The brand new Clé de Cartier watch line is more (Clark) Gable than (Ryan) Gosling, which is extreme short hand for hot.damn.handsome . People with short attention spans can stop reading now. But for everybody else, settle in to meet the newest family member of the Cartier empire, the Clé de Cartier. ‘Clé’ means “key” in French and the watch, if we continue with the metaphor, unlocks some interesting new design codes for the brand – It is somehow less ‘Cartier looking’ than any other male watch line, but not the worse for it. The most apparent point of difference is the shape of the watch, which is one of many cushion-like shapes we’ve seen unveiled at SIHH, most tellingly the Vacheron Constantin Harmony line that we looked at here.
It is, however, a gently modified version, a circular dial (containing a round caliber) couched in a deeper oval, which recalls the C-shaped Omega Constellation designed in the ’60s by Gerald Genta. This watch’s main party trick is the innovative crown. Cartier refer to it as the literal ‘key’ for which the watch is named, though this seems to be a matter of interpretation. I’ve never seen a rectangular key like this, but its shape does vaguely resemble a key you might use to wind a table clock. Vaguely.
The first question when you go to operate a rectangular crown is ‘um, how?’ The operation is in fact simple. And fun actually. Just the same as a round crown, with a little more clearance to allow the propellor like movement of the rectangle shape. The crown itself is embedded with a sapphire, to reference the iconic Cartier cabochon.
The overall impression on the wrist is of a substantial – there is heft to the case – and classic piece with retro ’60s appeal. It has that reassuring Cartier brand of masculinity that is a patrimonial hand on the shoulder, rather than a crushing handshake – asserted by the lovely blue roman numerals, the guilloche centre dial and the decadent chocolatey combination of pink gold and brown alligator strap.
The Cartier Clé de Cartier presents, at first look, as a new shape (yes, a new shape for Cartier, but not the ‘brand new’ shape Cartier marketing has alluded to) that is comprised of two shapes, unusual for a brand whose signature is strong, singular shapes (the square, the round, the tonneau). And its warm retro tones make it a very strong contender for the ‘new vintage’ seeker tossing up between a Ballon Bleu, Santos or Tank. Pricing is expected to put it very much in this mix.
CLÉ DE CARTIER SPECIFICATIONS:
CLÉ DE CARTIER 40 MM
MANUFACTURE AUTOMATIC MOVEMENT 1847 MC
18K PINK GOLD