Cartier originally released the “Drive de Cartier” watch collection several years ago in 2015 as a new “family” of timepieces within the Paris-based luxury brand’s larger umbrella of products. Like most of Cartier’s watch collections the Drive comes in a range of models, including both this elegant two-hand “Extra-Flat” model and a Drive Tourbillon. As a watch collector, my interest tends to involve more complicated watches or designs, but I think most of us have a soft spot in our heart for elegant and attractive dress watches, which accurately describes this Drive Extra-Flat quite well.
Originally released only in 18k pink or white gold, Cartier now offers the Drive Extra-Flat in steel (CRWSNM0011) as well as 18k yellow gold (CRWGNM0011) for 2018. This is great news to those who want the appeal of a Cartier dress watch, that doesn’t come in a standard round case, and that also doesn’t have the price premium associated with it. To put things in perspective, the steel version of the Drive Extra-Flat is approximately one third the cost of a gold-cased version. It also happens to look almost identical to the 18k white gold version of the Drive Extra-Flat that was released as a limited edition.
Aside from a precious metal case, the only other small detail “missing” in the steel version of the Drive Extra-Flat is the material of the blue cabochon in the crown. Cartier uses synthetic sapphire for the blue cabochon on the Drive models in gold, and the steel versions get a blue spinel cabochon. Again, for the cost savings I don’t think most consumers will mind and the Drive Extra-Flat in steel feels like a deal even though it of course comes with Cartier brand pricing that makes sure its products are decidedly “luxury” in their pricing strategies.
How flat is “extra-flat?” With its manually-wound mechanical movement the Drive Extra-Flat watch is just 6.6mm thick, 39mm wide, and has a 44mm lug-to-lug distance. That makes for a discreet, yet visible wrist wearing experience and is also comfortable thanks to the wrapping lugs. To put the size into perspective, the “standard” Drive De Cartier watch with the time, subsidiary seconds dial, date, and an also in-house made automatic movement is 11.25mm thick and 41mm wide. Both are comfortable and really wearable, but in my opinion the Drive currently works best in this slimmed down and minimalized two-hand “Extra-Flat” variant.
The cushion-style case puts the Drive among the many non-round case shapes that Cartier does well. The brand has always been among the few watchmakers able to successfully get away from the round-case paradigm that most watches fall into. Square, rectangular, and even “melted” (Cartier Crash) are all shapes which Cartier has not only attempted to render for its diverse range of watch models, but has also rendered very well. Cartier has and will continue to make use of the Drive case shape for watches both accessible and very high-end, but for now seems to be sticking to a roughly $16,000 and under price-point for Drive models. In general the brand has been seeking to appeal to younger and newer male luxury watch lovers by creating compelling and timeless looks which don’t resemble any of the competition. In addition to investing time into designing attractive and comfortable watch cases, Cartier clearly does an admirable job making their watch cases recognizable from a distance – which certainly adds to brand appeal because wearers are “recognized” for wearing a Cartier.
The shapely cushion case of the Drive flows into an elegant and simple dial that has just two hands for the hours and minutes. While I wouldn’t want to be without a seconds indicator hand all the time, I do appreciate the eye-pleasing simplicity of watch dials with just two hands. The dial is silver-colored with a light sunburst finishing and black printed Roman numeral hour markers. A nice detail is the double recessed row of lines in the middle of the dial, which mimic the case shape and that frame the minute marker track. This helps add a bit of depth as well as visual interest to the face which succeeds in making sure it doesn’t come across as boring. It might seem like a small detail, but it goes a long way in helping to make for a refined sense of design, which I personally always appreciate.