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Calibre de Cartier Diver: diving into horology

Cartier is one of those maisons which are able to constantly invent and reinvent watches. The recently released Calibre Diver is proof of that.

By Vincent Daveau

Cartier, a maison known for the urban and Haute Horlogerie style of its watches, has managed to surprise with the daring approach of this timepiece. Its unexpected codes were acclaimed by professionals at its release and proved the brand’s flawless expertise in what is commonly known as sports watches.

Watchmaking in the blood

Cartier is not just like the other jewelry-oriented brands. On the contrary, the brand belonging to the Richemont Group –in turn acquired by the Vendôme Group in the 1990s– is one of those brands that have watchmaking in its blood. In other words, and to put things into perspective, we are talking about the brand that introduced the first modern watch.

Calibre de Cartier Diver

Indeed, when Louis Cartier created the Santos for his friend –the dandy aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont– in 1904, he was doing more than that. With that watch, the Paris-based brand was actually introducing a whole new concept instead of just fixing lugs to a pocket watch. It designed what was to become a symbol and a reference in terms of wear.

Later, the brand was able to fulfill the somewhat crazy wishes of the powerful by creating some disconcerting timepieces - for example, the Pasha, a reference inspired by a 1943 model. Rumor has it that this was a special order from the Pasha of Marrakech who wanted to be able to take a bath without having to remove his watch. Back then, the idea would have been perceived as somewhat bizarre. Yet, some maisons such as Omega, Rolex and Panerai were using all their resources to be the first to produce instruments that professionals would be able to wear underwater. Of course, every legend is based on some exaggerated reality, which is accepted for as long as it serves a cause.

Historical turbulences

The trend followed by watchmakers during the 1990s – and by Cartier in particular – was to develop watches inspired by historical pieces. For those responsible for designing such watches, the task was not an easy one.

Calibre de Cartier Diver

However, the Pasha was presented as a dive watch and it actually possessed everything that makes such a watch, even if it was far from what an expert would expect nowadays. This is an issue that comes with the era, trends and tastes of clients, which evolve simultaneously with their expertise. Brands’ products have to follow this path, too. Until last November, when the watch was presented to a small group of professionals, it had not been confirmed whether there was a new Calibre de Cartier Diver. Nevertheless, it was quite clear that the brand would bounce back since it had released the Calibre chronometer the previous year. A quick calculation, a sharp recap of the maison’s references, and it became almost evident that the style department would launch an instrument based on this collection.

Dive into the urban jungle

The dive watch has a particular status in the watchmaking universe; it is a genre in itself. This timepiece belongs to the exclusive circle of watches that offer more than telling the time. As a tool, its good functioning guarantees the survival of its owner when practicing extreme sports. This may sound trivial, but it confers models that can boast of having it a renowned reassurance and an aura that no other reference can attain.

Calibre de Cartier Diver

Of course, I agree that to win the braids to showcase heroic attributes a litmus test is necessary and this timepiece has not yet been called to prove itself. Thus, it cannot potentially compete with a Rolex Submariner and even less so with the latest Sea-Dweller 4000. It also does not have the history of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and cannot even hope of having the feat of arms of the Radiomir Panerai… Nevertheless, it has been executed in such a style that it has almost reached the level of legendary timepieces.

An intrusive design

A closer look at the watch reveals all the subtly distilled codes inherent to its kind. Cartier has reinterpreted the general design of the case of the Calibre references launched in 2010 and still more it has further refined it. Conversely, the dial – the true face of the watch – is the reinterpretation of the watchmaking principles dear to the maison in rather masculine lines. The collection’s well-known Roman numerals have been revisited in a dynamic way that underlines the sportive characteristic of this watch, which is powerful, suitable for everyday life, and extreme at the same time. In other words, this masculine timepiece rises to the challenge of catalyzing Cartier’s stylistic requirements while delicately assimilating those dictated by the ISO 6425 norm, which governs watches applying for a “dive watch” certification.

Calibre de Cartier Diver

However, in order to obtain this certification, the model needs to meet eight pre-defined reliability criteria within the framework of an extremely rigorous protocol of tests and inspections.

To see and to be seen

Before claiming to be a dive watch, a timepiece needs to prove itself and to show that it possesses the required organs. To this end, the Calibre Diver features a unidirectional turning bezel that wards off any involuntary action. When turning in one direction only, the sole consequence of an erroneous manipulation would be the decrease of the diving time. Its 120-notch design (forty teeth and three points) caters for great adjusting precision (a half-minute) and a clear and precise sound when rotating. This may seem absurd but it holds a certain importance in terms of perceived value. As in every diving bezel, the marks indicating 5-minute lapses are clearly signaled. All the hour markers, the XII, the hands and even the direct-drive and the Superluminova®-coated circular-graining are clearly readable as well.

Calibre de Cartier Diver

Resisting pressure

Furthermore, the case has also been subject to developments since dive watches are put under great pressure and are tested in complex and extreme exterior environments.

With the purpose of guaranteeing  the Calibre de Cartier Diver’s success in all tests, the brand’s engineers developed large-sized components for the external parts. This had the objective of ensuring their resistance to pressure and to the numerous aggressions to which the watch is likely to be subjected when they are assembled. That explains why the Calibre de Cartier Diver’s case features a thick sapphire glass – flanked by a screwed back, with oversize joints – and is armed with a screwed winding crown ensuring the resistance of the entire watch at 300 meters.

Validating functioning through tests

However, one cannot completely rely on a watch that has not been subject to tests to prove its professional qualities. Being it a Cartier timepiece, it is assumed that the appropriate tests have been carried out with the uttermost seriousness. Indeed, the watch was immersed for 24 hours in a 30 g/l sodium chloride solution between 18 and 25°C and then submerged at 30 centimeters for 50 hours in water with a varying temperature of between 18 to 25°C.

Calibre de Cartier Diver

For the record, this depth is where dive watches are more likely to reveal waterproofness flaws. Indeed, here pressure does not compress the seals for the glass and the case-back, which could finally prove to be defective in less extreme conditions.

Allying technique with aesthetics

Cartier has not only paid particular attention to the watch’s functioning. The designer team was committed to making this reference a model of balance. Thus, they have designed a most genuine dive watch that can also be worn when out in town. To this end, they have crafted a 42x11 mm case. Those numbers might not mean anything special, but the actual proportions can almost be defined as canonical. The case middle is neither too big nor too thick and it comes in either steel or 18K-pink gold. It represents Cartier’s vision of the contemporary sports watch that can also be worn when in town. A true treasure of qualities, this creation displays first-class, satin-brushed and polished finishes and a turning bezel, all of which completely adhere to the much-loved “retro-futuristic” spirit. This is most certainly why the department has chosen to coat it with ADLC (Diamond Like Carbon) and to hem the circumference with a fine jagged edge to help hold it.

Calibre de Cartier Diver

A reference caliber

There are always two solutions: either start with the best or end with the best. In this case, we will end with the presentation of the Calibre de Cartier Diver’s mechanism. It is - as you may have already guessed - the 1904MC caliber created in 2010. For the record, it was the first ever self-winding movement developed and assembled by Cartier’s watchmakers. Its highly symbolic name refers to the pioneering spirit of Louis Cartier who created one of the first wristwatches for his friend Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1904. More than a century later, the 1904 MC movement writes a new watchmaking page of the Cartier Maison.

This calibre11½lineshas been designed to ensure perfect chronometric stability thanks to a double barrel that guarantees an excellent torque constant mainspring for a long time.

This movement – equipped with a fine adjusting system and a stop-seconds mechanism – needs to guarantee a high, long-term functioning precision. The 1904 MC caliber is also equipped with bearing system ceramic balls that ensures that the oscillating mass rotates easily without the need for lubrication and perfectly flat on the long run. It should also be noted that a particularly innovating clicking device for a two-way self-winding has been fixed to the mechanism.

Calibre de Cartier Diver

What is efficient must also be beautiful. Therefore the artists from the manufacture based in La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland) have decorated this caliber in a qualitative way even if it remains hidden by the filled back. This choice was made for the sake of long-term security and robustness. It proves that Cartier pays particular attention to every single detail of its products – like for everything else. Luxury has its price and does not accept inaccuracies. This piece is day-to-day proof of that!

Calibre de Cartier Diver

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