A Marque of Respect: Cartier

As the Cartier Drive bolsters the maison’s style credentials even higher into the exosphere, The Rake charts the French brand’s long-standing relationship with men of style and substance.
Yves Saint Laurent at his palace in Marrakech, 1983.

With reality TV now a developed-world cultural epidemic — in fact, we’re just one internet meme involving an Armenian-American rump shy of all-out global twataclysm – Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes” proclamation is beginning to look more prophetic than every loop and ligature ever scored onto cellulose pulp by Orwell and Huxley put together.

But the vaguely Bernie Ecclestonian pop-artist’s most famous time related quote is actually only his second best. The cigar actually goes to this: “I don’t wear a Tank to tell time. In fact, I never wind it – I wear it because it’s the watch to wear.” Were he alive today, it seems likely that Warhol would at least occasionally put aside his love of Cartier’s iconic dress watch, in favour of the Drive de Cartier – a new collection of cushion-shaped, automotive-themed men’s pieces so elegant, it looks set to boost Cartier’s quest to colonise the wrists of perennial high achievers of every discipline.

“The name reflects more than just automotive connotations – ‘Drive’ refers to men’s inner drive as well as the elegance of vintage cars,” Pierre Rainero, Director of Style, Image and Heritage at Cartier, tells us. “Instinct, independence, elegance: these are the qualities of the Drive de Cartier man. He has the mindset of a devoted connoisseur who delights in overturning convention. His true talent is an aptitude for freedom. He appreciates the finer things as much for their own sake as for the pleasure they bring him. The Drive de Cartier is a true radical work of art, a design manifesto, a signature style conveying modernity and inspired by the elegance of vintage cars. It is, before everything, a celebration of art de vivre.”

Screen time

Rainero’s vision for the Drive, and its raison d’être in the broader watch canon, is a bold one, then – but a look at the kind of lofty-achieving gents who have favoured timepieces by the French house over the decades makes his words seem utterly realistic. The number of genuinely, potently, stylish men who have opted to grace their wrists with Cartier timepieces speaks volumes. This inevitably leads us back – for the time-being – to the ubiquitous line of watches, the centenary of which Cartier will celebrate next year, whose distinctive, fuss-free geometry has swept across silver screens the world over since the dawn of the movies.

A neat encapsulation of the Cartier Tank’s place in celluloid folklore is a spontaneous photograph taken of actor Alain Delon and director Jean-Pierre Melville while the pair were filming 1972 French heist drama Un Flic. Having just realised their shared passion for the Tank, the pair are outstretching their wrists proudly, comparing them. Delon also sported his in off-screen moments during filming for Le Samourai, while Steve McQueen – opting, with no little chutzpah, for a Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox for the more casually attired scenes – dons either a Patek Philippe pocket watch or a gold Cartier Tank Americane on a thin black leather strap whenever suited in the Thomas Crown Affair.

Cary Grant wore his during the filming of North by Northwest; Rudolph Valentino stubbornly did the same with his during the shooting of period film Son of the Sheik, despite the glaring anachronism this entailed; Warren Beatty’s Tank Française was as permanent a part of his appearance as that affable, 1,000-watt smile; and more recently Jared Leto has been known to complement a powder blue Givenchy tux with a Clé de Cartier… The list goes on.


September 2016


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