“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

Cartier ‘Rare Watches’ exhibition in Geneva

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Cartier Geneva had a special treat for watch lovers last weekend – the Rare Watches Exhibition included more than 30 exciting timepieces at the La Résidence space in the Rue du Rhône boutique. The showcase was open to the public for just two days. We were lucky enough to browse around some amazing Cartier icons. 

In 1969 Cartier settled in the heart of Geneva’s exclusive luxury shopping district in a building designed by the Swiss architect, Pierre Braillard. The boutique went through an extensive renovation and reopened in October 2021. Now it is the second largest Cartier showroom in Europe, after the just-renovated Paris one, at 13 Rue de la Paix. Most of the spaces have been redesigned by the Moinard-Bétaille Agency, which has been working with the Maison on the design and layout of its boutiques for more than 20 years. On the second floor you will find ‘La Résidence’, reimagined by Daniel and Michel Bismut and dedicated to exclusive events and VIP clients. 

The very special 35 vintage pieces from Cartier’s private collection were exhibited here between 11-12 November, 2022. 

Rare Watches Exhibition

Cartier is a great favourite of mine when it comes to design. Throughout its history, the luxury company has put down original shapes on graphite and no matter how daring they looked, craftsmen could cast it in metal and stone. The Rare Watches Exhibition included some of the Maison’s icons, such as the new and old Pebble watches, the Cartier Crash, different Tank models or the very rare Cleich watch. 

A great number of Cartier’s famous clients’ portraits were displayed on the walls of La Résidence – all contributing to the emblematic status of Cartier timepieces. 

Cartier Crash

As it happens with many great designs, the Crash watch of Cartier was born by accident. One of the fables suggests that a customer brought in a Cartier Bagnoire watch, which had been involved in a car accident and transformed into a melted, strange shape. Jean-Jacques Cartier used it as inspiration to create a new timepiece form, which soon became the symbol of non-conformism and creative freedom. Many people associate it with the watches depicted on Salvador Dalí’s painting entitled The Persistence of Memory (1931).

Crash first saw the sunlight in London in 1967, and it has come back in various limited editions from time-to-time ever since. This very first piece was on view at the boutique. 

Cartier Tank

Another icon, another interesting design story and another remake. The inspiration for the case design was the shape of the Renault tanks of WWI, and the main characteristic was that ‘two side pieces of the Tank seamlessly connect the strap to the case.’

The prototype of the original Tank was a gift in 1918 from Louis Cartier to John Joseph Pershing, a senior US Army officer, who served as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force in WWI. It went into production in 1919 and a few years later a new version – the Tank Cintrée (‘curved Tank’) was also designed.

As Cartier says ‘Tank is a state of mind’ and many clients would agree with this. Aficionados include a number of acclaimed actors such as Rudolph Valentino or Clark Gable, style icons like Diana, the Princess of Wales or Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, as well as great creative personalities like the pop-art pope Andy Warhol or the French couturier, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. The latter told Madame Figaro magazine: ‘If all Tanks were made by Cartier, we’d have the time to live in peace.’

The Tank has been reinterpreted by Cartier throughout the years in many iterations (Tank Française, Tank Anglais, Tank Louis Cartier or Tank Américaine just to name a few), while always remaining faithful to Louis Cartier’s original concept. 

The exhibition collected not only special editions of important models, but also timepieces with an interesting provenance. For example a Cartier reversible watch from 1969 was on view from Alain Delon or we had the chance to admire the Cartier Tank Cintrée, London, 1929, sold to Fred Astaire. 

If you happen to be in Switzerland, Cartier opens a pop-up experience to the public on 19 November showing until 17 December in Zurich, dedicated to the universe of La Panthère. 

Photo credits: Loupiosity.com
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