If there’s one thing and one thing only to remember about Cartier (among many others of course) is how this Old Maison always mastered shapes, like not other brand achieved and always with a restrained, somehow old-fashioned elegance. Recently, the brand made incursions in new worlds, like for instance the sporty Calibre de Cartier and its Diver edition. They also introduced a yachting-style Ronde Croisière. But this year, at the SIHH 2016, Cartier probably introduced THE watch that many of us were expecting: an elegant, shaped, refined watch, with just a bit of vintage appeal, an in-house movement and a price that surprised more than just a few. This watch is named the Cartier Drive and it’s a pure summary of why we love Cartier.
Cartier, a Master of shapes
One thing is important to notice with Cartier; unlike many brands, they always had a strong focus on shaped watches. Many brands tried to do this – especially in the 1920s and 1930s, where Art-Deco also influenced watchmaking and where we have seen many timepieces with rectangular or cushion-shaped watches – but few manufactures achieved to keep this attribute as a hallmark. In fact, if you look at the actual collections of older brands, there are mainly round watches, whether we talk about sports or dress watches. On the other hand, Cartier’s icons are all shaped-watches and recent creations follow the same concept.
Of course, the round shape is somehow natural, as a watch usually have hands attached to a central axis and rotating on a dial. However, Cartier’s most influential timepieces all share this idea of being different from the norm of the round timepiece. Take for instance the Tank and its rectangular case. Or the Santos, with a mix of square and octagonal shapes. You’ll also find the Tortue or the Roadster, with their barrel shaped cases. Recently, the brand introduced some more consensual watches, like for instance the Ballon Bleu. But then again, its not just a round case. Same can be said for the Clé. Shapes are always part of the design of a Cartier, with many different inspirations and style. However, a Cartier is recognizable as so and the elegance of their watches is undeniable.
The Cartier Drive, the long-awaited gentleman’s watch
One important thing to note with the Cartier Drive is that it’s one of the rare recent watches of the brand to be entirely dedicated to men. And that’s not a detail. For long, Cartier has designed watches that could be worn by both men and ladies, like for instance the different editions of the Tank, the Ballon Bleu (which exists in versions of 26mm, 33mm, 36mm and 42mm), the Santos 100 or the recent Clé (which has been introduced straight away in 31mm, 35mm and 40mm). To the exception of the Calibre, the sports watch of the brand, most Cartier timepieces are unisex in the design (not in the sizes). And in terms of elegant, classical watches, this Cartier Drive is certainly the only one to be for men only.
The second good point in this new Cartier Drive comes from the inspirations. As being a watch entirely dedicated to men, the Old Maison had the opportunity to play on different concepts than the usual jewelry and Art-Deco themes. No worries to have however, as the Drive is perfectly in line with Cartier’s basics: Roman numerals, blued hands, guilloché dial, sapphire on the crown… But the inspiration here is based on vintage cars, with a dial design based on radiator grills and a crown looking like a bolt. It’s no easy to define it, but the watch overall has this sort of gentleman driver feels, being both casual, just a bit sporty and, overall, extremely elegant and refined.
At the moment of its launch, the Cartier Drive was already an entire collection, with several metals (steel or gold), several dial colors (white, black and grey), different possible display and complications (including a dual time and a tourbillon). However, the most coveted will be this 3-hand edition, with small second, in steel (for obvious price reasons, as starting at 6,000 Euros – not bad, right), even if too us, the Drive deserves to be seen in 18k pink gold, as it gains a lot in elegance and refinement.
The Cartier Drive, some fresh air in well-known codes
The thing that makes this Cartier Drive appealing is a mix of novelties and known codes. Of course, the Drive is nothing about what we’ve seen before at Cartier (relatively speaking, it’s not a revolution either) but on the other hand, it is usually recognizable as a Cartier watch. It’s both fresh in terms of case and conservative when we look at the dial.
The case of the Drive is a perfect example of managing shapes, without crossing the line of a too strong originality. It’s a pure cushion, meaning a “rounded square”, with four facets that are identical. The lugs are integrated in the case and not added on it, giving a nicely “smooth” feel to the watch. The Drive is reasonable in terms of dimensions, as being 41mm large. However, with such shapes, do keep in mind that it will wear slightly larger than a round watch. Overall, the feeling of the design is vintage but the dimensions are totally 21th century. The good point with the Drive comes from the sensation on the wrist. The watch isn’t what we could call an ultra-thin one, as being 11.25mm thick. However – and that’s again the strength of Cartier – they know how to make you feel like having a thin watch on the wrist.
The construction of the case, with visible casebands that are slim (and brushed, to emphazise this contrast even more), is well thought. The visual and tactile perception is in fact much different than what the specs will make you think. Of course at 11.25mm, it will be rather difficult to hide it under a cuff but this sleek profile will greatly benefit to the overall elegance of the watch. As usual with Cartier, the case is perfectly executed and, in this gold version, it has a certain old-school charm that we quite love here.
The face of the Cartier Drive is, on its side, extremely classical to the production of the Old Maison. That’s where Cartier has been right with this watch: bringing some fresh air in the shapes, inspirations and dimensions, without shockingly change the DNA. So we find back the dial with several distinct areas: a central guilloché part with concentric waves, a small second with circular pattern, a minute track surrounding these guilloché areas and finally, on the periphery, the hours indicated by strong Roman numerals – with of course, the name Cartier printed in the 7 numeral. Another usual feature are the classical sword hands, in blued steel, for the hours, minutes and small second. Finally, the date is indicated at 3.
Overall, no revolution on the dial. The novelty comes from the shape of the watch, which gives some extra sportiness, but clearly not the same kind of sports than a Calibre de Cartier. What we mean about sports here is more being the driver of a nice classic car during a rally or being on the side of a polo field. This Drive de Cartier (obviously, it’s in its name…) has this gentleman driver attitude, a sort of British elegance, not over-dressed, not too sporty. It could well be a perfect casual watch, and a perfect daily beater in this gold case, as a suit and tie won’t afraid it.
The Cartier Drive, and its strong mechanical content
The times of outsourced or quartz movements are over at Cartier, especially for men’s watches. So you won’t be surprised to know that the Cartier Drive is equipped with a in-house movement – and not the manufacture’s “entry-level” calibre, like in the Clé. The Drive comes with something more technical, more complex and possibly more precise. And that’s something we’re not going to complain about, especially knowing the price level of this watch (at least in steel). Inside the Drive ticks the Calibre 1904MC-PS – PS meaning “petite seconde” or small second. This movement was first introduced in the Calibre de Cartier and it was the first automatic movement entirely produced in-house by the brand. Its name, 1904, is a reference to the date when Cartier started to do watches – see the Santos for more details.
The main interest of this movement, compared to the Calibre 1847 of the Clé, is not especially in the looks or the finishing, but purely in technical solutions. Indeed, it features two barrels, which means a double advantage. Of course, 2 barrels possibly means more storage of energy, so a longer power reserve – in this case, 48h vs 42h for the 1847. But Cartier chose a double barrel for another reason, that we find more interesting: chronometry. Figure this; a spring tends to deliver more torque to the escapement when it’s fully wound than when it’s close to be unwound. And this problem is even truer with large springs. By having 2 barrels, thus 2 springs, for a same amount of power reserve, you reduce the size of the springs and then, you considerably increase the stability of the torque, something that has a direct effect on the precision of the watch, over the entire length of the power reserve.
The calibre 1904 of the Cartier Drive is finished with pleasant decorations, like Geneva stripes on the bridges and the rotor, or perlage on the main plate. The movement is visible through the sapphire caseback. It features a stop-second mechanism, a winding rotor mounted on ceramic ball bearing (more reliable and more stable), comprises 186 parts, runs at a modern 4Hz frequency and boats 48 hours of power reserve.
Conclusion about the Cartier Drive
Of course, we could easily argue that the Drive is not spectacular or especially new. Indeed, it features many of the attributes that we’re used to at Cartier (the dial is a perfect example of the brand’s DNA). On the other hand, it’s good to see Cartier back on the man’s market, with a watch that is elegant, restrained and not posh. The shape of the Drive is interesting and extremely classical at the same time. Cartier knew how to shape timepieces and, with this Drive, they demonstrate it again. We tend to prefer the 18k pink gold version for its warmer look, a bit more vintage. However, if you don’t have 18,600 Euros (retail price), you can look at the steel version, available in white or black, and priced at a reasonable 6,000 Euros.
Specifications of the Cartier Drive (Drive de Cartier)
- Case: 41mm large x 40mm height x11.25mm thick – 18k pink gold – sapphire crystal on front and back – 30m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre 1904MC-PS, in-house – automatic – 48h power reserve with double barrel – 28,800 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, small seconds, date
- Strap: brown alligator strap with pink gold folding buckle