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.

4 thoughts on “Quartz & Cartier: A Faux Pas Or A Match Made In Heaven?

  1. Great article! I’ve found myself in great doubt about acquiring an early 2000′ Gold Tank Américaine Chronoflex (Ref. 1730), exactly because of the general “watch community” stereotype (myself included) regarding quartz’s inferior quality. Although the reason of this purchase is the aesthetics of this particularly model and it’s brand history, I just can’t help it to have the “wrong move” feeling about adding a less “pure” movement in a “luxury case and price point” to my (modest) collection. What are your thoughts about it?

    1. Thank you for your kind words! In my opinion, there are quartz movements and Quartz movements. The Chronoflex movement is in fact a Piaget movement. It is quite sophisticated and I have seen it being assembled by hand at the manufacture of Piaget at Cotes-aux-Fees. I really like the movement and it has plenty of charisma, even for a quartz movement. The perpetual function is very handy, and the chronograph runs so smooth. As there is no ticking seconds hand, I find it not bothersome at all that the movement is, in fact, battery powered.

      1. Hi Martin. Once again, I would like to thank you for your time to reply. It is indeed delightful to read your’s (and George’s) articles as they give amazing insights to us – common Cartier’s (and watches in general) enthusiastics. In the matter of this particular article (and a similar one regarding the relation between Cartier & quartz), you absolutely changed my opinion about quartz. Thank you for your help.

  2. Sold! Thank you for the lesson… I have Both quarts and automatics in my collection, but not QUARTZ! I’m going to be checking this watch out soon.
    Thank you

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