Back to basics and big cats for the king of jewellers.
Cartier focused on two sensible themes for its SIHH 2017 collection, namely the panther (figuratively and literally), as well as the cushion-shaped Drive de Cartier first introduced last year.
Designs and shapes were all vintage Cartier, styled in a manner that would appeal to lovers of the Parisian jeweller’s classic aesthetic. Few of the high-end complications that Cartier favoured in recent years were part of the line-up.
The key new launch was the return of the replica watches Panthère de Cartier, one of the “it” watches of the 1980s that sold in vast numbers. Thin and compact, the Panthère was originally conceived as a feminine version of the Santos, with the same squarish case but with the screws on the bezel replaced by rivets for a more streamlined look.
Cartier has resurrected the Panthère almost exactly as it was 30 years ago, with the same square case and link bracelet. Minor changes have been made, most obviously in the more robust bracelet, but it’s hard to distinguish the new Panthère from the original.
Like the 1980s model today’s Panthère is also quartz, and available in two sizes, Small and Medium. Several versions are available, including the various colours of gold as well as with diamonds; there’s even one set with diamonds and black enamel spots resembling a Dalmatian. But the one that truly channels the 1980s is the steel and gold version.
Technically basic but affordable, the Panthère starts at approximately US$4000 in steel, US$7000 in steel and gold, and US$20,000 in gold.
The other affordable highlight were the new fake Drive de Cartier watches US, led by the Drive de Cartier Extra-Flat.
Standing just under 7mm high, the watch lives up to its name. The case diameter is just 39mm, but the cushion-shaped form gives it a bigger footprint than a round watch of the same size so it’s elegant but not dimunitive.
The sensation of the flatness is enhanced by the flat dial finished with radial brushing, instead of the guilloche that’s typical for Cartier.
Inside is the calibre 430 MC, a small, hand-wound movement that’s actually the Piaget 430P. This is available in pink gold, priced at US$15,600 or S$21,500.
It’s also offered as a limited edition of 200 pieces in white gold, priced at US$16,700 or S$23,000.
The Drive de Cartier Moon Phases is even more affordable. Powered by the in-house automatic 1904-LU MC, the Drive de Cartier Moon Phases indicates only the time and the age of the moon. A pusher on the side of the case advances the moon disc.
Available in pink gold or steel, the luxury copy Drive de Cartier Moon Phases is 41mm in diameter, with a guilloche dial and blued steel hands. The case is 12.15mm high, leaving the watch feeling more substantial than it looks.
This costs US$7850 or S$10,900 in steel, and US$21,200 in pink gold.
The Drive de Cartier Panther Décor uses the cushion-shaped case as a canvas for hand-engraving and enamelling that depicts a vividly drawn panther.
Finely engraved lines represent individual hairs of the animal, coming together to create a textured surface. The panther is in relief, rising up ever so slightly from the dial, and continuing on the bezel and side of the case.
Large enough to suit a man or woman, the case 41mm in diameter and yellow gold. Inside is the 1904 MC automatic movement.
This is priced at S$103,000, or about US$72,000.
Decorated similarly lavishly and intricately is the Clé de Cartier Watch Panther Décor, which uses the ovoid case with a key-shaped crown that Cartier introduced two years ago. This is a ladies’ watch, being 40mm in diameter with a diamond set bezel.
The panther decoration is more elaborate, with the create set against a dial made of aventurine, a type of quartz with sparkling mineral inclusions, and set with green emeralds for its eyes. While this may be fancier, the Drive de Cartier Panther Décor has more instinctive appeal.
Like all the other Cle de Cartier watches, this has inside the 1847 MC movement. It’s an in-house calibre but the most basic of the range.
This is priced at S$109,000, or about US$76,000.
Another panther-themed metier d’art timepiece is the Ronde Louis Cartier XL Flamed Gold watch.
A panther depicted in Impressionistic colours and strokes is actually the result of a lengthy process that begins with the solid gold dial disc being heated until it turns blue (a bluish-purple to be exact).
Parts of the panther motif are then scratched off the dial – the blue is only surface oxidisation – and the disc is then heated again to transform the exposed part into another colour. This is done in stages, over and over, until the full panther is formed.
The white gold case is 41mm in diameter and set with diamonds on the bezel, while the movement inside is the 430 MC. That’s the same manually wound, Piaget-sourced calibre inside the Drive de Cartier Extra-Flat.
The Ronde Louis Cartier XL Flamed Gold watch is limited to 30 pieces and the price is on application, but don’t expect it to be any less than low six figures.
Another artisanal technique is used for the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Marquetry watch.
The geometric pattern on the dial is actually composed of tiny tiles of semiprecious stone, cut and laid by hand.
The movement inside is the 9984 MC, a hand-wound movement with a mystery time display.
Both the hour and minute hands are mounted on clear sapphire discs with teeth on their rim, which are in turn driven by gears hidden on the perimeter of the dial. In fact, the bulk of the movement is squeezed into a crescent-shaped area around the sapphire dial.
The case is white gold and set with diamonds on the bezel. This is a limited edition of 50 watches, priced at S$112,000, equivalent to US$78,000.
Featuring the open-worked version of the same movement, the replica Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Hour Watch reveals much of the clever movement inside.
The base plate on the front and bridges on the back – which are all made of German silver – have been open-worked into large Roman numerals, a Cartier signature.
This leaves the mainspring visible at two o’clock, while the balance wheel sits under the four o’clock numeral.
The 42mm case is made of palladium, a dense, white metal from the same family as platinum. It’s priced at S$103,000, or about US$72,000.
Also mysterious but far more complicated (as a name this long always implies) is the Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon.
Big, ambitious and very complex, this feels like a creation from the times before the watch business started its decline. But as such complications go, the new repeater is well executed.
The look is modern, with an open dial that shows off the striking mechanism of the minute repeater and the wheel train for the time. All the moving parts contrast with the bridges and base plate finished in black rhodium.
At 11 o’clock sits the “Mysterious Double Tourbillon”. “Mysterious” because it sits on a clear sapphire disc, seemingly floating in midair, and “double” because the tourbillon cage rotates once a minute, while the sapphire disc below makes one revolution every five minutes.
Despite its 45mm diameter, it is slim (at 11.5mm high) and light, being titanium, giving it good balance in the hand. And the size and lightness of the case improve the sound of the chimes, since there is greater acoustic resonance with larger cases made of less dense materials.
Limited to 50 pieces in titanium (as well as several versions with diamonds), the minute repeating double tourbillon will cost approximately US$440,000.
The other very complicated watch unleashed at SIHH 2017 is a new variant of the Rotonde de Cartier Astrocalendar, now in pink gold.
It’s a tourbillon with an “amphitheatre” perpetual calendar, named after the stepped, concentric layout of the calendar.
Conceived to be robust and easy to set, the calendar on calibre 9459 MC can be set backwards and forwards with no ill effect on the mechanism. This will cost approximately US$200,000.