At the 2012 SIHH show Cartier once again released an impressive lineup of haute horlogerie captained by the imaginative and creative Carole Forestier-Kasapi, the reigning queen of movement design. She’s the one behind the impressive Time Zone watch last year. Though there were some impressive tourbillons in the mix, the Promenade d’une Panthère stood out as one of the most important pieces. Cased in 18K rhodiumized white gold set with brilliant-cut diamonds, the watch is a showstopper with its purple mother-of-pearl dial and bejeweled panther spinning round, finished off with an alligator strap with an 18K rhodiumized buckle set with brilliant-cut diamonds. A total of 6.8 carats of diamonds altogether. Oh, I like that!
But, did I pick the Promenade d’une Panthère because I’m dizzy from all the sparkling diamonds or charmed by Cartier’s rendering of their symbol of the lithe panther? No, of course not.
Alright, I admit I’m taken with the beauty of the piece and wouldn’t mind having it on artistic merit alone so I could promenade around town. This is Cartier, after all, and they personify style. I’ve showed you what they’ve done with the Tank after more than 100 years. But that’s not the reason I picked this watch for special mention. It’s that the Promenade d’une Panthère symbolizes a changing era for women’s watches, which has been under served, underdeveloped and practically ignored since the 1970’s. Cartier is one of the companies that has the foresight to jump aboard and take advantage of this untapped market.
For the last 30 or so years, women’s watches were synonymous with a quartz movement with few exceptions. Before the invention of the quartz watch, women had to—gasp—wind their watches. They didn’t faint or get flustered and need to sit down to handle the affair. They just reset the watch if it happened to stop. The split happened in the 1970’s when the battery dispensed with winding for two to three years through the battery’s life.
Even after the resurgence of the mechanical watch in the 1990’s for men, brands continued to market quartz watches to women. Women were told they’d be better off with a quartz watch because then they wouldn’t have to be “bothered” with winding it or “confused” by setting it. An obviously ghastly situation for the fairer sex. So what were the brands really doing? They were selling the idea of convenience for a nice, tidy profit. Yes, indeed, the margins in a ladies quartz watch are much larger than in a mechanical watch.
The Promenade d’une Panthère not only acknowledges a burgeoning market but also respects women and their ability to appreciate horology. Forestier- Kasapi, a woman herself, has designed a brand new movement (not just one in stock) for this innovative women’s timepiece, the Calibre 9603 MC. Instead of placing the rotor on the back of the watch, which is the traditional position, she’s inverted it to the front in the form of the panther. Movement of the wrist propels the three-dimensional panther round the dial while at the same time winding the watch. A sapphire case-back allows a view to the excellent finishing of the movement.
You could always tell a watch made for women by its size. Smaller than a man’s, it usually tops out at about 38mm. The Promenade d’une Panthère comes in a what could be called the man’s average size now of 42.75mm. It shows Cartier’s understanding that like men, women want bigger watches, not dainty pea-sized dials that can only be read with a pince-nez.
With the Promenade d’une Panthère Forestier has created mechanical artwork, appealing to women’s love of jewelry and also speaking to their potential to enjoy mechanics. See the video by Cartier below.