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

DA MAN - Caliber - - LEGACY -

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.

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