There are several pieces of apocrypha circulating about the genesis of the Cartier Crash. By some accounts, it was inspired by a watch that a Cartier London customer had brought in for servicing, a watch that had been involved in a traffic accident. Another story tells of how the vice president of Cartier London himself was in a fatal accident and his watch — a Baignoire — was retrieved from the smouldering wreck in the Dali-esque form we now recognise as the Cartier Crash. The elements that remain consistent throughout all the stories is the company that originated this design for commercial production (Cartier London), its unfortunate source (car crash) and the time in which it happened (the 1960s).
The compelling backstory of the watch may not be all that well known even to this day, but nevertheless the Crash has since garnered a cult following of its own, due to its darkly seductive curves and intriguingly skewed profile.
It is arguably the least typical of all the famous Cartier watch designs — the Rotonde, the Tortue, the Tank and the Santos all have their strict symmetries and imperious bearing. And yet we simply cannot place the Crash in the collection of any other brand except Cartier. There is an unswerving conviction in its own existence and unconventional beauty that roots it deeply in the philosophy of Cartier design. The philosophical dichotomy of epitomizing the Cartier spirit whilst bearing no family resemblance to the rest of the collection is what gives the Crash its iridescent beauty — a sinuous silhouette interrupted by undercurrents of violence.
Cartier has released occasional re-editions of the Crash over the years (most recently a high-jewellery version with a diamond-set multi-link bracelet in 2013), but what 2015 will bring us is something that fervent Cartier devotees have been anticipating with religious monomania.
The Crash Skeleton, with a movement shaped to fit the case, is an opus of modern watchmaking. Those familiar with Cartier’s skeletonised watches will instantly recognise the hallmark Cartier flair — movement bridges and plates skilfully openworked to form Roman numerals. The first time we saw this was in the 2009 Santos 100 Skeleton and indeed the cal. 9611 MC that inhabited the Santos 100 Skeleton has been reworked and reshaped to become the cal. 9618 MC of the Crash Skeleton.
The original Crash has always represented a collision of strength and vulnerability, and now the skeletonised version brings that curious blend into the movement as well — it’s the Cartier Crash and you cannot look away.
The Cartier Crash Skeleton:
Case: Platinum, 28.15mm x 45.32mm x 9.62mm
Movement: Calibre 9618 MC, 3 day power reserve, 17 1/4 x 9 1/2 lignes (37.9mm x 20.2 mm)
Limited edition, 67 pieces world-wide; pricing TBD
Images courtesy Cartier; live pics by Jack Forster for Revolution Press Ltd; all rights reserved