Nicki von Bueren, CEO of Bangkok’s Lotus Arts de Vivre and London based Harry Fane of Obsidian Objets d’Art, have come together for a vintage Cartier watch exhibition – Women Are Forever. Showcased at Lotus Arts de Vivre Boutique in Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, this exhibition offers an exclusive look at 34 rare vintage Cartier timepieces, curated by Harry Fane, one of the world’s leading experts and collectors of vintage Cartier. Francesca Cartier Brickell, a direct descendant of the Cartier family and the author of the book The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire, spoke on the family history, shared stories about the vintage pieces, and underlined how Cartier changed over the years continually innovating while focusing on the highest quality in terms of the design, gems and craftsmanship.
The 20th Century saw a staggering amount of change in all aspects of life, including fashion, but the one constant from the early days of the 20th Century has been the women’s wristwatch. These vintage watches record the changing fashion through the eyes of Cartier and its skilled watchmakers. And what a genuinely fascinating progression it is. The collection explores the early days of the diamond wristwatch from 1915 to the 1930s and makes for a fascinating journey from the tiniest Cartier wristwatch to one surrounded with diamonds mounted on natural pearl straps and the king of diamond wristwatches, the ‘Crash’.
Says Francesca Cartier Brickell, “This exhibition is extraordinary, with a collection of 34 rare vintage Cartier women timepieces curated from all over the world. ‘Never Copy, Only Create’ is the Cartier family motto which means that Cartier is constantly innovating. Every piece in the past took inspiration from everywhere except the existing jewellery. Louis Cartier, one of three grandsons of the founder Louis-Francois Cartier, was a perfectionist. I think of him as akin to Steve Jobs in mindset. A creative genius who was always looking for new ways of doing things and didn’t follow convention. That’s why these ladies wristwatches became iconic.” Of the 34 watches, The Front Row takes a close look at its favourites.
(From left) Diamond Set Wristwatch, 1920; Cartier Diamond and Natural Pearl Lady’s Wristwatch, 1919; Cartier Diamond and Black Onyx Set Wristwatch, 1921
Diamond Set Wristwatch, 1920: Elegant, delicate and feminine, this watch from 1920 is fascinating because it was just when these watches became popular. Its square shaped case with rounded corners is set with rose-cut diamonds. It has diamond set openwork lugs and the original diamond-set ‘Deployment’ Buckle, dial with traditional Cartier configuration. These early wristwatches have very thin movements, and the cases sit very comfortably on the wrist.
Cartier Diamond and Natural Pearl Lady’s Wristwatch, 1919: A very rare Wristwatch with an oval, offset, open dial surrounded by rose-cut diamonds. The watch mounted on a woven, grey, natural pearl strap has a fine rose-cut diamond clasp fitting. The offset dial enabled women to tell the time from the quickest glimpse. Exceptionally rare watch.
Cartier Diamond and Black Onyx Set Wristwatch, 1921: Another superb example of Cartier’s 1920s diamond set wristwatches. The black onyx corner sections enhance the setting. The open square dial is surrounded by rose-cut diamonds and diamond set lugs in Art-Deco form, with silvered dial, Roman numerals, blued ‘Breguet’ hands, and an inner minute track (chemin de fer).
(From left) Antique Diamond Set Cocktail Watch; Antique Round Diamond Set Cocktail Watch; Antique Tank Normale Diamond Set Cocktail Watch, 1922
Antique Diamond Set Cocktail Watch, 1929: Cartier’s imagination had few limitations when designing lady’s diamond wristwatches. Surprisingly, Both men and women wore these tiny watches - the Maharaja of Indore in the late 1920s in full white tie, wore a very similar watch in a portrait. This model is unique because the case is set with carré (square) cut diamonds rather than round-cuts.
Antique Round Diamond Set Cocktail Watch, 1919: Cartier tended to make square watches, but this is a rare example of a lady’s round watch with extended lugs.
Antique Tank Normale Diamond Set Cocktail Watch, 1922: The Tank Normale was Cartier’s first Tank watch released in 1919. This is a stunning model set with rose-cut diamonds.
(From left) Cartier Platinum and Diamond Watch, 1927; Cartier Diamond Crash; Cartier Diamond and Emerald Wristwatch
Cartier Platinum and Diamond Watch, 1927: This charming, miniature lady’s diamond wristwatch exemplifies the delicate watches Cartier was making in the 1920s. The size is enhanced by setting two baguette diamonds amongst round rose-cut diamonds, and the dial displays Arabic numerals, which is unusual for Cartier. In addition, this watch has a black silk cord bracelet with a gold and black enamel deployment style clasp.
Cartier Diamond and Emerald Wristwatch, 1925: A rectangular diamond, black onyx and emerald evening watch with Indian-esque pavé-set diamond shoulders.
Cartier Diamond Crash: There is no more iconic wristwatch made in the 20th Century than the famous Cartier ‘Crash’. The design originated when Jean Jacques Cartier, in 1967, saw a crash between a London double-decker bus and a black London taxi. He asked his workshop what a Cartier Tank would look like in a car crash and the designers produced this design. This watch subsequently became one of London’s icons in the Swinging Sixties. This was the era of the Beatles, the E Type Jaguar and the mini skirt. Cartier, London made approximately twenty gold ‘Crash’ watches from 1967- 1987, and in 1990, production moved to Paris. Since then, the ‘Crash’ has become one of Cartier’s most famous and enduring designs.