The Crash is the one watch in Cartier’s catalogue, that only a few years ago, no man would ever consider. But times have changed. The period for large watches, unless it houses a complication, is as good as over and men are re considering smaller and more elegant watches again.
Now is the Crash watch, that was originally created for men, not a model every man would like to wear, but it certainly became in the last few years, a piece of conversation that many collectors would love to have.
Let’s go back in time and see, what the Crash is and how the it became the status it has today;
The origin of Cartier’s most extreme watch dates back to 1967. There are a few, unconfirmed stories about the way the watch came to life, that all took place in London. The most plausible story is about a Cartier London manager, who got involved in a car accident and the ensuing fire. His watch, probably a Baignoire, melted from the heat exposure. The melted timepiece inspired Jean-Jacques Cartier, at that time head of Cartier London, to create a watch that got the name ‘Crash Watch’. It is often believed that the design of the ‘Crash watch’ was inspired by a painting of Salvador Dalí’s, but there is absolutely no evidence of that at all. The ‘London Crash’ is the only Cartier watch that was actually born by accident! Cartier London launched the timepiece as a men’s watch, in yellow-gold and platinum cases that measured 43mm x 23mm, and produced the watch in very limited numbers. While men’s watches were much smaller in the ’60s than they are nowadays, it was a normal size to wear. When the manufacturing of watches became centralised Cartier Paris took over the production of the Crash watch and continued the production of the Crash watch. But La Maison launched their version in 1991, in a limited edition of 200 pieces in a slightly smaller case measuring 38mm, making the model much less attractive that the London version. Later on in 1997, another limited edition of just 13 pieces in yellow gold was crafted for the reopening of the Rue de la Paix store, but again in the smaller dimensions.
While several limited editions were produced, it is still the ‘Cartier London Crash watch’ that sets auctions on fire, when, once in several years, a piece with the magic word “London” on the dial is being auctioned off.
And such a moment is gonna come now on the 11th. of May, when a yellow gold ‘London Crash’ watch from 1990, will be auctioned in Geneva by Phillips auctioneers!
Many watch collectors, especially in Asia and Europe, have been begging Cartier over the last 10 years for a larger and more wearable Crash watch, than the classic French version. The 38mm case size may sound reasonable, but since the watch becomes very pointed at the top, it becomes a a bit petite. much
It was worth the wait! – Cartier presented the long-awaited new Crash model at the SIHH 2015 in Geneva, as a completely newly designed watch and more importantly, finally in a bigger case that was large enough to be worn by men. Cartier could have done it the easy way, by creating a larger case that would fit one of their existing movements (for instance, the cal. 430 MC or the cal. 9780 MC the movement of the Tank Cintrée). This would certainly have fit the bill and pleased collectors. But instead of that, Cartier started from scratch and build something unexpected.
The engineers and designers came up with a new construction for the case of the Crash, and created the skeleton caliber 9618 MC, especially for this new watch. Instead of the well known classic dial, the skeletonized bridges now, form the Roman numerals. The dial is completely skeletonized, covered with oversized Roman numerals, that reveal the movement beneath: the hand-wound cal. 9618 MC, beating at 28,800vph and offering a remarkable power reserve of three days. In comparison with the vintage Crash watches, this 2015 model is water-resistant to 30m and the case measures 45.32mm x 28.15mm, significantly larger than its predecessor, and also even larger than the original ‘London Crash’ watch. The cal. 9618 MC may be based on existing skeleton movements, such as the cal. 9611 MC housed in the Santos-Dumont Skeleton, but the caliber had to be completely redesigned, to fit in the deformed shape of the case of the Crash. To achieve that, Cartier had to relocate the barrels, as well as the gear train.
Because the case of the watch is extremely curved, mineral crystal had to be used for the front (sapphire cannot be formed in the shape needed). The back of the case is almost flat, and here, the movement can be inspected through a sapphire-crystal caseback. Like all previous ‘Crash’ models, the 2015 ‘Crash Skeleton’ is also produced in a very limited and numbered edition of 67 pieces in platinum. In 2016 a second run of 67 pieces was presented in pink gold. The small quantity of 67 pieces refers of course to the year the melted ‘Maxi Oval’, morphed into the beautiful ‘Crash watch’.
When we look back at the history of the Crash, it’s clear that La Maison sees the Crash as a very special model. All production runs over the years, were always very limited, made for those who really care for an exclusive watch. Timepieces that sell out in a few weeks.
Now, just when you think that you might not be able to win that ‘London Crash’ at the Phillips Auction, on the 11th of May, please note that there now is a good possibility to get a, more affordable, new ‘London Crash’. For many years it was almost impossible to order a custom version, but due to the celebration of the re opening of the New Bondstreet, Cartier Boutique in London, you can order the ‘London Crash’ in yellow gold. But you have to be patient, since the London Mansions can only sell one ‘Crash watch’ a month, but this is your only chance to get the closest version to the original!
Vintage London Crash: 43 x 24 mm • Re-issue London Crash (from 2019): 41,9 x 23,3mm • Re Issue Crash Paris: 38 x 22mm • Skeleton Crash: 45,32 x 28,15 • Crash Radieuse: 41.9 x 23.3mm.