I am an unashamed Cartier enthusiast. I believe that old Cartier watches are among the most beautiful timepieces ever strapped to the human wrist, and those handmade gold cases are more robust than they look.
They also offer a relatively low entry price into the world of vintage watch collecting, with amazing exclusivity: between 1919 and 1969 Cartier Paris produced a mere 23,658 watches, many of which would have been unique pieces – a ludicrously tiny number for half a century. Such rarity should send watch collectors into a frenzy – yet mass-produced steel replica watches by Rolex command six-figure sums at auction, whereas a beautiful vintage Cartier can still be had for four.
The difference lies in the perception of masculine elegance. Although watches are getting thinner and smaller, many men are wary of going too far, too fast – we are still some way off the near aspirin-sized watches men wore during the late 1930s/early 1940s.
For Cartier this has been frustrating. The maison has been bringing sportier watches to the market, like its Calibre diving watch and last year’s Clé; although the latter, which was intended to be a unisex watch, has proved more of a hit with women. While these watches carry design cues that recall aspects of the Cartier aesthetic, whether the sapphire crown of the Clé or the enlarged Roman numerals at 12 o’clock on the diver,they have the sense of intellectual exercises: in effect applying le goût Cartier to a chunky format watch, rather than making an all-out Cartier man’s watch. That, however, is how the new Drive is being positioned. With Drive, Cartier is saying that a man’s cartier replica watches swiss movement can also be elegant, without being dull.
Cartier’s defining horological characteristic is its mastery of the shaped case, most famous of which is, of course, the Tank: the definitive straight-sided watch. A brand is lucky if it has one successful shaped fake watch; Cartier has a Cecil B. DeMille-sized cast of case shapes that periodically return to the stage. Recently the curving Tortue has been given a subtle, attractive makeover, and last year saw the return of a limited series of the Dali-like Crash watch.
I had a faint memory that I’d seen the Drive somewhere before, and it was Pierre Rainero, guardian of le goût Cartier, who confirmed my hunch, reminding me I had spotted it in a 1997 auction catalogue.
It stuck in the mind because I am a fan of the cushion-cased dial, so I am delighted to see Cartier giving it an airing with its new range. From a personal point of view, I wish they had included a paper-thin, two-handed manual wind version, like the simplest Tanks and Tortues.
As it is, the simplest iteration comes with seconds, date and an automatic movement; further up the range there is a second time zone with day/night indicator, and the inevitable tourbillon.
A watch like this is an exercise in line and form. It is not about the movement; so rather than fill up the elegant dial with information, a stripped-down version would allow us to concentrate on the shape and the space. But the conventions of contemporary watchmaking dictate that men like complications and prefer automatic movements.
Similarly masculine in its orientationis the name Drive, which has nothing to do with the wedge-shaped driving fake cartier automatic rose gold case with black dial watches of the 1930s, nor indeed much else to do with motoring. It is, nonetheless, a reassuringly manly name. Men love cars, right?
However, with the Drive, Cartier is not aiming at the petrolhead. Just to be sure, the brochure promoting the watch characterises “Drive Man” as a sort of post-bling sophisticate who is into detail rather than display: “People say he’s a connoisseur, sensitive to the precision of a fold, an exact shade of patina or a meticulously turned cuff or lapel. These details make the difference for him.”
And while stopping short of placing this watch in the stylistic ghetto named “dandy”, the alignment with a newly (re)awakened male style-consciousness is emphasised by the fact that next week the marque is giving a select dinner and hosting a larger party during the Pitti menswear show in Florence, an event almost exclusively geared towards producing photos of precisely folded, exactly patinated and meticulously turned-out male street fashion.
In this context, the Drive’s slimness, sense of proportion and subtlety are spot on. It is the sort of watch that watches used to be. In other words, appropriate for all occasions that a man might find himself in during the normal course of events, keeping tool replica cartier pasha authentic white ceramic with white dial watches (for diving or piloting an aircraft, say) in their proper place and for their proper function.
It is not just a man’s watch, then; it is a gentleman’s watch – and its success will depend on how many gentlemen there are left in the world.