At SIHH 2016, Cartier announced the release of the Drive de Cartier line, exciting many watch enthusiasts with its relatively accessibly priced entry-level models. Well, I spent some time with a piece nearing the upper range of the line, other than the flying tourbillon model, the Cartier Drive de Cartier “Small Complication” watch in 18k pink gold. This watch lands on the “dressier” side of the Drive de Cartier line that we debuted hands-on here.
I’m not sure what the “Drive” designation was intended to do other than underscore the point that this is a new men’s watch from Cartier with some auto-inspired aesthetic motifs, but a lot of watches have far more head-scratching names. Anyway, it’s a watch I was anticipating for some time and was happy to enjoy its successful execution. It’s not the steel model that a lot of people got really excited about, but I was actually more curious to see this model which, at just around $20,000, faces tough competition from brands like Piaget, Rolex, and the like.
First off, I want to discuss where the Drive de Cartier line stands in the larger scope of the Cartier brand itself. There was a lot of hubbub surrounding its launch, much of it inextricably tied to the aforementioned idea that this is a new watch from Cartier specifically marketed to men that starts at a hair above $6,000. Names like Cartier and Bulgari often get saddled with the perceived burden of also being high-end “fashion house” brands that also cater to women’s pieces, jewelry, and accessories. I’m not going to get into the debate much (though our Ariel Adams and James Stacey did here), but I find it a little ridiculous to eschew a brand for this reason.
Yes, Cartier has iconic watches like the Tank and Santos that are made for both men and women. However, many people see the Tank line as being too feminine, even though it was the watch of choice for JFK, and say the same for the Santos. While I totally disagree with this attitude, I suppose the fact that Cartier introduced the Drive line could mean that they identified this issue and addressed it which is more than you can say for initiative at a lot of brands.
Personally, I don’t have any issue with a brand being identified with “unisex” watches. My girlfriend wears a ladies’ Santos and it hasn’t diminished or taken away from my personal love of the watch in a men’s version, but that’s me. I guess I can understand not wanting to “meet the parents” and finding out that you and your future mother-in-law both have a love of the Tank. Anyway, for those wanting a Cartier with just enough “macho” that comes from having a loose affiliation to automobiles, you’ve now got the Drive de Cartier to try on.
As I mentioned, the Cartier Drive line is brand new and has options like an all-steel base version sporting simply a small seconds subdial, a gold flying tourbillon model, and this piece that falls somewhere in between. This likely won’t be anyone’s first watch and isn’t exactly haute horlogerie, but with a in-house caliber 1904-FU MC movement, handsome cushion case, and unique looks along with the Cartier brand name – this watch presents a compelling option for buyers looking for something a little different but still sophisticated and masculine.
I’ve never been particularly fond of dress watches, and even with a suit I still usually prefer a more subdued sports watch. But, I did find the Cartier Drive de Cartier Small Complication to be a dress watch that was getting a lot more wrist time than a $20,000+ gold dress watch ordinarily would for me.
Wow, rereading that last sentence I realize I sound like a massive tool, but what I mean is that the style of most dress watches and my personal sartorial choices don’t always mesh. I felt differently about this piece, however. It lacks the stuffiness of an inherited gold dress watch but doesn’t stray too far into the “drive” auto inspiration, resulting in a contemporary and, yes, fashionable-looking watch that is eminently wearable. Perhaps that’s because it’s a new line and there’s no “my grandfather had one of those” historical baggage with watches that have been around forever.
Now, the fact that the Cartier Drive has been both designed and marketed to be somewhat “sporty” doesn’t do much for this model in particular, so I am going to to categorize the piece I wore as a dress watch, more or less. Also, I want to clarify that when I say “dress watch” for the purpose of this review I am referring to something that is contextually appropriate with a tuxedo as opposed to simply a conservative piece you may expect to see on the wrist of a discreet executive. Or, once again, a grandfather, for that matter.
Don’t jump on me for making a brand comparison here, but I’m doing it more for metaphorical purposes rather than drawing any connection. The difference in what I’m talking about with types of dress watches is demonstrated by something like the everyday Rolex Datejust compared to the Rolex Cellini watches. Maybe the Drive de Cartier line in gold serves as a middle ground between the two: less ubiquitous than a Rolex Datejust, but it also doesn’t make you feel like you’re going to see the philharmonic or to a State Dinner every time you put it on.
I know it’s crazy for someone who says that they’re not really that into dress watches to create a three-tiered designation system (well, three-tiered as of now, at least…) for them, but I do think this helps in understanding some of the more undefined groups we categorize watches into. The Rolex Cellini is just not a watch I’d really feel comfortable wearing with a polo out to dinner. However, I did just that with this Cartier Drive de Cartier Small Complication, and it felt totally natural. Not exactly a scientific study, but there you have it.