Cartier is known as a jeweller first and a watchmaker second. With so many companies to choose from, what would make you go for a brand that is best known for putting sparkly things around the necks of Grace Kelly and Liz Taylor?
Well, for a start there is no shame in the watches not eclipsing the company’s jewellery prowess – Cartier was described by no less a figure than Edward VII as “the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers”. But also, Cartier is not making watches as an afterthought, it has been at the forefront of watchmaking for more than 150 years.
Cartier was instrumental in the evolution of the watch into something worn on the wrist rather than in the pocket. In 1904 the Brazilian aviator Albert Dumas-Santos complained to his friend Louis Cartier, son of the company’s founder, that putting a hand in his pocket to check the time mid-flight was awkward when there were vital aircraft controls to grip.
Louis Cartier responded with a square-cased wristwatch that accompanied his friend on every subsequent flight. That watch became known as the Cartier Santos. There had been wristwatches before, but these had mainly been either novelty pieces for ladies, or else crudely adapted pocket watches. The Santos was instrumental in making the wristwatch a handsome thing that a gentleman would be happy to wear.
Last year Cartier launched a new range called Drive, motoring-inspired watches that were widely praised as the best new men’s watches from the brand in a long time. This year a gorgeous extra-flat version has been added, giving the Drive range an extra slice of elegance.
Not at all bad for a jeweller.
With the affinity between fast cars and fancy watches, lots of watchmakers are understandably keen to associate themselves with the world of motor sport. While you cannot compete with the likes of Rolex and Tag Heuer in terms of racing heritage, it does not stop others from trying to get in on the act. When Roger Dubuis decided that it wanted a little piece of motor sport, it took the desire quite literally.
It has produced two limited editions of its trademark skeletonised watches with straps that contain pieces of rubber taken from the tyres of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes after he won the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix.
The 140-year-old Swiss brand Piaget is best known for making ultra-thin watches. Back in 1957 it sealed this reputation by producing the world’s thinnest movement, measuring a wafer-like 2mm. This year Piaget is celebrating that achievement with the new Altiplano 60th Anniversary collection. Available in a range of colours, the Altiplano has an 18K white-gold case and an automatic movement.