Watch brands often only have a few different collections in their line-up. Of course within these collections a lot of different models reside. This keeps a brand recognizable, the DNA strong, and makes it easy for consumers to maneuver around. Every once in a while though an evolution of existing collections won’t do and a drastic change short of a revolution is needed. This is a moment most brands dread as they often have to go all in, investing heavily in a new watch design in the hope that the public’s response will be favorable. This is especially the case when you have a reputation to lose, like Cartier.

To add to the tension, Cartier’s last two new watches were very successful. Both the Ballon Bleu as well as the Calibre, received a warm welcome and were embraced by the public. This only heightens the expectation that a third new collection will be equally successful. That collection, introduced at SIHH 2015 is the Clé de Cartier. A round dial with an oval case, embracing the strap or bracelet, creates a refreshing wrist presence that is not as prominently masculine as the Calibre, nor is it as distinctly rounded and polished as the Ballon Bleu. With the Clé, Cartier has clearly aimed at creating an everyday companion that blends in easily, without being boring.

DSC02525 In French Clé means key, and that refers to the remarkable rectangle crown on the watch. Thid is an unusual shape, that when pulled out gives the feel of actually winding and setting the watch with a key, and while pushed in, remains flush with the case. This is also the first time that an elongated synthetic sapphire decorates the crown of a Cartier. This longer surface makes for a better play of light, bringing out the deep hue of the sapphire.

DSC02502The crown is not the only reference to a key. With a little imagination one can see a key hole in the design of the dial. Here a guilloche center also surrounds the date at six o’clock, for which Cartier made room for by foregoing the Roman numeral six. These Roman numerals, still a Cartier signature, are this time not created from a black lacquer but a blue colored one. This not only brings together the sapphire in the crown and the blued hands, but also gives the watch a more contemporary look.

DSC02516How contemporary you want the Clé de Cartier to be is up to you. As is traditional with Cartier, the watch is currently only available in precious metal. The white gold version on a white gold bracelet is actually quite sporty, but for those who prefer a more classical attire, might be better off with a pink gold Clé de Cartier on a brown alligator strap. There is at least enough to choose from, because Cartier introduces the Clé de Cartier in three different sizes; 31mm, 35mm and 40mm, in either pink gold or white gold. The watch can be fitted with a strap or precious metal bracelet, and also a wide variety of diamond set versions are available. That is of course for now, because in the near future Cartier will most likely introduce an all steel version, and two-tone versions of the Clé de Cartier.

DSC02483But there is more! With the Clé, Cartier not only introduces a new collection, but also a brand new manufacture movement; 1847MC. When watch brands are referring to their founding year in a movement number, you know how important this movement must be. Complete details are not available yet, but the 1847MC powers both the 40mm as well as the 35mm version of the Clé de Cartier. This says something about its size, and the position it will get in the Cartier-collection. I am not talking just about the Clé de Cartier, but it is very likely that Cartier will deploy this movement in the Santos, Ballon Bleu, Ronde, Pasha and Tank collections, replacing the movements it is now still obtaining from other sources. It is very likely that in the (very) near future Cartier will be using all Manufacture movements only and the exact time that this will happen probably only depends on Cartier’s production capability, and how fast they can upscale.

DSC02497All together, the Clé de Cartier going to be an important watch for Cartier. A watch that takes the hallmarks of the famed brand and presents them with a slight twist, almost like the history of Cartier is unlocking the door to the future.

The Clé de Cartier will be available in April. All images courtesy of Geo Cramer.

Martin Green
Eclectic taste in Haute Horlogerie, passion for diamond set watches, loves the classics

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