“Every second counts”: this mantra for sports enthusiasts and other performance junkies might well be recoined in the watch industry as “every segment counts”. At least for an all-rounder brand such as Cartier whose watchmaking turnover is estimated by the private bank Vontobel at around CHF 2.1 billion for 620,000 units sold during the last financial year ending March 31st 2015. In other words, this gem in the Richemont group crown, which has made a remarkable and much-heralded breakthrough in the field of Fine Watchmaking over the past decade, knows exactly where to look for growth areas. And amid the current economic climate, with flagging Asian markets and a struggling high-end sector, such promising potential is definitely not to be found in the form of an improbable quadruple differential tourbillon watch with minute repeater and jumping seconds chronograph.
While complications are thus still very much on the scene, they should not overshadow Cartier’s presence in other areas.
Admittedly such complications are still in the spotlight, as the Maison vividly demonstrates with its Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux Calibre 9462 MC watch, the “flagship model” among its new releases presented at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2016 (SIHH). This creation embodies a new horological feat based on the central rotation of its escapement apparently floating weightless in the centre of the dial. While such complications are thus still very much on the scene, they should not overshadow Cartier’s presence in other areas. And that in which simplicity ticks by with just hours, minutes and sometimes seconds hand is no mean challenge, given the number of brands jostling for position in these range-entry segments that are the very foundations of their financial prosperity because they represent high-volume markets.
A maritime cruise
The Maison had already set the tone in this domain at the SIHH 2015 with its Clé de Cartier, an original collection based on simple lines and equipped with a movement specially developed for the occasion, Calibre 1847 MC. Confirming that this ‘key’ now opens several doors, Cartier interprets it at the start of this year in a Automatic Skeleton Calibre 9621 MC version. It is powered by the first self-winding skeleton movement from the Maison with hours and minutes, skeletonised bridges forming Roman numerals and a skeletonised 22K gold oscillating weight. Prior to this launch, the last time that the brand had introduced a new range dates back to 2007 with the Ballon Bleu. In recent months, however, given a distinctly less favourable climate, Cartier is definitely picking up the pace – as confirmed by last September’s preview introduction of the Ronde Croisière de Cartier model on the American market.
This casual chic 42 mm watch displaying hours, minutes seconds and the date, is equipped with the same movement as the Clé – Calibre 1847 MC – which will in due course replace all the ETA ‘engines’ still used by the brand in some of its collections. While the Cartier signature codes – guilloché dial, Roman numerals, peripheral chapter ring, crown adorned with a cabochon, sword-shaped hands – are all featured in this Croisière model, it nonetheless flaunts several distinctive characteristics, starting with its ADLC-coated bezel evoking the diving spirit. Cut-out hands with no luminescent material and a canvas-type calfskin strap accentuate the sporty nature of a model available in three steel versions.
As its name implies, the Drive de Cartier references the world of motorsports and its thrilling races.
A stylish rally
But while this Ronde Croisière de Cartier definitely fills a niche within the Cartier collections, just above the Ronde Solo models, the Maison has also opted to introduce another collection reflecting its tradition of ‘form’ (non-round) watches: the Drive de Cartier with a cushion-shaped case. There is definitely no point in looking for hidden meanings here. As its name implies, the model clearly references the world of motorsports and its thrilling races through nods including the guilloché dial pattern resembling a car radiator grille; the domed shape of the sapphire crystal, the counter at 6 o’clock and the winding crown shaped like a bolt. Aficionados had already encountered the Roadster and now the ‘dressier’ Drive de Cartier roars onto the scene at the SIHH with a built-in upscaling approach, since the steel version is already complemented by a model with a pink gold case. The same goes for the ‘motorisation’ which – contrary to the Ronde Croisière de Cartier – can be admired through a sapphire crystal case-back.
The ‘standard’ versions are thus already equipped with the Manufacture 1904 MC movement, the very first 100% in-house self-winding calibre presented by Cartier in 2010 and which ensures enhanced constancy of mainspring torque and thus improved precision via its twin barrels powered by a bidirectional rotor mounted on ceramic ball-bearings. This movement, adorned with a Côtes de Genève pattern and endowed with fine adjustment as well as a stop-seconds device, was developed as what the industry refers to as as ‘tractor’ movement (a rugged reliable engine suitable for large-scale production at a reasonable price). It thus now powers the Drive de Cartier collection in a 1904-PS MC version for the model with hours, minutes, small seconds and date; and as 1904-FU MC for the watch also equipped with a ‘small complication’ – in this case a dual time display complete with day/night indication. To impart a resolutely collection-oriented spirit to these Drive models, Cartier also presents this watch in a Fine Watchmaking interpretation bearing the Poinçon de Genève and equipped with the 9452 flying tourbillon movement. Every segment clearly does count.