Cartier’s watchmaking legacy is tied, probably more than any other watchmaker, to shaped cases. Besides the rectangular Tank in its many incarnations, there is the Panthère, which was relaunched just a few years ago, and the Santos, which was refreshed in 2018. As a watch lover, these are shapes that I know well. But it is not lost on me that they are also known to a large number of the general public who only happen to be vaguely “watch aware.” Cartier has created many more designs than these over the years, of course. The question of how to nurture something that already exists in the popular memory while continually evolving it for new generations is far from an easy one. And while it certainly applies to a good number of brands in watchmaking, it strikes me as particularly relevant for a brand like Cartier.
If there’s been a main theme in Cartier watchmaking over the last four years or so, it’s been a renewed emphasis on reviving popular hits from the Cartier archive, often with distinctively shaped cases. This year has been about Pasha, a line first presented in the heady ’80s and based on a watch that was, according to Cartier, presented to the Pasha of Marrakech in 1943. Originally intended for the wrists of men but famously adopted by many women, the Pasha is, on the face of it, a round dress watch. Certainly, in describing it thus, you would not be incorrect. But it’s also a design watch with a profile that seems to reject simple categorization. With its large crown protector and central lugs, it’s easily recognizable at a glance, and I’d say from this perspective, it’s part of Cartier’s long line of shaped watches.
The watch world is quite a bit different now than it was in the ’80s. And a watch launched in 2020 will undoubtedly have to present something new in terms of its proposition to collectors. With the new Pasha, one sees a more precise crown that has been fitted with a blue spinnel or sapphire, a new clasp that has been designed for engraving and personalization, and quite a few other features that watch collectors would consider upgrades, such as in-house mechanical movements that can be viewed through sapphire cases.
Earlier this month, as Pasha was launching here in the United States, I connected with Cartier’s Arnaud Carrez, the company’s international head of marketing and communications, to talk about the line that is Cartier’s major watchmaking push for 2020.
Carrez told me that the brand had a lot of requests from markets such as Europe, North America, and Japan, where there was already strong awareness of the Pasha design. Clients asked Cartier to offer a new version of the Pasha. The notion that the Pasha launch is, at least to some degree, the result of customer feedback isn’t lost on me. One often gets the sense that large luxury brands, particularly those the size of a company like Cartier, operate entirely according to a plan developed at the top and disseminated downward.
But then, consider recent service offerings such as Cartier Care, an online service platform that offers an extended eight-year warranty as well as other benefits, and you see that a long term focus on end clients really does appear to be front of mind at Cartier.
With the relaunch of Pasha, Cartier is offering a complimentary service to Pasha owners following a diagnosis by one of its master watchmakers where they can determine what it might need, regardless of the Pasha model and year of purchase. That is a pretty amazing offering, in my opinion, particularly when you consider what the cost of having a watch serviced can be these days; moreover, one of the better-known Pasha executions was a perpetual calendar. Greg Norman brought his example of the Pasha perpetual to the set of Talking Watches.
I think this is smart: Once people learn of the offer, it could very well cause a number of Pasha watches to come out of drawers and safety deposit boxes and onto wrists. Cartier is also offering a complimentary personalization service to all Pasha owners, regardless of the year of purchase. An engraving can be had either on the caseback or on a special place protected by the crown cover. I could see a parent servicing and engraving a Pasha purchased in the ’80s and gifting it to one of their kids, and at no cost. One can look back to the Panthère relaunch of 2017 and the offer of complimentary polishing and battery service as a starting point for this new service offering. When you look at the overall market, Cartier is a leader when it comes to its service offering, and Carrez says that they will go much further in the coming years.
At its launch, the new Pasha is being offered in two sizes, 41mm and 35mm, and the new generation of Pasha watches benefits from the caliber 1847 MC, a sturdy and more-than-serviceable in-house automatic caliber that we’ve seen used extensively already, for example in Santos.
I found it particularly interesting that Pasha is launching in so many different variations – in a recent press release, I counted 13 – and all of them are mechanical. Besides those equipped with the cal. 1847 MC, these include two tourbillons and a skeletonized option. Still, Carrez says quartz is very important for Cartier, and pointed to the company’s upgraded quartz movement battery as well as to the recent success of the Santos Dumont. Cartier is the third biggest Swiss watchmaker, with estimated sales of CHF 1.84 billion in 2019, according to Morgan Stanley Research. It makes sense for them to have both quartz and mechanical bases well covered.
The new Pasha also has the QuickSwitch strap and bracelet system and SmartLink for many of its bracelets. These systems have each worked great when I’ve used them on other Cartier watches. They allow you to size bracelets at home or while traveling without having to fiddle with tools or visit someone who has them. This has been implemented very successfully with Santos, and now with Pasha, and Carrez says that we can expect to see it rolled out to other collections as well. “We want to give back value to our clients,” he said. “And we want to continuously improve and upgrade our creations with technical features.”
One of my major takeaways from our conversation was that while Cartier is always working on evolving its lines with improvements that benefit customers, there is a sense that the products themselves are timeless, and the brand treats them as such. This philosophy is applied consistently – as much to Pasha watches of the past as to those that are being sold today. I honestly can’t think of another watchmaker that, when relaunching a line, has told the line’s existing customers that they want to help them get their old watches up and running – for free – in the process. In my opinion, what Cartier is doing is the kind of thing that breeds brand loyalty.
For more information, visit Cartier.