BY HARLAN CHAPMAN-GREEN
Cartier always plays a significant role in the Watches & Wonders events, they were the ones that organised for yours truly to be there this year, so it’s fitting that they had the biggest booths. Seriously, Cartier had two booths this year, and they were like some kind of mansion in the Mediterranean with flowing lines, very high ceilings and classy sculptures. I might’ve got a little distracted if not for the room full of Cartier watches I was allowed to sit in for a bit. Here are some of the watches I saw and my thoughts on them.
Santos de Cartier
The Cartier Santos is and pretty much always has been the go-to alternative for anyone who finds the Rolex Datejust a little mundane. The exposed screws and unique case shape make this an attractive watch, along with the sunburst finishing of the dial. Cartier introduced a blue and a green dial variant this year, I saw the green one, although my rubbish colour vision means it looks nothing like green to me, adopting a red-ish grey hue. I’ll take Cartier’s word that the dial is green. Either way, the medium and large-sized watches are excellent on the wrist and look classy with great legibility. It’s been a while since I’ve worn a Santos and these didn’t disappoint.
In addition to the above, Cartier unveiled the Santos-Dumont Skeleton watches which, as the name suggests, have had most of their movements cut away to leave the bare essentials. There’s also a model of the plane that Alberto Santos-Dumont flew on his first heavier-than-air flights sat on the micro-rotor which is very pleasing to see spinning around freely. One thing I struggled with slightly was the legibility of the darkened sword hands, although the lighting in the Cartier booth may not have been ideal for this. I saw the steel variant, which comes with a colour-matched grey leather strap, Cartier is also unveiling a rose gold version with a burgundy case inlay and matching strap, as well as a yellow gold version with a blue inlay and matching strap. All cases measure 43.5 mm x 31 mm.
The slim yet classy Tank Américane also featured in Cartier’s 2023 lineup in a range of different sizes and materials. I can only speak for the model I saw, which is the large-sized model in 18k rose gold on a brown leather strap. When I think of a dress watch from Cartier, I think of watches like this, as it’s left-field but still gorgeous. It also sits perfectly on my wrist and is very easy to read. If you’re looking for a great alternative to a Reverso, this would be one to check out as it still features some of the Art Deco looks but is imagined in a different way.
Tank Louis Cartier
Assuming that you’re looking for a Tank but the one above isn’t to your liking, Cartier makes several other Tank models and one of the best is the Tank Louis Cartier. This is about as traditional as Cartier’s dress watches get. With straight edges, rounded corners and the iconic sword hands, the Tank Louis Cartier is a throwback to watches of old, when they all came with simple, clean dials and leather straps. I saw the green model, which is suited to the times where green is the colour of choice for most watchmakers. There’s also a burgundy model with a colour-matched strap, and two other variants with, well, I’ll let you decide what you think of them. They’re all classy, and with manually wound movements they’re sure to pull at your heart’s strings.
Tank Privé Normale Skeleton
The Tank Privé is the star of the show for the Tank collection, although I saw the skeletonised version in yellow gold (limited to 50 pieces). The case is quite chunky, and is meant to be inspired by the original Tank from 1917. The leather strap is quite wide, and helps to keep it comfy, although all the corners have been rounded down and there are no nasty edges at all, as one would expect from Cartier. As the name suggests, the dial has been cut away to reveal the manually-wound movement. As with the skeletonised Santos above, that creates a real issue with legibility in some lights, I found the hands to be nearly invisible under the direct halogen lighting in the booth. Perhaps it fairs better in different conditions. This watch is slightly different to usual, as the hour hand does one rotation of the dial in 24-hours rather than 12. Luckily, Cartier makes it easy to see where the hand is pointing thanks to the scale around the inner bezel. There are also two different platinum models if the yellow gold isn’t to your liking.
There were other models I saw such as the ridiculously heavy yet extraordinary Clash [Un]limited, although I feel that that watch is more jewellery than wristwatch despite it having a tiny dial. Also, the Pasha de Cartier is still around and kicking with a blue dial for the chronograph and a simpler salmon dial. These are well worth spending more time on by themselves, and I will be seeing if Cartier can help us out with a review there in the future. Generally, Cartier’s watches were of very high quality this year, and they show the genuine creativity that’s imbued in the products and the attitude of Cartier and its staff.