THE COLLECTION PRIVÉE CARTIER PARIS
In the last decade of the 20th century, the industry was still recovering from the impact of the quartz crisis, with consumers just starting to redevelop an interest in mechanical watches. In the midst of this, Cartier aimed to reestablish its credibility as a true watchmaking manufacture. From 1998 to 2008, the Collection Privée Cartier Paris brought back some of the most iconic Cartier designs from the past century, from the Crash to the Tank Cintrée, combined with high quality mechanical movements. In many cases, these distinctive designs hadn’t been produced for decades, speaking to the jeweller’s desire to place an increased focus on its heritage.
All the Collection Privée Cartier Paris - or CPCP for short - pieces housed high-quality mechanical movements, at a time when the jeweller was mostly associated with quartz. Not possessing the mechanical knowledge in-house, Cartier relied on a range of external suppliers, such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Frédéric Piguet, Piaget or THA Ébauche - a collaborative movement manufacture between Vianney Halter, Denis Flageollet and François-Paul Journe. All the movements were manual-winding, rather than automatic, emphasising the traditional nature of this project.
All the Collection Privée Cartier Paris watches feature small, distinctive details, intended to set them apart. With the exception of the Cintrée, all of them are signed “Cartier Paris” on the dial, a subtle nod to their vintage pieces. They also display a central rose motif just beneath the hands, which radiates into a classic guilloché. Even the subtle engravings on the caseback are reminiscent of what they used to do in the early 20th century. As for the manual-winding movements, these were finished in-house by Cartier, with their interlaced “double C” pattern appearing across the collection.
Despite the brand’s global reach at the time, the Collection Privée models were produced in small quantities, with many explicitly limited to 50, 100 or 150 pieces. As for those that weren’t marked as part of a numbered series, evidence suggests that production often remained between 200 to 500 pieces. Eventually, partially due to difficulties and delays in getting parts from their various suppliers, the CPCP program came to an end.
A product of collaboration
Created by Louis Cartier in 1912, the Tortue was only Cartier’s third wristwatch design, after the Santos Dumont and Tonneau. With its unmistakable DNA and Cartier’s timeless style, the model's tortoise-inspired case quickly became a classic.
A reference point in the history of modern watchmaking, the Calibre 045MC that powers the Tortue Monopoussoir was produced by THA Èbauche. Founded in 1996, THA was a collaborative movement manufacture by Vianney Halter, Denis Flageollet, the founder of De Bethune, and François-Paul Journe, before their respective brands became household names. With this illustrious collection of watchmakers involved, there is little surprise that the Calibre 045MC is both technically and visually impressive. Reminiscing on the collaboration during a recent interview, Dennis Flageollet said,
"We were young, we had no doubts and we created incredible objects together that would be difficult to make today."
Having worked closely with the jeweller on some other projects, the watchmakers suggested the project to Cartier, on the basis of re-creating a monopusher chronograph from the 1920s. According to Flageollet, the heads of product at Cartier at the time did not have extensive knowledge of their heritage, yet the watchmakers behind THA Èbauche felt compelled to realise the project.
A Contemporary Design
Used only for the various Cartier Tortue Monopoussoir models, the Tank Monopoussoir and De Bethune Monopoussoir, the Calibre 045MC uses a lever escapement. With a clutch system, the motion of the second wheel to the chronograph’s central wheel is activated by a double swivel pin, removing the "jolt" of the seconds hand which often occurs in chronographs operated by a lateral clutch. The resulting operation allows the hand to smoothly glide across the dial.
Beneath the curved crystal, a modern-style guilloché dial replaces the design of the original model from the 1920s, with the blued steel Breguet style hands and matching inky-blue minute track. An oversized "XII" numeral sits at 12 o'clock, with its dramatic proportions imbuing the design with a more contemporary feel. This is balanced by the "Cartier Paris" signature at 6 o'clock, which is also rendered in the same blue tone. Overall, the dial design blends the best of vintage Cartier, with bolder colours and proportions, combining the past and the present.
The white case measures 43 x 35mm, with a thickness of 10mm. The is gently curved, such that the watch hugs the wrist in a way that is both comfortable and elegant. On the side of the case, the octagonal crown serves to start, stop and reset the chronograph.
This Cartier Monopoussoir is accompanied by one of our X straps and two Cartier-signed straps; one in maroon alligator and another in blue calf leather. An 18-carat white gold deployant clasp is also included.
To find out more about the the Collection Privée Cartier Paris, you can read our in-depth article on the topic.