Cartier's new Maillon watch

TIME TALES: As the watch industry grapples with the challenge of launching new products during the coronavirus, Cartier is not skipping a beat, and — through a recently created online platform — is presenting three timepieces on Friday: a retooled Pasha, the Santos-Dumont and the Maillon, which carries a prominent new design. 

“Reading the time is secondary,” noted Marie-Laure Cérède, director of watchmaking for Cartier, explaining her approach to design for timepieces at the storied French label. It’s all about aesthetics, she added, pointing out that she generally doesn’t wear watches that are “on-time” — set to the proper time.

The luxury executive started her career at Cartier before a 12-year stint at Harry Winston where, as creative director, she moved the brand into jewelry watches and large complications. She returned to Cartier in 2017 as deputy director of watchmaking before rising to her current post, which she has held for three years.   

Reflecting the age-old struggle of the high-end watchmaking industry, that is, to draw on a house’s tradition while introducing fresh relevance for a current audience, Cérède describes it as paying homage to the brand’s legacy while introducing a new “vocabulary” for the future — at once daring, forward-looking but also timeless.

“I don’t believe in opposing the past and the future or being forced to choose between the two — I am convinced that a new product only carries meaning if the heritage is mastered,” she said, illustrating the evergreen challenge of labels that operate in the hard luxury sphere.

The idea behind Maillon — which carries a chunky, chain bracelet, skewed to the side — was to pay homage to the Panthère watch, even if the results are entirely different. The bracelet carries a certain volume, for a sculptural and assertive look.

The house tweaked the Pasha, a model from 1985 that sits between sportier watches and streamlined, dressier timepieces, modernizing it by rearranging design elements — with just four, prominent numbers. 

“The Pasha doesn’t fit in any of these categories — it defies the rule of perfect circles by adding other elements,” Cérède said.

As it did with the Panthère launch, Cartier is offering services for owners of previous models of the watch, including upgrading the movement in some cases. 

The Pasha is set to launch in China over the summer and the rest of the world in September, while the Santos-Dumont watch is debuting on Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion. 

The launch coincides with the kickoff of the Watches & Wonders fair, formerly known as SIHH and held in Geneva, which was canceled because of COVID-19. Dominated by labels belonging to Compagnie Financière Richemont, the industry show has set up an online space to introduce products.

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