Entire books are written about Cartier as well as about the Cartier Tank watch itself, and the simple story that Louis Cartier based the Tank layout on the shape of WWI tanks seen on the Western Front is most likely familiar to a lot of readers. Cartier made clocks, pocket watches, and women’s wristwatches before wristwatches for men started to catch on – and if men did begin to wear wristwatches, Cartier played a significant part in their wider adoption and the Cartier Tank was an important part of the transition out of pocket to wrist.The initial wristwatch for men is sometimes said to be the Cartier Santos out of 1904, designed by Louis Cartier – at the least this began to help popularize men’s wristwatches. It was certainly among the earliest watches made as a wristwatch, instead of a pocket watch adapted with straps to the wrist, or “strap watch.” Called a “silly ass fad” by some round the early part of the 1900s (that I find beautiful), men’s wristwatches still needed time to be approved by the mainstream. In 1916, The New York Times admitted that wristwatches were a passing craze, and WWI saw soldiers starting to strap watches for their wrists for sensible reasons.Louis Cartier (1875–1942) designed a number of watches which are still part of Cartier’s lineup now, including the Santos, Tank, and Tortue. At the point Louis perhaps thought the future of wristwatches meant non-round instances. This would also help differentiate them from the round pocket watches which had simply been adapted for the wrist. In 1919, a total of six Tank watches were produced, however an icon had been established, and new variations have followed regularly since – you can view more about early Tanks and other early Cartier men’s watches here.
For fans of Cartier who happen to be guys, this watch has been a long time coming. Don’t get me wrong, Cartier makes a host of men’s watches, but the Cartier Drive de Cartier watch is a piece that I could confidently say is a watch that can successfully broaden the brand’s appeal in a way that hasn’t been done for quite some time. The reason for this may very well lie in the fact that it offers a range of options from steel, to gold, to a flying tourbillon model. That being said, it’s the steel version that is both the most affordable and has me the most excited.
Before I get into the technical aspects of the watch, I want to talk about the shape of the Cartier Drive de Cartier watch. It’s a new design for Cartier, looking like a cushion-shaped watch with a defined dial that has soft corners rather than a circular dial. It works, and it works very well. The dials all have a richness of depth to them, with a focus on the interplay between visual texture that contrasts the varying guilloche designs, flat surface dial, and even “skeletonizing” the space between the roman numerals in the flying tourbillon model to expose the guilloche below.
There are three versions of the Cartier Drive de Cartier watch. The base steel model comes in a white or black dial, both running on the 1904-PS MC movement. This is the in-house Cartier automatic movement that operates at 4Hz and has the time with a subsidiary seconds dial and date. It is the same trusted movement used in watches like the Cartier Tank MC. Are people going to whine about the date window? Probably. I’m actually one of those people who would prefer the option to not have it there, but it doesn’t really take away all that much from this watch. In fact, I could learn to like it but would much prefer this next one.
The steel and pink gold versions that run on the 1904-FU MC are the “small complication” watches. These offer a second time zone dial at 10 o’clock and a day/night indicator at 4 o’clock. As fatigued as I am of the date window conversation, I must say the large date window at 12 o’clock here looks great and is definitely nicer than the smaller one at 3 o’clock in the 1904-PS MC model. I know that’s a matter of taste, but if you must have the date window, then this one is it.
Finally, there is the Cartier Drive de Cartier Flying Tourbillon watch. This watch runs on the manual 9452 MC movement, which only shows the time and the tourbillon. It also carries the Geneva Seal, which is a sign of some of the highest level and quality watchmaking known. It’s an undeniably beautiful piece that is sure to get the attention of collectors who are looking for something new from the “Fine Watchmaking” workshops of Cartier.
It is interesting that Cartier has managed to release a brand new line that somehow appeals to both collectors as well as a vastly different subsection: the casual, or even first-time, watch buyer who has long dreamt of, and saved for, a fine luxury mechanical watch that really speaks to them. Of course, there are watches like the Cartier Tank and Cartier Santos, but the weight of all that history and provenance makes it pretty hard for someone in their 20s or 30s to really relate to their storied histories. They’re the kind of watches where you know a lovable and affable octogenarian will spend the better part of an evening talking your ear off about. Of course, I am mostly referring to the steel models of this watch for this example.
Cartier could probably lose some of the macho vintage car origin myth of this watch’s design and be perfectly fine. The guilloche is allegedly inspired by the design of a radiator grill on a car, and the bolt shaped crown is designed to illicit a similar automotive theme. Sure, and I really do see where they are coming from here. But in a way, the best compliment I can pay this watch is that I really don’t care about the design’s backstory that much. With the Cartier Drive de Cartier watch, the brand has created a fantastic and handsome piece that I could wear every day and be proud of with both the design as well as the quality in-house movements.
The Cartier Watches 1970 Replica Drive de Cartier will be available this May 2016, except for the small complication models that will be available in September. Earlier on, I said I was most excited about the steel versions of this watch. The reason for that, of course, is that the price of the Cartier Drive de Cartier with the 1904-PS MC movement in steel is very competitive at $6,250 for the white dial and $6,500 for the black dial. If you want it in the pink gold, you’ll be paying $19,300 for the white dial and $19,600 for the black dial. The 1904-FU MC “small complication” watches are priced at $8,750 for the white dial, and $22,700 for pink gold. Finally, the flying tourbillon model is priced at $89,500. cartier.com