04/16/2024
 5 minutes

Three Cartier Watches That Deserve Your Attention

By Thomas Hendricks
3 Overlooked Cartier Watches
3 Overlooked Cartier Watches

The name Cartier needs no introduction. This past year has been a boon for anyone selling vintage Cartier, and the annual report from Morgan Stanley and LuxeConsult ranks Cartier as the second best-selling watch brand in 2023 (behind only Rolex, and ahead of Omega). And yet, there are watches deep in their catalog that deserve a second look.

We’ve selected three of them. One is affordable, while two are certainly not. Each watch offers its own perspective on what Cartier is, has been, and could be.

1. Tank Must de Cartier

There are instances when you should go against conventional wisdom and buy the cheapest wine on the menu. Whenever you browse Cartier watches on Chrono24, especially the lower-priced options, maybe you wonder, “What’s the deal with Must de Cartier? Why is it less expensive? Should I consider buying one?”

What used to be a poor man’s Cartier has become one of the brand’s best values. The Must de Cartier line began in the late 1970s as a way to broaden the market for Cartier elegance using lower price points. However, in cutting costs, Cartier also cut corners. The line featured quartz movements (not a bad thing) and gold-plated cases (not a good thing). Quartz movements are perfectly fine, especially for two-hand dress watches. But gold-plated cases chip and fade over time, so the more you wear your watch, the worse it looks. Is that really what you want when you wear a watch?

This is thankfully a bygone chapter in the Must de Cartier story. Since 2021, you can pick up a gorgeous, durable, affordable, steel Must de Cartier in a rich blue, green, red, or black. These have been fan favorites since they launched, with Cartier doing away with the “Must de” text on the dial, making the watches look more up-market than their price tag may indicate.

The Must de Cartier Tank Art Deco was a limited edition release with just 1000 pieces.
The Must de Cartier Tank Art Deco was a limited edition release of just 1,000 pieces.

The all-black version is particularly striking. It captures a similar effect seen with more expensive watches, such as the lacquer Santos or an onyx Rolex Day-Date. It’s that inky black that pulls you in, that abyss that you just want to scream with delight into. Despite what fashion blog headlines say, black is the new black, and just like Cartier, it never goes out of style. You’ll also find pieces with guilloché dials like the WSTA0040, the beautiful “Art Deco” ref. 1616, and the classic black Roman numerals on a white dial.

2. Cartier Rotonde De Cartier

This is not your typical Cartier. The Parisian brand is known for time-only watches with uniquely shaped cases. The Rotonde de Cartier W1556051, a round chronograph, is neither, while still clearly being a Cartier.

Cartier chronographs are generally overlooked. That’s because most of them are, well, terrible, even though a few are great. Issues arise when Cartier tries to take a minimal watch and turn it into a technical timepiece, as we see with the chronograph versions of the Santos or the Tank. With the Rotonde de Cartier, however, instead of trying to turn something simple into something complicated, Cartier used the W1556051 to make a complicated watch simple.

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier ref. W1556051
Cartier Rotonde de Cartier ref. W1556051

A great example of this is the central chronograph display. It doesn’t interrupt the Roman numeral chapter ring, and there are no extra hands crowding the dial. The rotating disc measuring elapsed time is easy to read and keeps the watch clean and symmetrical. The Rotonde de Cartier balances five concentric rings of information thanks to a neatly organized visual hierarchy that guides your eyes as you take everything in. We see the big stuff first, like the time and chronograph, followed by the fine details.

There’s also a surprising amount of depth to the dial as it steps down from the outer minute track and back up for the central chronograph module. We see the hour and minute hands tucked beneath the chronograph, creating a quasi-mystery dial effect. Top it off with a distinct black cabochon on the crown (normally reserved for special editions), and you’ve got a densely good watch. Not exactly an inexpensive one, to be sure, but also not too expensive, considering how it’s 42 mm of white gold. The Rotonde de Cartier is simultaneously dressy and sporty, capturing that elusive middle ground between function and elegance in a way that is distinctly on-brand.

3. Cartier Tank Cintrée Dual Time

In a world full of GMTs… be a dual-time watch. I first encountered the Cartier Tank Cintrée Dual Time on a trip to Chrono24’s UK office just outside London. The elongated Cintrée has long been a collector’s favorite, and this limited edition timepiece makes the most of its rectangular real estate. The watch has two movements, two crowns (with two cabochons, of course), and two different dials.

As you browse through the various Cintrée Dual Times on the market, you’ll see a beautiful array of graphic combinations forming the top and bottom time displays – something like the most luxurious set of bunk beds you’ve ever seen. The most common arrangement features a standard twelve-Roman-numeral layout on top, and a more sparse four-Roman-numeral layout on the bottom. The more interesting arrangements feature contrasting scripts from two cultures; you just might find, for example, Roman numerals on top and Chinese characters on the bottom.

Double the time, double the crown, double the face: This Cartier watch is a marvel of engineering.
Double the time, double the crown, double the face: This Cartier watch is a marvel of engineering.

The effect of this watch on the wrist is nothing less than transformative. While a GMT signals to others that you’re someone who travels the globe, the Cartier Tank Cintrée Dual Time signals that you’re someone who owns property around the world – a pied-à-terre in Paris, a bungalow in Bali, and your imagination can take care of the rest.

The Cintrée case is made to hug the wrist, and the two faces have a compounding effect. They’re beautiful enough to be worn on their own, butineffably stronger together. There’s also a pleasing visual hierarchy between the two. Both faces harmonize with each other without risking confusion on the part of the viewer – more like cousins than twins.

This watch would also be a fantastic candidate for Cartier’s Pièce Unique program, which allows the future owner to customize the watch for preferred time zones. For example, an Art Deco numerals dial could fill the upper space for New York, while the lower space could accommodate Japanese Kanji characters for Tokyo.

It appears that a small group of well-heeled Cartier enthusiasts love this watch, in spite of the fact that it hasn’t gotten the blinding attention the Crash, Tortue, or other strange Cartier shapes receive. But come on, what’s wrong with keeping a secret (or two)?


About the Author

Thomas Hendricks

I didn’t grow up a watch guy, but a few years after graduating from university, I landed a job at the online publication Watchonista as a writer and marketer. “Welcome to the watch world,” my colleagues told me half-jokingly, “no one ever leaves!” Now at Chrono24, I work as a private client advisor, helping people find the perfect watch for major life moments.

Read more

Latest Articles

The Most Expensive Breitling Watches
02/22/2024
Brands
 4 minutes

The Top Five Most Expensive Breitling Watches

By Barbara Korp

Featured

Top5-under-5000-2-1
Top 10 Watches
 4 minutes

Five Luxury Watches Under $5,000

By Sebastian Swart
Rolex-Oyster-Perpetual-124300-2-1
Watch Guides
 5 minutes

The Best for $24,000 in 2024: Aaron’s Perfect Watch Collection

By Aaron Voyles
ONP-929-Donatos-Uhrensammlung-2024-2-1
Watch Guides
 5 minutes

The Best for $24,000: Donato’s Perfect 2024 Watch Collection

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
Top5-under-5000-2-1
Top 10 Watches
 4 minutes

Five Luxury Watches Under $5,000

By Sebastian Swart
ONP-929-Donatos-Uhrensammlung-2024-2-1
Watch Guides
 5 minutes

The Best for $24,000: Donato’s Perfect 2024 Watch Collection

By Donato Emilio Andrioli