A look at the most important watches in the history of the house


While the very complicated and limited edition watches are indeed valuable, which is equally priceless, they are pieces almost lost in the past. The recently launched Cartier Vintage collection brings some of the brand’s most precious creations to life in all their original glory. Yanni Tan receives a brief history lesson during a preview at the Cartier ION Orchard private salon.

It had only been a few days since Cartier launched its Vintage collection in Singapore, and all eight available pieces had already been seized in presentations to private clients – even before the public could see them. The new owners of the watches couldn’t be luckier, as our city is the third and last market in the world selected for the honor of selling this exclusive collection to date.

Cartier Vintage is such a small collection that only more than 20 watches in total have been offered since its launch in London in 2019 and in Paris last December. Designed by a small group of experts from the brand’s Image, Style and Heritage department, and led by none other than its influential director Pierre Rainero, this is a permanent program that highlights the brand’s watchmaking heritage. through the sourcing, authentication and rigorous restoration of its most important and symbolic old watches.

It is similar to the Cartier Tradition program, which also involves the purchase of iconic jewelry and timepieces from clients for restoration and resale to new clients, but Cartier Vintage currently focuses only on mechanical watches made from the early years. 1970 to early 2010s.

Never a better time

For watch connoisseurs and fans of the brand, this is indeed a most welcome and welcome decision – as the esteem of Cartier watches has risen so much over the past decade that they are now in command. the best price in the auction and vintage sectors.

Example: In December 2019, a 1990/91 Cartier Crash in yellow gold offered at Christie’s in New York shattered estimates of US $ 70,000-90,000 to set a new auction record of US $ 225,000 (S $ 303,358). Experts even said that a similar model from the 70s and 80s with the original version of the dial could easily double that amount.

Design of a large Platinum Tank watch (1935), purchased by Princess Louise Van Alen Mdivani, sister-in-law of American socialite Barbara Hutton

While the investment value of Cartier watches has skyrocketed over the years, proving that they have stood the test of time and market sentiment, it is certainly reassuring to collectors that the house is standing up for its designs. with this program. Plus, how could anyone be truly happy with a vintage watch purchase if it didn’t carry the manufacturer’s seal of approval? Each piece is presented in Cartier’s signature red box with an eight-year warranty by Cartier Care and a new certification of authenticity. And isn’t it heartwarming to know that each of them has passed into the very hands of Cartier’s heritage stewards?

Working with trusted partners, from watch shows to specialty retailers and in-house teams, these experts select worthy parts and authenticate them by examining them down to individual components. After successful validation, the watches are completely refurbished by the best talents of the house within the Manufacture department according to a strict restoration and quality control policy which guarantees their integrity, functionality and originality.

“We are happy to have the opportunity to present these iconic, legendary and rare Cartier timepieces in Singapore. As one of the few markets to offer this gesture, we believe that Cartier Vintage’s permanent offer will be a new and wonderful experience for our watch connoisseurs, ”said Anne Yitzhakov, Managing Director of Cartier Singapore and Malaysia.

Watch this place

In Cartier’s flagship store at ION Orchard, I had the opportunity to see the first batch of six Cartier Vintage watches on offer in Singapore. A simple glance at the different shapes and dials recalls the eminence of the Manufacture in the world of watchmaking over the past century. The Tank, the Tortoise, the Tonneau and the assertive graphic signature of the round Pasha, who else?

Although these shapes are common today, it was Cartier who revolutionized watchmaking by introducing them at the turn of the century, when pocket watches were de rigueur and dials round. In 1904, Louis Cartier designed the first modern men’s wristwatch, the Santos-Dumont square aviator’s watch, for his Brazilian aviator friend Alberto Santos-Dumont. Two years later, in 1906, he created the first barrel-shaped, slightly curved watch called Tonneau, designed to fit comfortably on the wrist. Inspired by a turtle, he invented the charming Tortoise in 1912. In 1917, he created the Tank, which evokes the Renault tank developed for the First World War. to the faithful patron of the house, watch lover and Ottoman military leader, Pasha El Glaoui of Marrakech.

I also learned that the four decades between the 1970s and 2010 were among the most significant years for Cartier fine watchmaking. All of the house’s watches were sold in-house until the early 1970s, when they were made available to multi-brand retailers, while new lines such as Santos and Les Must de Cartier were invented to respond to growing demand.

Between 1981 and the mid-1990s, all of his solid gold watches were amalgamated under the Louis Cartier Collection, which featured a combination of classic Cartier models from Tank to Tonneau and original Cartier designs from Cloche to Square Incurvée. Also in the early 1980s, part of watch production was moved from Switzerland to Paris. The Manufacture Cartier Horlogerie Paris was created and existed until the beginning of the 21st century. At that time, many Cartier watches were made in France and featured distinctive features including precious materials and “Cartier Paris” on a white dial.

From the end of the 1990s, Cartier entered a period of unprecedented creativity and technical feat with the Collection Privée Cartier Paris (CPCP). Intended for the most demanding watch connoisseurs, it was first launched in Switzerland and Italy in 1998 before opening up to the world in 1999. Among the characteristic codes were the precious metal of the yellow gold case. platinum, the alligator leather strap with folding clasp, “Cartier Paris” on guilloché dial and mechanical movements. In the early 2010s, Cartier began to successfully experiment with timepieces combining its iconic shapes with mechanical and complicated movements.

Examining the watches closely reveals the very reason they were chosen by the heritage team for restoration. Each of them is like a timestamp of important milestones in Cartier watchmaking, with unique characteristics defined by its year and place of manufacture, and historical associations. As fascinating as the pieces sold are, we can only hope that more Cartier Vintage watches will return soon.

(Images: Jean-Marie Del Moral; Archives Cartier Paris; Archives Cartier New York; Cartier)

This story appeared in the April 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.


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