‘Crash’ing the record

Going behind the rare 1967 Cartier Crash London watch, with a dial shaped like a ghost’s face, that just sold for $1.5 million

Dominated mostly by Rolex and Patek Philippe, the world of watch auctions has a new winner on the block. A Cartier Crash London has sold for a phenomenal $1.5 million in an online auction, making it the most expensive auctioned Cartier wristwatch, ever.

With an extraordinary dial shaped like a ghost’s face, the 18 carat gold watch is from 1967, the first year of production of the Crash watch. Only a few of these were made, making its discovery truly remarkable. “While we do our best to preserve the anonymity of our consignors, I can tell you that the watch was previously unknown to the collector community and that it came from the family of a long-time owner in the US,” says Eric Ku, co-founder of Loupe This, the online auction house that dropped the hammer on the record-breaking watch.

The sale price of the 1967 watch is almost double the price of the last notable Cartier Crash from 1970, which was auctioned by Sothbey’s for $885,000 (approx) late last year. “I have watched the Crash break record after record at auctions. I've thought about how amazed my grandfather, Jean-Jacques Cartier, would be by the ever-increasing surge of interest,” says Francesca Cartier Brickell, the bestselling author of The Cartiers book. Jean-Jacques Cartier was the last of the Cartiers to own and manage the Cartier London branch that designed and produced the Crash watch.

“Cartier watches were focussed on timeless design principles. Now, because of social media, people are exposed to more and more information about the history and quality of these bespoke timepieces. Frankly, interest in classic Cartier watches has been building for quite a few years,” adds Brickell.

With a dial shaped like the face of a ghost, the watch has had a number of stories narrating its unusual origin. Some suggest that the shape was inspired by the mangled yet artistic state of an elliptical Cartier Baignoire watch that was damaged in an automobile accident. The owner brought the watch to the Cartier London boutique for inspection, unwittingly inspiring Jean-Jacques Cartier to design a dial shaped like a ghostly face. The other story suggests that the curvaceous shape of the dial was inspired by the melting clocks in Salvador Dali’s 1931 painting, The Persistence of Memory.

“In the 1960s, my grandfather and his head watch designer, Rupert Emmerson, designed the Cartier Crash watch by taking the popular oval-shaped watch, pinching the ends at a point, and putting a kink in the middle. It was incredibly simple and yet ground-breaking in its refusal to follow conventional watch shapes [rectangular, oval, square or circular]. It wasn't even symmetrical,” reveals Brickell. “When it first came out, the Crash proved too radical for its time. So much so that one of the first customers brought his Crash watch back and swapped it for something more conventional!”

“My grandfather was also a total perfectionist. These handmade Cartier London watches were incredibly time consuming and expensive to make but were built to last, and some of the best craftsmen in England were working on them. So few were ever made and now there's a growing recognition for that work. They represent something truly special,” Brickell concludes.

Among the vintage watches, the top spot is held firmly by Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona from 1968. It was auctioned for $17.8 million. Currently, the most expensive auctioned watch is the multi complication, Patek Philippe Ref. 6300A-010 Grandmaster Chime in stainless steel, at a hammer price of $31.2 million.

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Printable version | May 15, 2022 2:10:18 pm |