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Wed, Dec 02, 2009
The Business Times
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Cartier's new approach
by Chuang Peck Ming

THE image of a luxury jeweller may finally come unstuck as Cartier comes into its own as a fine watchmaker this year. 'For the very first time, Cartier is developing its own watch movements that reflect the brand's intense and ambitious research into mechanism,' Cartier says in a press release unveiling its 2009 collection. The new timepieces are the Santos 100 Skeleton, Rotone de Cartier chronograph, Tank Americaine flying tourbillon, Santos tourbillon, Ballon bleu de Cartier tourbillon and Rotonde de Cartier tourbillon chronograph.

Cartier's foray into the world of calibers is the sign of a new approach in fine watch-making that was launched last year, when it unveiled the Ballon bleu de Cartier Flying Tourbillon timepiece. Often known better for its jewellery and leather products - even though the company has been making watches since it started business in 1847 - Cartier's timepieces have existed, to some extent, in the shadow of its non-watch collections.

Still, Cartier has scored a number of successes in its more than a century experience of watchmaking, producing some timepieces that have become classics - the Tank and the Santos, for instance. Supposedly designed in 1917 based on the horizontal sector of the French Renault tanks, the square and rectangle Tank timepiece has been seen on the wrist of celebrities like Catherine Deneuve, Elton John, Princess Diana and Jackie Kennedy. The Tank has also been worn by Andy Warhol, Frank Sinatra, Calvin Klein and Richard Burton.

The Santos is one of the world's first pilot wristwatches. It was a major breakthrough in the watch-making world in 1904 when the Santos was created for Brazilian pilot Santos Dumont, who wanted to tell the time without taking his hands off the controls of the plane.

Cartier watches are well established among women, partly because of the popularity of Cartier's jewellery collection. Yet among men, especially the serious watch collectors, Cartier's timepieces have not quite won the respect they deserve.

Things could now change with the outcome of its new approach in watchmaking: 'Cartier has developed an array of shapes to convey this dynamic impetus, expressed in both the cases of their watches and the movements themselves,' Cartier says.

With 'striking silhouettes, inventive graphic designs, spectacular volumes and Cartier-made movements, some bearing the prestigious Geneva Seal', Cartier says its 2009 collection elevates Cartier classics like the Tank Americaine and the Santos 100 to 'the rank of authentic examples of fine watchmaking'.

This article was first published in The Business Times

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