The origin of Cartier’s most bizarre watch ever dates back to 1967. There are a couple of frightening, unconfirmed stories about the way the watch came to life, both of which took place in London. One is about a lady who brought her Baignoire watch in for repair, since it had been involved in a traffic accident where it got badly damaged. Another story is about a Cartier London manager, who was involved in a car accident that resulted in a fire. His watch – a large, curved Maxi Oval – melted from the heat exposure. The melted timepiece inspired Jean-Jacques Cartier, then head of Cartier London, to create a watch that was inevitably christened the “Crash”.
Which of these stories, if either, is the correct one, we don’t know, but the latter sounds the more plausible, since the Maxi Oval, with its sharp case top – similar to the Crash – could easily be melted to the distorted shape of the Crash watch. It is sometimes believed that the design of the watch was inspired by a painting of Salvador Dalí’s, but there is absolutely no evidence of that at all. On the contrary, it was Piaget that started work on a project with Salvador Dalí in 1967 that lasted almost till 1970.
Cartier London launched the timepiece as a men’s watch, in yellow-gold and white-gold (just three in white-gold, though) cases that measured 43mm by 23mm, and produced the watch in very limited numbers. Before Cartier Paris took over the production of the Crash (after the manufacturing of watches became centralised), two designers of Cartier London left the company and started their own brand, Churchill Watches.
The company was not that successful and did not survive long either. But their first release was interesting – a Churchill Crash watch. Released in a 52mm-long white- or yellow-gold case and powered by an ETA calibre, the watch was sold in the UK and USA. While the watch is often the subject of discussion, it was never sought after by collectors, nor did it ever fetch a decent price at auctions. It is still the Cartier London Crash watch that sets auctions on fire, when, once in several years, a piece – preferably in white-gold with the magical word “London” on the dial – emerges and is auctioned off.