Cartier made huge progress with their own calibers during the last 9 years. Complication after complication was presented at the SIHH in Geneva and I think I am right in saying that with the launch of the new Clé de Cartier watch – powered by their new automatic 1847MC movement – the total amount of ‘Made by Cartier’ calibers reaches over 40 now.
Cartier has since the beginning of 1900 a beautiful collection of watch cases, of which many are still in production. Most of them however, were rectangle or square shaped and since more and more calibers with complications are being developed by Cartier, the need for round mens cases, to house these calibers, became more urgent. Besides that, men in general seem to prefer a round shaped watch over a rectangle timepiece.
Cartier launched the Rotonde de Cartier and the Ballon Bleu back in 2006, the Calibre in 2010 and surprised us again with a new design in 2015.
Six months ago at the SIHH in Geneva, Cartier presented the new bracelet model Clé de Cartier as the new watch for men and women. ‘La Maison’ followes again the same marketing approach as it did with the Ballon Bleu watch.
The Ballon Bleu however turned out to be more popular among women, then among men, despite the fact that there are some really excellent mens (complication) models in that series.
I am not a great fan of the uni-sex approach, but it seemed that Cartier has always been very successful in the past, with their models that were targeted at both sexes. The Tank Francaise and the Panthere, to name two older models, did very well among men and women.
While ladies tend to wear any watch they like, these days, no matter if it’s a ladies or a mens watch, men usually don’t dare to wear watches that are too small. The trend for really large watches is luckily on its return and I am glad that Cartier was fast in deciding to launch the Clé de Cartier in a moderate and comfortable 40mm case, what I think is an ideal size for most men. The version in 35mm would even suit a lot of men very well too and the 31mm is a real ladies watch. On my 18cm wrist the Clé de Cartier watch looks and feels very nice. The design is not as showy as the Ballon Bleu, but is definitely more serious and discrete. And when the Winter is around the corner, it is easy to have the bracelet changed for a leather strap with deployant buckle, that will give the watch a very different look. Combined with a black alligator strap, it will look awesome with a nice suit and shirt.
The Clé de Cartier is a completely different beast. The watch case has very strong and masculine lines and from a style point of view it could have been designed 40 years ago, it does have a certain new retro look. The crown with its rectangular shape and rectangle sapphire emphasises the masculinity of the overal design even more. As with the Ballon Bleu, Santos Galbée and Panthere, the Clé de Cartier was designed on a bracelet and that clearly shows. The integration between the watch case and the bracelet is flawless. The links of the bracelet move very smoothly and the closure is blind again, like Cartier used to do in the past. A very good decision, because the pushers on the bracelet of the Calibre and 42mm Ballon Bleu, were far from elegant, to put it mildly. Since the very early years, Cartier has been praised for its bracelet design and I am thrilled that the La Maison comes back to its roots.
The dial is rich and classic, exactly what we expect from Cartier. It is partly round, but the inner part is shaped like a key hole. The deep blue Roman numerals and the very nice guilloche give it the typical Cartier look. Unfortunately the model needed to have a date window and that’s located at six and fits well in the design, but how cool would this watch be, without the date window and the word automatic!
The Clé de Cartier is the first model featuring that new 1847MC automatic caliber. While in the past the brand relied, for this category of watches, on movements supplied by ETA, La Maison has now developed a new caliber for most of their watches. The 1847MC has a power reserve of 42 hours and the diameter is smaller than the 1904MC automatic caliber, which makes this new movement ideal for the smaller models in Cartier’s catalogue, like the Santos Galbée or medium sized Ballon Bleu, that are still powered with ETA calibers.
Depending on how the ‘Time Only’ models of the Clé de Cartier will be accepted in the markets, I am sure the Clé will will have a future with lots of variations. Especially the 40mm case is ideal for complications. Personally I can’t wait to see the first Clé de Cartier models with a chronograph-, flying tourbillon or perpetual calendar movement. It is still too early to for see if that will happen, but my expectations are high!
This article was written by long-time Cartier expert George Cramer for Fratello Watches. George is a contributor to Revo-Online, Revolution Magazine and runs his own website as well where he keeps track of his various contributions about Cartier and his other (main) interest, independent watchmaking.