product range is so wide and diverse that it is difficult to get any focus. When we talk about Patek, we think about complicated watches, when we talk about Rolex we think about Datejusts and Submariners, but when we talk about Cartier, some will think of Tank watches, others of the two tone Santos which was ubiquitous a decade ago whilst others think of the high jewellery ladies’ pieces. And whilst this ‘lack of focus’ may seem a problem to some; to me it is the reason to make them my brand of the year.
Putting it simply, there is no other brand which makes and sells watches across such a broad spectrum; many of their watches are in direct competition with watches like the Rolex Datejust, Ballon blue, for example whilst some of their high horology pieces are viable competitors for folks like Greubel Forsey. Name me another watch brand who could even attempt to make a similar claim?
And that is without taking into account their high Jewelry work, which this year was even more amazing than ever before. This year, maybe because of the interest aroused by the film ‘Avatar’ they seemed to emphasise the three dimensionality of their jewellery pieces. Have a look at some of the images below, by Tony P shot exclusively for Timezone at the Salon.
How’s this for three dimensionality? The little bear slides along hidden rails, either revealing the watch dial or by covering it, making the watch into a bracelet.
But, if high jewelry is not your thing, how about high horology? Have a look at this crystal pocket watch.
One of Cartier’s signatures is the panther, they have used the big cat in everything from brooches to bracelets; but have a look at this watch.
But then look what happens when you move your wrist.
The panther floats around the inner perimeter of the bezel, as if it were getting ready to pounce.
I have always found it rather ironic that we watchnuts love to talk about craftsmanship and respect for old traditions when we talk about watchmaking, but immediately turn up our noses at anything that looks like jewelry. Here’s the thing, though; there is as much craftsmanship & use of dying arts in making a cloisonné enamel dial as there is in a minute repeater. Just have a look at the workmanship in this Koala dial.
Any idea how it is made? It is marquetry, but rather than using strips of wood in the conventional way, here the artist uses straw made from the stems of rye grass.
Want to see some more innovative watchmaking, have a look at this Annual Calendar, I love the use of all the differing levels here.
But Cartier haven’t forgotten their most iconic watch; the Tank, this year there were three introductions, here is my favourite, a revised version of the classic in a very slim case, only 5.4mm deep using a 2.1mm thick Piaget movement.
Undoubtedly the most popular introduction on the Tank range, this year, was the completely new Tank Anglaise (English Tank), which completes the trio of nationally named models after the Tank Francaise and the Tank Americaine. The relevance of these three countries is that they are where each of the three Cartier brothers owned a store, Paris, London & New York.
And in the ladies’ versions is what seems to be the offspring between the Tank and the Crash, the Tank Folie.
But, if you are bored with looking at diamond watches once again, how about this:
But I will close with what I think is the most amazing piece of work, a Santos XL with a dial showing horse’s head executed in multi colour micro mosaic.
You can agree or disagree with me over my choice of Brand of the Shows, but I don’t think you can call these watches anything other than exquisite craftsmanship.
In closing, I want to extend my thanks to Tony P who shot almost all of the gorgeous images you see, exclusively for TZ.