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Cartier in 2018: The Next Generation

Fresh off the year’s most prestigious showcase of watches. Presenting the evolution of the Santos, Rotonde and Panthère collections at SIHH 2018

By Rhonda Riche

For all its status as one of the most recognizable luxury brands, Cartier designs its watches to be practical objects, made to be worn not stored in a bank vault. Part of the company’s strategy is to constantly but subtly update its collections to suit the changing tastes and needs of its clientele. This year at the Salon International De La Haute Horlogere, Cartier focused its attentions on three classic collections — Panthère, Santos and Rotonde — to address the growing number of women buyers, a younger audience in general and functionality in the age of e-commerce.

Cat People

Cartier is calling its SIHH presentation Épure et Excès (refinement and excess). The company further breaks down its novelties into two categories: Femininty and Masculinty. The impressive array of women’s timepieces presented at SIHH begins with the Libre Collection which we reviewed back in December. And all though it is part of the women’s line, the gentlemen in Geneva would be happy to wear the Crash Radieuse as well. 

The spotlight was on the Panthère de Cartier collection, specifically new, fluid watch bracelets. The Panthère, one of the ultimate status symbols of the 1980s, was discontinued in 2004 and relaunched in 2017. This year’s models spotlight Cartier’s expertise in jewelry making by introducing a supple chain link system that loops around the wrist two or three times. To best suit the style of the individual wearer, these bracelets are available in variations of yellow, pink or white gold, with or without diamonds.

The panther plays an important role in many of Cartier’s limited edition fine jewelry watches for 2018, but we’re going to focus on two showstoppers.

The Révélation d’une Panthère has a mysterious crystal filled with tiny gold beads. With the twist of the wrist, the beads rearrange themselves into a panther’s face, which then disappears just as magically. The 37mm pink gold case and diamond-studded bezel comes with either a black, green or red dial two alligator leather straps and a winding crown set with either a diamond, emerald or ruby.

And from Cartier’s Métier d’Art, the feline face of the limited-to-30-numbered-pieces Ronde Louis Cartier With Wood and Gold Leaf Marquetry is painstakingly handmade and set with green peridots for the big cat’s eyes. The 36mm case is made of 18k yellow gold set with diamonds.

Modern Life

One of Cartier’s most beloved timepieces is the Santos. Created for the playboy aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1904, the square shape and eight bezel screws have informed almost every aspect of the Cartier brand identity moving forward.

Over the decades, the Santos has continuously evolved to embrace new technologies, materials and styles. In 2018, Cartier is updating its Santos line with Cartier QuickSwitch, self-fitting system to allow consumers to choose from interchangeable steel, gold, calfskin or alligator skin straps. 

Quick change bracelets were ubiquitous at SIHH, the appeal being able to dress up or dress down your watch without having to visit a boutique to switch out your strap adds value and convenience. Cartier takes this functionality on step further with its SmartLink feature that allows the wearer to adjust the length of a metal bracelet to the nearest link without the use of a tool. These innovations are definitely a nod to the growing e-commerce market who want assurance of fit when they can’t try on a timepiece in person.

The 2018 Santos collection is basically built for guys (and girls) on the go. The design of the bezel has been updated to better integrate the lines of the case and the straps to optimize comfort and ergonomics. And the new, automatic in-house caliber 1847 MC features nickel phosphorus components in the escapement and movement mechanisms to shield against exposure to magnets found in everything from laptop cases to speakers (which can mess with your watch’s accuracy).

Building A Mystery

Cartier has also found a way to move forward technologically by looking to its past in clock making. Specifically the first Mystery Clocks – in which the minute and hour hands appeared to levitate — were designed for Cartier in 1912.

This year, Cartier is introducing the Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon and the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Day & Night.  The skeleton has a double flying tourbillon appears to be suspended in mid-air with no connection to the rest of the movement. Stripped down to its essential elements, the effect is hauntingly beautiful. 

The Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Day & Night is equally intriguing. It’s a marriage of two classic Cartier complications: The Model a Mystery Clock and the Comet clock. In this version, the sun and moon appear to float freely in the top half of the dial to indicate the hours of the day and night while the retrograde minutes are displayed in the lower sector. To make the watch feel even more celestial, the dial also features a radiating guilloché and satin-brushed sunray finish. 

The Shape Of Things To Come

Cartier has always been an outlier when it comes to watchmaking because of its embrace of non-traditional case shapes. Keeping with the themes of comfort and joy, the brand has also introduced an Extra-Flat version of its 38 x 39mm Drive de Cartier. 

In the tank division, Cartier is releasing four versions of the Louis Cartier in small and large sizes, with or without diamonds all with a luxurious linked pink gold bracelets. These rectangular legends are also fitted with a brand new, manual-winding caliber 1917 MC caliber.

This year, the elegant curved case of the Tank Cintrée has been reborn with a more streamlined silhouette. There are three versions to choose from – yellow gold with a champagne dial, pink gold with a black dial, and platinum with a pale grey dial. Note that the Cintrée is rare for Cartier in that it has Arabic numerals instead of Roman. The retro look of the monochromatic case/dial combination of the yellow gold and platinum are particularly pleasing.


By adapting classics to meet the needs of the modern man and woman rather than reinventing the wheel is a canny strategy for Cartier. By preserving and amplifying the brand’s status symbol connotations, it appeals to the label loving millennials while the quality of craftsmanship is a huge hit for watch snobs.

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