That Cartier is a cutting edge brand is something they recently proved once again with the ID2. However, it is also a brand firmly rooted in history. It had boutiques before….well, most brands even existed. No wonder that the first feeling that you get when you enter Cartier’s boutique in downtown Chicago, is that of a kid in a candy-store. A wide variety of watches, jewelry and accessories presented in a high-end, upscale yet quite relaxed environment. Located on Michigan Avenue, also known as the Magnificent Mile, the boutique is right in the middle of where it all happens. Although the boutique is not very deep, it is wide. This makes it possible to have different sections and provide customers with privacy and dedicated attention.
Of course we were there to see some watches, and the boutique most certainly accommodated in the high style Cartier is known for! Fresh in was the new Louis Cartier Tank XL, a watch we discussed briefly before. This pink gold watch represents in many ways the essence of Cartier watchmaking. Its dial has a slight brushing (no guilloche this time) and the numerals and railroad track are applied in a thick lacquer. The watch is ultra-thin and powered by a manual wind caliber from Piaget.
The Ballon Bleu is one of Cartier’s current hit models. This watch comes in many varieties, but two of my favorites are this time-only model in steel and pink gold with chocolate brown dial. It gives the watch an amazingly rich look, and it is very pleasing to see that Cartier has an eye for detail, since the background of the date disk is the same color as the Roman numerals.
A bit more complicated is the Ballon Bleu Chronograph. The dial layout is not what you would expect from a chronograph, with the date at 9 o’clock, running seconds at 6 o’clock, flanked by the chronograph’s minute counter at 3. However, it absolutely works! Especially because Cartier outdid itself when they created the stunning guilloche is comprised of different layers. The blued hands and Roman numerals complete the picture. This Ballon Bleu is powered by an automatic movement that was made for Cartier by Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Stunning details can also be found on the Calibre! Look for example at the crown guard on this time-only model in steel and pink gold. It is details like this that make and keep a watch interesting, as Cartier-expert Geo Cramer also explained in his recent article for Longitude.
A very precious version is the Calibre in pink gold, with a pink gold bracelet. Because many of the surfaces are brushed, the watch doesn’t look too gold. The silver dial helps too in that matter, cleverly combining design elements that make it look classic yet sporty at the same time. This watch is, by the way, powered by Caliber 1904MC, one of Cartier’s manufacture movements.
The boutique also had two stunning complicated versions of the Louis Cartier Tank XL on display. First this pink gold model with chocolate dial and power reserve. Although a classic Tank, changing the dial color makes it look like a totally different watch. It might not be as easy to read as a silver-dialed Tank, but in return you are getting a very rich and very unique look.
Perhaps more traditional in colors, yet not in function, is this Louis Cartier Tank XL with only one hand! This hand shows the minutes, while a window at 12 o’clock shows the hours. The date window at 6 o’clock provides symmetry to the dial, mirroring the hours at 12 o’clock. Cartier also offered this complication in the now discontinued Tank a Vis. Where in that watch it looks kind of sporty, in the Tank XL case it turns into a true classic.
But when a sporty Tank is your thing, you can also go to the Tank Americaine XL Chronograph. Although every millimeter a classic chronograph, the large Tank Americaine case gives the watch a thorough wrist presence that can hardly be ignored. The square chronograph pushers at the side of the case, also make the watch easy and tempting to use. The automatic movement is based on what many connoisseurs consider one of the best chronograph movements ever made; Frederic Piguet Caliber 1185.
Cartier is and has always been a pioneer when it comes to watch design. A century ago the brand created a watch with a black case . Only what was then bakelite is now high tech ADLC, an amorphous-version of Diamond Like Carbon (DLC). Unlike DLC is it less likely to see finger prints, yet still has the same amazing hardness. Especially combined with a rose gold bezel like in this Santos 100, the result is stunning!
Cartier also reverses the contrast by offering the Santos 100 with a pink gold case and black rubber bezel along with a rubber strap. Although in essence the same watch, the difference is day and night. Perhaps that is also the best solution since choosing between these two watches can be very difficult; get one for day and one for night!
Many thanks to the wonderful staff of the Cartier Boutique in Chicago and Cartier North America.