Some people have dedicated their entire watch collection to a single brand. This is often a decision that has not been taken likely, but one deeply rooted in passion. That is most certainly the case with Geo Cramer. For more then three decades he has been focused on Cartier, making him not only a dedicated collector of the brand but also one of the leading Cartier experts outside the brand. Although this is not the first time that Geo contributes to Longitude, we recently had the opportunity to sit down with him and ask him some questions about his favorite brand.
How did your interest in Cartier start?
I became interested in watches when Cartier introduced the Santos in 1978. The square shaped steel/gold watch was so different and made such an impact on me, that I could not get it out of my head. I was only able to finally buy it in 1985. At that time I still had no idea where the design came from.
What is it about Cartier that holds such an appeal for you?
I asked that myself too quite often, especially around 1992-1997 when the collection was not very strong. It’s the history and their consequent styling of their products that appeals so much to me and that brought me back to them, after my experience with other brands. Cartier watches are always so recognizably Cartier; they breathe a certain style that fits my lifestyle completely.
You are one of the world’s most renown experts on Cartier timepieces and especially the Collection Privée, Cartier Paris (CPCP) collection. What made this collection so special?
Thank you, but these are your words, I think I am just a serious ‘one brand’ collector. Collection Privée, Cartier Paris was all about history and was made with an tremendous amount of love. The watches had very nice historic details, like the flower motif in the center of the dial, quite often Breguet styled hands and the beautiful guilloche dials that most CPCP models had. From a technical point of view it was for many collectors very appetizing to see a collection of reissues, with high end movements by Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, Frederique Piguet, Gerald Genta and others. The series was not a huge success, also due to the very limited production of the pieces, but I bet this series will be very sought after in a few years.
You are author of the book “Obsession!”, which is dedicated to the CPCP-collection. What made you write this book?
“Obsession” was actually only made for myself. I travel a lot and the book gave me the opportunity to have information and pictures with me. It was just a try out, that became available on line.
Rumor is that you are working on a second book. Anything you can tell us about it?
It’s still very much in a development stage, but it will be a large ‘coffee table book’ about Cartier’s Men’s watches and objects, but I still need to do a lot of work and find a publisher. Hopefully it will be ready by mid 2013.
You own and operate Troisanneaux.com which serves almost as a library on Cartier’s mechanical watches. Why is such a database so important?
At the time that I started Troisanneaux.com, in 2008, I replied often to questions at forums, but by mail I received so often the same kind of questions about movements and calibre numbers, that I decided to create just a reference page about movements. In the meantime it has grown from a ‘One Page Database’ to a more extensive information source about the men’s models, including events and news about the latest models.
From your publications it’s clear that you are a real Cartier fanatic, sometimes it almost looks like you seem to welcome everything the brand does. But we’re sure there are also products that you must have disliked, could you mention one product that irritates you most and why.
Uhhh….. well when I look at Cartier’s watches and clocks collection from 1980 – 2012 there are of course models that do not appeal to me much, but in general I do see the other kind of consumer that will like that watch a lot. It’s simple like that, some people go for Mercedes and some for a Jaguar, different people, different styles.
But coming back to your question, a product that I really regret is the new folding buckle. As you know Cartier was the inventor of the deployant buckle for watch straps and for many years, it was the very best folding buckle system around. No doubt!
The recent decision to change it from a one way adjustable-, to a two way adjustable buckle, made it such a sloppy and also bad looking system, that I’d rather have a ‘Cartier pin’ buckle, than this new version of the deployant.
Cartier’s history shows a wealth of different models. Is there one you would like to see return in a more current collection?
Definitely the Tank Normale, I was actually a bit disappointed that the model never appeared, (in a slightly larger case) in the CPCP collection.
Cartier also allows, within its heritage, the option of having custom made pieces crafted especially for distinguished collectors. When you would have this option, with no financial limits, what would you ask Cartier to make for you?
Without any doubts, a platinum Santos with Breguet styled hands, salmon dial and mechanical movement, or a platinum LC Tank and both with a Figaro styled bracelet.
Cartier is restyling all its boutiques by a concept developed by architect Bruno Moinard. How important is this for a brand like Cartier?
From my own point of view as a consumer, it is very important. Atmosphere in a Boutique is extremely important to me. The new interior designs give a very chic but informal atmosphere. The larger stores have rooms that can be closed with sliding walls, to give the consumer more privacy. The Singapore Boutiques even have a men’s department, while the Boutiques from the older ‘green’ design were much more open and had less privacy. Uniformity in style makes a consumer feel at home, no matter if he is in Paris, Hong Kong or in Brussels.
Although this sentiment is slowly but surely changing, has Cartier often be referred to as a brand that makes mainly ladies watches with quartz-movements. What is your opinion about this?
For quite a period Cartier was indeed seen as the brand that produced mainly ladies watches with quartz movements. But that’s rapidly changing now. CPCP was a good start that woke up the serious watch collector, but the production was too limited, also due to the fact that Cartier was depending on third parties for their parts and calibres. The current ‘Fine Watch Making’ line, put an end to all that. All calibres and all parts like dials, hands and cases are now made ‘in House’ and mainly in the Manufacture in ‘La Chaud de Fonds’. This High End series of watches that were only introduced in 2008 and developed by Carole Kasapi (Head of Movement Design) and Thierry Lamouroux (Watchmaking Marketing Development Director), is, in my point of view, 90% made for the male consumer and serious watch fanatic.
What would you like Cartier to add to their collection?
Regarding watches I have no immediate wishes, but I would really like to see more variety in watch bracelets. In the sixties/seventies there were many, many styles in bracelets, from grain de riz to figaro- and from flexible tile- to 7 or 9 row mesh bracelets.
Due to the huge increase of Cartier’s production it’s of course not possible anymore to keep all these designs in the collection, but it would be absolutely great, since it’s very much Cartier, to see a Figaro style bracelet come back to fit the LC Tank XL and the Santos Dumont models. Especially for the markets with a warmer climate like Asia, I think something like that should be available and would be appreciated.
More about Cartier in part II of the interview in which Geo Cramer gives his insights on some of the recent developments by the brand.