Since Cartier watches reinvigorated its fine watchmaking department eight years ago, it has surprised us each year with one great complicated watch after another. This year, Cartier had a different kind of surprise: a resurrection of the Panthère de Cartier, which had been discontinued in the early aughts. Aside from a new Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon (new in the sense that these complications are combined for the first time), the Cartier Panthère De Cartier was the main introduction at SIHH this year, making it clear that ladies’ watches aren’t second tier in marketing strength or sales.
When you look at the state of the watch industry over the past year, the reintroduction of the Panthère De Cartier is not all that surprising. Like the Tank, Santos, and other iconic volume collections, the Cartier Panthère is a bread-and-butter core collection: a sure thing in an unsteady market. With multiple references and price points, it is exactly what the market seems to call for, again, at the moment.
The Cartier Panthère was originally introduced in 1983, and the relaunch design is exactly the same as the original: square case with screws on the bezel, Roman numerals, railway track index, and a tiny Cartier logo embossed in the X digit – distinguishing it from the counterfeits. Only the bracelet construction is new – it is more supple. All the movements are quartz, which keeps the watch elegantly thin, and true to the original design, which came into being at the height of the quartz era.
The new Panthère de Cartier is a full collection in three sizes with a pavé version, a lacquer and gold version, a yellow gold version – a star of the original collection – and a two-tone model, with prices ranging from $4,000 to $140,000.
Cartier Santos Galbee steel and gold watch – image credit George Cramer, used with permission.
The Santos is also an iconic square-cased Cartier watch with Roman numerals and visible screws on the bezel, and at least one person I spoke to was confused about its similarity to the Cartier Panthère, so it’s worth showing the Santos here for comparison. The differences are subtle. The size of the bezel and screws are much smaller on the Cartier Panthère than on the Santos, and the lugs are more tapered, as is the crown. And on the Santos, there is no border on the railroad track index. (Although there was a border on the index of the original Santos watch created in 1904).
The Santos was created for aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, a friend of Louis Cartier, to enable him to time his flight legs without having to take his hand off the controls to reach for his pocket watch. It was a hit in Parisian society, and Cartier launched it commercially a few years later. The Santos-Dumont’s square shape was revolutionary for its time, and thus began Cartier’s adventure into the world of shaped watches.
Although the Cartier Panthère volume collection was created in 1983, Cartier has been making jeweled Panther-themed watches since even before it created the Santos watch in 1904 – the only men who were wearing wristwatches at the time were soldiers in the South African Boer War, and that was because Africa’s climate was too hot for a waist coat, where a man’s pocket watch is properly kept. Cartier continues its tradition of jeweled Panther watches every year. This year, the new jewelry creations included, most notably, the Royale and the Joueuse. The Cartier Panthère Royale was inspired by a famous panther and sapphire brooch made by Cartier in 1949 for the Duchess of Windsor. It is designed in concentric circles set with diamonds surrounding a panther also set with diamonds and lacquer.
Cartier is going to be releasing the Replica Panthère de Cartier line in June 2017 with 16 pieces that are designed to appeal to virtually every possible segment of the market. Just to keep it simple, we’ll go through the 22mm smaller models first followed by the 27mm versions.