Panthers, Reptiles And Rosaries: Cartier Releases Its 2021 High Jewelry Watches

Cartier’s jewelry watches seem eternally elegant and understated despite being slathered with diamonds in sometimes complex settings, with timekeeping functions blended unobtrusively into the design. The designs have a streamlined simplicity that belies their complexity. The process, says Cartier’s director of watchmaking design Marie-Laure Cerede, “is the result of a controlled tension between the head and the heart.” She says it’s about “being able to express creative freedom while working under technical constraints. This intellectual challenge is exciting. And the challenge is all the greater when aesthetics take precedence over the rest.”

Cartier is introducing three new high jewelry pieces, one with three interpretations, that embody this process. The Reptilis is a study in art deco, with geometric lines and angular squares of princess cut diamonds flanking a row of v-shaped diamond links arranged in a chevron pattern. Yet it moves with the litheness of a serpent, hence the name. Each link is individually hinged so that the bracelet wraps around the wrist like a flexible ribbon. It culminates in a rectangular dial accentuated by four diamond hour markers, in an openworked style that gives it the look of a bracelet. The 18k white gold Reptilis measures 12.8mm wide by 6.6mm thick. It is set with 232 brilliant-cut diamonds totaling 3.5 carats and 70 princess-cut diamonds totaling just over 6 carats.

The Rosary looks as if it were woven together using black ribbon that winds through disk-like bracelet links. The bracelet and dial are snow-set: a type of pavé setting in which the diamonds are set closely, side by side, in random sizes in order to create a sparkling effect, like snow. The round bracelet links are flanked by triangular inserts, and there is a single hour marker at 12 o’clock, leaving the diamond dial unobstructed.

The 17mm x 8.26mm case is 18k white gold. The watch is set with 1,191 brilliant-cut diamonds totaling 5.57 carats.

Cartier’s signature motif, the panther, was first interpreted on a wristwatch in 1914, and it has been the brand’s design muse ever since, without ever seeming to get old. The latest creative interpretation is the Panthère Songeuse, depicting the panther lounging like a contented house cat drooped over a case dripping in diamonds. Songeuse translates as “pensive” or “ruminative.”

There are three references, two fully set with diamonds and the third combining pavé setting with champlevé enamel. On one of the pavé versions, the spots on the panther’s spots are represented by sapphires cut into freeform geometric shapes. On the other, the spots are represented by onyx. The surrounding diamonds on the panther’s body and the watch dial and case are snow-set. The onyx version is set with 1,039 diamonds totaling 4.67 carats, and comes with a black alligator strap. The sapphire version is set with 1,116 diamonds on the case and dial totaling 4.57 carats, and 325 diamonds weighing 9.15 carats on the bracelet.

The third Panthère Songeuse mixes ribbons of champlevé enamel across the dial and case in strips that alternate with rows of diamonds. The process of carving the metal, filling the cavities with enamel and firing them to arrive at just the right gradient effect takes four days. The gemsetting of the case and dial takes 15 hours, and setting the panther motif takes 120 hours. The 28.4mm x 7.8mm watch is 18k white gold and set with 734 brilliant-cut diamonds totaling 2.95 carats. It is a limited edition of 30 individually numbered watches. All movements are quartz. Prices are available on request.