December 30, 2016
by Bilal Khan
The Cartier Drive de Cartier Small Complication watch is powered by the aforementioned in-house Cartier Manufacture Movement 1904-FU MC, viewable through the exhibition case back. The “Small Complication” designation might be a little confusing for some, but it positions the watch between their “classic” pieces (time only, date window, etc) and Grand Complication pieces. What comprises a Grand Complication watch is another story altogether, but a Grand Complication typically contains an astronomical complication (perpetual calendar, for example), a chiming complication (like a minute repeater), and a stopwatch function (such as a chronograph). These are at a whole different level of watchmaking and not entirely relevant to understanding this watch, but I wanted to put the Small Complication part into context.
Functions on this Cartier Drive de Cartier Small Complication watch are a large date window, a retrograde second time zone indicator, and a day/night indicator to indicate AM or PM for the second time zone. It results in quite a busy dial, and my eyes weren’t sure where to focus between the guilloche patterns, all those complications, and large roman numerals encircling the face. In any case, the watch has a 48-hour power reserve which really was something I found a little lackluster. Maybe I at least would have preferred having a power reserve indicator which I first thought the second time zone indicator to be, which is actually just a 12-hour dial.
The in-house 1904-FU MC automatic movement is a modified version of their now-ubiquitous in-house 1904-PS MC and has 28 jewels. To be honest, on a superficial level, it’s not much to look at from the case back in terms of finishing. And on a note of substance, at 4Hz it’s not going to stun you with a remarkably smooth sweeping movement of the seconds hand. Considering the fact that the steel model of the watch costs something like $8,750, this is a solid in-house caliber and Cartier is transparent about what their movements have to offer.
The Grande Date is fairly simple to explain, as the two date windows at 12 o’clock make it pretty easy to tell what date it is. I really, really love this feature of the watch and enjoy the almost conspicuous framing of the windows. The second time zone is at 11 o’clock and the day/night indicator at 4 o’clock let’s you know whether it’s the PM or AM. The dual time zone is easily functional, by pressing the crown you simultaneously advance one hour as well as progressing the sun or moon on the day/night indicator. I did accidentally press the crown once or twice which was annoying, but also basically my fault.
At 41mm wide and 40mm long, the Cartier Drive de Cartier is obviously designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience, and I think they hit a home run with this. The cushion shape provides a solid presence for people like myself who are more comfortable in the 42mm-and-up range, while being accommodating to more conservative preferences. I believe it’s just about 12.65mm thick, so it can fit under a sleeve without looking fragile. Sizing and comfort of wear was really not an issue for me, basically.
The watch also comes on an alligator strap which is comfortable enough, but the clasp could be a little easier to use in terms of how easy it is to get the piece on and off. Also, and this isn’t the fault of the watch, per se, but having large hands I have to do the awkward squeezing of my fingers and thumb to allow the watch to come off in a way that’s particularly more difficult than on most watches I wear. Overall quality of the strap is nice enough, though.
What I want to get back to is exactly where the Cartier Drive de Cartier Small Complication watch fits into the larger market. The simple steel model will probably appeal to the same market that Piaget is looking to tap into with their Polo S watch announced earlier this year. In fact, both are cushion-shaped offerings geared towards a younger market, though the Cartier is a couple thousand dollars cheaper. For this Cartier Drive de Cartier Small Complication watch, I think the Piaget Emperador ref. GOA32017 in pink gold provides a clear direct competitor. With the same functions as well as a cushion shaped case, the Piaget is nearly $7,000 pricier at $29,300. The Girard-Perregaux 1966 Dual-Time won’t give you the cushion-shaped dial, and it’s priced at $26,300. Rolex actually presents a less costly yet far “dressier” option with the Cellini Dual Time watch which is priced at 18,500 Swiss francs.
So, there are plenty of options out there from brands that might have more “horological street cred” than Cartier, but when you compare this model I reviewed with what else is out there, I think they priced the piece just right. In fact, if the $40,000 for the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Dual Time is a little too much, this is a solid option for almost half the price.
I’m looking forward to hearing what people who own this watch think, so if you’re out there make sure to leave your thoughts. Overall, I think Cartier plays at a level that’s at least comparable to some of the Swiss watchmakers I mentioned previously, and this watch is a testament to their steady improvements in finishing and in-house movements. So, priced at $22,700 the Cartier Drive De Cartier Small Complication watch in gold is right in line with what you’d expect to pay when considering the direct market competition. The steel model is expectedly much more affordable at $8,750. It’s a little tough to place where Cartier sees the identity of the Drive line going as there’s a world of difference between the more affordable models and something like this, but I’m definitely genuinely interested in seeing where they take it. I’ll also once again invite the readers to give their thoughts, as I’m really quite curious to read what you all think. cartier.com
>Model: Drive de Cartier “Small Complication”
>Price: US $22,700
>Size: 41mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Collector who travels often and also has tired of manufacture and brand elitism. Obviously, also a fan of cushion-shaped cases.
>Best characteristic of watch: Contemporary yet classic, doesn’t make the wearer feel like it “ages” you. Felt and wore natural on a 29-year-old out to dinner and drinks, but can fit right in with its peers.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Image is a little confusing when considering the attitude of the “Drive” line.