Quartz & Cartier: A Faux Pas Or A Match Made In Heaven?

It is always an interesting moment when a collector sees an attractive watch on the wrist on somebody else, only to be visibly very disappointed when he learns that it is quartz. For Cartier, having quartz-powered watches has been, for a long time, one of the reasons why the brand wasn’t taken too seriously by watch connoisseurs and journalists. This is quite interesting as the brand has been committed to both mechanical as well as battery-powered movements. In fact, it was quartz that played an essential role in making Cartier the brand that we know today. During the quartz-crisis, the brand started to make its transition from being a family firm with three stores into what would become a global luxury brand. For this, they needed a more accessible line of watches that could be produced in a higher volume. They partnered with Ebel, who would not only make many of the watches within the ‘Must de Cartier’-collection but also fit them with their quartz movements. It would make not only Ebel but also Cartier, one of the winners of the quartz crisis.

Quartz powered Must Tank’s allowed Cartier to take over the world when most Swiss watch brands where struggling.

During this time, Cartier never neglected mechanical movements, which always remained part of their collection. After the quartz-crisis, both types of movements coexisted. When terms like ‘Manufacture’ became more predominant in the collectors-scene, Cartier adapted, and now offers an imposing range of manufacture calibers themselves, ranging from a simple automatic movement with a date to ultra-complex tourbillons with perpetual calendars. While watch snobs might stick their noses into the air for quartz, Cartier doesn’t and for a good reason. Just like Rolex, would the vast majority of their clients not identify themselves with being a watch connoisseur or collectors. They simply want an outstanding luxury watch with a distinguished pedigree in a style they like. Some of them even prefer quartz over a mechanical movement, as they are much easier to live with.

The Vendome Louis Cartier, as pictured in Geo Cramer’s book

It is also interesting to note that some of Cartier’s most iconic collections have never been available with a mechanical movement. The Panthere is perhaps the best example of this, but also the Vendome Louis Cartier. Next to that has Cartier had considerable success with their ‘Chronoreflex’- caliber, a quartz chronograph with perpetual calendar. This movement was actually a revamped Piaget caliber 212P and can be found in the Tank Francaise, Tank Americaine, Pasha, Santos, and others.

The current generation Santos Dumont was introduced last year in steel and with a quartz movement

With the recent introduction of the Santos Dumont, Cartier not only, for the first time, made this model in stainless steel but also fitted it with a quartz caliber. This thin and efficient movement with a long battery life might have been the only disappointment for watch connoisseurs when the watch came out (which has recently been rectified with the manual wind edition), but also showed how important quartz in overall is for Cartier.

Even the Tank Americaine started its career with quartz movements

When it comes to Cartier, quartz is, therefore, no faux pas; it is a choice rooted in history. The brand has been committed, although not exclusively, to quartz technology ever since its invention. It allows the brand to create a range of watches whose appeal goes beyond that of the typical watch collector, making it a vital ingredient of the success story that Cartier is.

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