The Cartier Crash watch is a design icon that continues to captivate watch enthusiasts and collectors worldwide. Its fluid, free-form shape and specially designed dial make it unique among wristwatches. The watch is a testament to the “genius of Cartier,” a brand renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship and timeless design. In this article, we will explore the history and legacy of this remarkable timepiece.
The Mysterious Origins of the Cartier Crash Watch
The story of the Cartier Crash watch’s origins has been the subject of many myths and rumors over the years. Some claimed that the watch was inspired by Salvador Dali’s painting ‘La Persistance de la Mémoire de Dali,’ while others believed that it came from a melted Cartier Maxi Baignoire Allongée. There was even a rumor that one of Cartier’s founders was in a car crash in the late 1960s, and the resulting misshapen watch served as the inspiration for the Cartier Crash.
However, the true story behind the Cartier Crash watch’s creation was recently confirmed by Francesca Cartier Brickell, Jean-Jacques Cartier’s granddaughter, in her book ‘The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire.’ According to Brickell, the idea for the Crash watch came from Jean-Jacques Cartier and designer Rupert Emmerson, who wanted to create a wristwatch that was truly a response to the spirit of the age in 1960s London.
The resulting watch was a complete departure from the straight lines of traditional watches like the Tank and oval. It was an avant-garde design that was positively shocking at the time of its introduction in 1967. Only available in yellow gold, it was sold exclusively at the Cartier Boutique in London, and only about 20 examples were made. Rumor has it that one of its first owner brought it back because it was too unusual.
The Cartier Crash Watch Legendary Models
The Cartier Crash watch is one of the most original luxury watches ever made, thanks to its contorted oval case. It remains a design icon that has gone through various models over the years, with each hand-made watch retaining the unique fluid shape that sets it apart from any other. The original 1960s and 1970s models are highly sought-after, and the recent platinum Crash watch being offered by Christie’s is a 1990s version that is considered one of the most attractive and sought-after versions of this iconic design. The original 1960s and 1970s models are highly sought after and are increasingly rare. According to Sotheby’s, there are only 12 of the first edition. This edition was available only in yellow gold and was sold exclusively at the Cartier Boutique London, and it is believed that only around 20 examples were originally made. The 12 remaining can be recognized also for the writing Cartier London, gaining therefore the London Crash nickname. At the time, the three Cartier’s stores, New York, Paris and London, acted independently and, so, they released limited edition sold only at their boutiques.
The platinum Crash is a version made by Cartier Paris in 1990. The watch features a signature Cartier Paris on the untouched painted dial, making it a sublime specimen that offers collectors the ever-decreasing opportunity to obtain a great wristwatch rarity and an internationally recognized symbol of impeccable taste. A year later, 400 Cartier Paris in gold were also released.
The Crash Skeleton, introduced in 2014, is another unusual creation from Cartier, featuring a skeletonized movement that allows the wearer to see the inner workings of the watch. The watch is made of 18k pink gold and has a crown beaded and set with a blue sapphire. It measures 28.15 x 45.32 mm and has a price tag of $78,500. Only 67 were made. Additionally, the Crash Radieuse, released in a limited 50 pieces edition, is a psychedelic variation of the watch covered in a shockwave motif that ripples out from the center of the dial.
Other models have been produced, but always in limited runs. There are versions with a diamond-encrusted crown, a more feminine and definitely more sparkly rose gold Crash adorned with 149 brilliant-cut diamonds and a beaded crown set with a brilliant-cut diamond totaling 2.15 carats, and 321 brilliant-cut diamonds on the watch bracelet. Only 67 pieces were made of this model. The price tag cannot be surprising: $180,000.
It’s worth noticing and it is possible to customize your Cartier Crash or design one.
The Legacy of the Cartier Crash Watch
Very few of Cartier’s 1990s platinum Crash watches have ever appeared at auction. The Christie’s auction of the platinum Crash watch was a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire a highly sought-after watch that is sure to appreciate in value over time. The watch was estimated to sell for between $120,000 and $180,000 but exceeded expectations when it sold for $225,000, a testament to the enduring appeal of this design icon. The sale price was a new record for a Cartier Crash watch sold at auction, further cementing its status as a highly desirable collectible.
In December 2020, a Cartier Crash sold for a record-breaking $225,000 at a Christie’s sale, against an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. The 1970 Cartier Crash London was put up for auction at the Sotheby’s Important Watches: Part I auction held in Geneva. It was sold for a price of $884,972 in November 2021.
In May 2022, a Cartier Crash from the first release of the model sold for $1.65 million on Loupe This at auction, nearly double the previous auction record for the rare and recognizable watch.
The Timeless Appeal
The rarity and exclusivity of the Cartier Crash watch, coupled with its status as a design icon, make it a great investment for those lucky enough to find one. However, due to their scarcity, finding a genuine Cartier Crash watch can be a challenge. As with any high-value collectible, it is important to be aware of the potential for counterfeits and to only buy from reputable dealers.
In conclusion, the Cartier Crash watch is a fascinating piece of design history that has stood the test of time. Its enduring appeal and desirability, thanks to the iconic design and exclusivity of the always-handmade limited editions, make it a highly sought-after collectible. Recent record-breaking sales at auction have only increased its value and exclusivity. Whether you are a watch enthusiast, collector, or simply appreciate exceptional design, the Cartier Crash watch is a unique and captivating timepiece that continues to inspire.