To Drive For
It began wIth the fIrst men’s wrIstwatch. Over a century later, cartIer Once agaIn celebrates men and theIr InnermOst desIre wIth an elegant tImepIece named drIve
Little did people know that men’s wristwatches debuted over a century ago. It was when Louis Cartier, the namesake brand’s second generation owner, heeded the request of his friend, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, who was looking for a “pocket watch” suitable to tell the time while flying. Cartier then ingeniously reconstructed the old-fashioned pocket watch into a wristwatch in 1904. It became a groundbreaking innovation, which eventually changed the course of history, prompting other watchmakers to leave pocket watches and turn to wristwatches instead.
Cartier’s Santos watch, as it was aptly named in honor of Brazil’s father of aviation, comes with an emblematic square case—the collection of which endures to this very day. Safe to say, there has been no other square watch in history that could ever replace such an icon. Some credit timing as the reason for the Santos watch’s emergence as a champion in the history of wristwatches, whereas others give a nod to the legendary creator, Louis Cartier, who consistently helped shape the course of watchmaking. These are undeniably qualifying reasons, but another factor that played a big role in propelling the Santos watch into the ranks of the most desired timepieces for men of all time is the language of the design. While the rest of the world was still tinkering with pocket watches, Cartier already took one step ahead and manifested their creativity in a new form.
For watchmakers, a watchcase decides more than just how the dial would look or what the movement inside should conform to. Be it the silhouette of the curves or the line of the frame, there is a universal design language of a watchcase that speaks to all of us, especially those who believe in the essence of time. Time might be elusive, so to speak, but a timepiece makes it somewhat familiar, known and understandable to some extent.
That philosophical point of view resonates closely with the creation of another watch during World War I. Like most Frenchmen at that time, Louis Cartier saw and experienced the war first hand. Although it generally instilled fear in the hearts of many, the first real tanks that appeared on the frontline sparked Cartier’s creativity to turn fear into beauty. It was a desperate time, most would remember, but for Cartier, it was a time worth remembering. Right before Art Deco stepped into the limelight, Cartier released another icon, the Tank watch, in 1917.
Unlike the Santos, this rectangular timepiece is a subtler take on the body of a tank. The tracks or treads of a tank inspired the minute rail track on the dial. A tank’s real killing machine, its main gun, was transformed into the most beautiful highlight of this piece, the Tank watch’s signature crown with a blue cabochon. Given such an intrinsic, artistic value that imitates reality, the Tank watch has been worn and adored by many renowned figures of the past and present, including fashion designers Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford, actors Cary Grant and Bryan Cranston, artist Andy Warhol, author Truman Capote and even legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.