Starting on the 19th of January, the annual SIHH is being held in Geneva. The SIHH, Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, represents a number of fine watch manufacturers like Audemars Piguet, Officine Panerai, Jaeger LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin and a few more. One of them is Cartier. Cartier once started out as a jeweler and in the 1900s, it was one of the first to create a wrist watch. I think everyone knows (or should know) the Santos-Dumont story.

Anyway, I didn’t classify Cartier as being a haute horlogerie brand for a long time. I just recently became interested in the brand, after talking to Treo. Treo is the owner of a dedicated Cartier website called Troisanneaux. After talking to him, I ordered the book ‘Cartier – The Tank Watch‘. This watch is to me, the classic rectangular wrist watch.

One of the more recent Cartier models is the Ballon Bleu watch. I was actually quite stunned by this model and I still don’t know if it’s a gents or ladies watch. With 42mm, I assume it is the first one. However, and this goes for most Cartier watches, there is an ETA movement ticking inside. Although I think that these ETA movements have proven themselves over time and can be qualified as reliable and sturdy movement, it bugs me a little bit that these expensive Cartier watches have an ETA movement inside. Perhaps I am still one of the few who is bothered by paying more than x Euro for an ETA driven wristwatch and is it becoming silly, I don’t know ;). What I do know, is that the design of these Cartier watches, the finish of the dials and the beautiful (and typical) crown are compensating for this.

The design of Cartier watches is almost indisputable. Wonderful created cases, most of the time in precious metals like white gold. Guilloche dials with stunning designs. These watches are like art :). But given the fact that movementwise, these watches are hardly any special, would you buy one just for the superb design? If the price is right, I probably will add a Cartier Santos Galbee in my collection in the (far) future. It is the classic rectangular watch imho.

Do you consider Cartier watches as jewellery or as haute horlogerie? Please share your thoughts with me by clicking on ‘Comments’ below.

Robert-Jan Broer
Follow me

Robert-Jan Broer

Founder & Editor at Fratello Watches
Robert-Jan Broer, born in 1977, watch collector and author on watches for over a decade. Founder of Fratello Watches in 2004.
Robert-Jan Broer
Follow me
You might also like  'Drive de Cartier', La Maison's New Men's Watch!
  • J. Peter

    Cartier is a definite mixture of jewelry and fine watchmaking. Their styles change every year but they do have some classic looks. I agree on the Balon Bleu, it is stunning. I especially like the rose gold version. As for their movements: They do a good job of finishing the ETA movements and a poor jon of regulating them. Your watchmaker can fix the timing issue but they probably can’t get parts. Their high end models like the BB Tourbillon and the 42mm pasha use LeCoultre movements. For style these are great watches but the service leaves much to be desired. I like a watch company that supports their product and the qualified watchmakers who work on them.

  • I believe we will see a lot more haute horlogerie from Cartier. Especially since Richmont took over Roger Dubuis. The Ballon Bleau Tourbillon is pure RD, and I bet we will see more complications this coming SIHH.

  • Martijn

    To me Cartier is an indisputeble part of watchhistory. They where one of the first to produce a wristwatch and have legendary designs like the Tank and Santos that are just as recognizable as the Royal Oak, Nautilus or Datejust.

    Regarding the price-range in which they sell the majority of there watches I dont see any difference with other famous brands. Omega, IWC, Breitling, Chopard etc. all use ETA-based movements. But some Pasha models even use movements from Girard-Perregaux and Frederic Piguet, just as Cartier’s topline the Collection Priv?ɬ©e. All together I dont think that there is that much difference between Cartier and other major Swiss watch manufacturers. Maybe it was the Must-series that let the brand escape from the eye of most watchenthousiasts, along with there marketingstrategy which brings a broad arrey of luxury products of which watches is only a part.

  • Thanks for your comments all.

    @Kristian: I am curious to see what Cartier will bring us this SIHH. Cartier has my attention since I have seen a few in person.

    @Martijn: Good point about the other ETA brands. However, I was triggered by the listprice of a Tank Francaise with an ETA movement that was over the price of a Rolex stainless steel watch. I also believe that Omega is not far away from that price with their inhouse movements. Anyway, like you say: Cartier has legendary designs that should be (or already are) considered cult watches.

    @J.Peter: Thanks for your comments. I don’t want a watchmaker to have my brand new watch regulated :(( Is your comment about poor service also based on these accuracy problems or ….? Can you tell us something more?

  • Geo

    Cartier watches can be seen as jewellery and as haute horlogerie. In the past the brand was rmore famous for it’s jewellery watches, but when in 1998 the high end series Collection Priv?ɬ©?ɬ© was introduced the brand established itself as a very serious watchmaker.

    The collection was based on historic models like the Santos Dumont, LC Tank,Tortue, Tonneau and LC Ronde and the watches had handwound movements by Piaget, JLC and Fredric Piguet. Cartier is even going a step further with the release of the Ballon Bleu Flying Tourbillon.

    @Peter
    The BB Flying Tourbillon has an inhouse movement, not a JLC like the Pasha 42 Cartier bought the watch making section of Rogier Dubuis in 2007, so their capacity is quite strong.

    I wonder why you said: “the service leaves much to be desired” Cartier is part of the Richemont Group and they have a huge service center in Amsterdam, with very qualified watchmakers. And in case there really is a problem, that can’t be fixed, the watch is send to Swiss. You don’t need to like the brand, but their technical service is excellent.

  • Anne

    I am torn between the pasha C and the ballon blue  both in stainless and mid-size.  Does anyone have any input on which might be a better watch, style or mechanical wise?

  • no ledge

    there is no problem with high-end brands using ETA movements, provided they are priced accordingly. however, most brands do not price reasonably but instead charges a premium.  example, Guess, Kenneth Cole, Armani Exchange have the same ETA movement in their watches compared to cartier, panerai, IWC, etc but the former category goes for 1/10 the price. granted, if IWC and  the like modify the ETA movements (they do on their higher-end series), then charges the premium, that would at least be acceptable and understandable. however, most high-end brands’ lower-end series do not do so and yet charges outrageous prices.