For 2015, Cartier has released the brand new Clé de Cartier collection of watches for both men and women. We included the Clé de Cartier as one of our top 10 new watches for SIHH 2015, and for good reason – it sports not only a completely new case design, but also a new movement. While the 2015 Clé watches are exclusively going to be offered in 18k gold (various colors), we anticipate that Cartier will flesh out the Clé de Cartier collection more over the next few years and likely offer steel models as well. So let’s go over the Cartier Clé de Cartier timepieces for 2015, and see what makes Cartier’s new dress watch collection interesting.
“Clé” stands for “key” and refers to the crown of the new watch which isn’t your typical round crown. Instead, the Cartier Clé de Cartier watches have long crowns that offer an interesting tactile experience. The crowns lock into place and, when turned, feel like you are literally winding the key of an old clock or pocket watch. Set into the “key style” crowns are blue sapphire cabochons – a hallmark of most Cartier timepieces.
While Cartier has designed the Clé de Cartier collection for both men and women, the larger model is 40mm wide and what guys will gravitate to. The case is more or less tonneau-shaped with a round dial. The case is also curved and sits on the wrist with incredible comfort. Cartier shows their unique ability to offer a refined, unique, yet familiar look right off the bat. There is nothing I find more exciting than a brand new family of watches that will be built out to include a range of models over the years. Cartier was last able to accomplish this with new model families such as the Ballon Bleu and the Calibre.
Looking at the Cartier Clé de Cartier case carefully, you can admire the elegance and sophistication Cartier wanted to make sure it evoked. Cartier was certainly successful in producing a design that incorporates a series of very interesting lines when looked at closely, as well as a shape that is attractive when viewed from afar.
There is a certain “retro-ness” to the Cartier Clé de Cartier that comes from the tonneau-style case that has thick sides which slope down and become the lugs. This creates the sense that the watch is just a little bit larger than it is, and at 40mm wide (in its largest form), I think it makes for a handsome men’s model. I can’t overstate how comfortable the Clé is on the wrist. This is due to the curvature of the case which allows the watch to sit low and snug on the wrist.
The comfort is also emphasized by the available bracelet (as seen in the video) – which is also a totally new design. In this day and age, new watch bracelet designs are rare – which is a shame. Only brands like Cartier seem to even be coming out with new bracelets, while most other brands seem to take the route of pairing watches with straps. The Cartier Clé de Cartier is available on alligator straps but, in my opinion, is best suited to the bracelet which has been specifically designed for the Clé.
What I first noticed about the Clé de Cartier’s bracelet is how thin it is. Many metal bracelets today have very thick links – especially in contrast to more historic bracelets. To see an elegantly thin bracelet is not only welcome but means that you’ll have a very comfortable experience on the wrist. Thick metal bracelets are often synonymous with sport watches and thinner bracelets are more common on dress watches. As new dress watches with bracelets are more and more uncommon, it is almost surprising to see a new one done right.
I’ve mentioned in the past that the production of new bracelets requires a lot of R&D as well as the production of a lot of additional parts. Only brands with an economy of scale like Cartier, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Omega, etc… can feasibly enter the world of making new bracelets. In a world of low production numbers and limited editions – we can’t expect to enjoy the benefits of new case and bracelet designs all that often.
Returning to the Cartier Clé de Cartier, let’s look at the dial. Here, you see a lot of typical Cartier lines and features, but with enough new little details to make the Clé de Cartier collection distinct from the rest of what Cartier has to offer. Black Roman numerals? Check. Blued-steel hands? Yup. I actually thought the hands were black original (and that would have been cool), but they are blued steel. You also have a perfectly symmetrical dial with the date window being placed at six o’clock. Oh, I should mention that, while the hands and hour markers are black on the men’s models, the smaller models for women have blue hour markers and hands.
While the men’s Clé de Cartier models are 40mm wide (available in 18k white, pink, and yellow gold for 2015), the women’s models come in either a 31mm- or 35mm-wide size. All have automatic movements. Speaking of movements, in addition to the Clé de Cartier’s new design, we get a new movement. It is the in-house made Cartier 1847 MC automatic. Similar to the 1904 MC movement, the 1847 MC has central hands for the minutes, hours, and seconds, as well as an semi-instant-jumping date. The automatic rotor winds in both directions, and it has a power reserve of 42 hours, operating at 4Hz.
In 18k gold, the Cartier Clé de Cartier will have a lot of competition at its price level – but then again, it does have that Cartier caché to it. I think that Cartier will be rather successful with a model such as this and as a dress watch or casual elegant watch, it is a win. Now, let’s just wait for some steel options. Price for the Cartier Clé de Cartier is $21,000 for the 18k white gold model on a leather strap seen here, $19,700 for the rose gold version on leather strap, and $36,600 in yellow gold on bracelet. cartier.com