The 35-year Story of the Pasha de Cartier

We trace the 35-year story of the sporty round watch with a crown-cap and assured sense of style that is Cartier’s Pasha de Cartier.


The Pasha Origins

The origin of the Pasha de Cartier, so it goes, begins in 1931 or 32, when The Pasha of Marrakesh, Thami El Glaoui, ordered a one-of-a-kind watch from Louis Cartier. A gold watch, resilient enough to keep pace with the Pasha's active lifestyle, and one that could boast a level of water-resistance that was uncommon for the time. The solution was a watch with a (comparatively) large diameter, a crown cover and metal grid to protect the dial. The only fly in this ointment is that there is no substantive proof that this watch was actually made for the Pasha of Marrakech. The closest we can get is a photograph from 1943 of a watch that bears all these features and does look quite a lot like the modern Pasha.



    The official line from Cartier is that "its name pays tribute to the Pasha of Marrakesh, a lover of fine watchmaking and a lifelong customer of Louis Cartier." Until we're treated to some spectacular horological sleuthing, the story of the Pasha and his watch is just that – a story.

    1985: The birth of the Pasha de Cartier

    It would be hard to talk about Cartier without mentioning a legend in the watch industry named Alain-Dominique Perrin, Cartier’s CEO from 1975 to 1998. Understanding that he was at the helm of Cartier during a turbulent era beset by both the Quartz Crisis as well as the OPEC Oil Embargo and the global economic recession of 1973 to 1975, he knew he had to think out of the box. It was also a turbulent time for luxury watches; not just because of quartz, but also the emergence of the luxury steel sports watch. The Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak had been released in the previous decade and were making waves with their innovative designs.



      Riding on the massive hit represented by the Le Must de Cartier watches — the brand’s lower-priced diffusion line — launched the year before in 1977, he introduced a revolutionary new wristwatch named the Santos in 1978 with the objective to connect the design language of Cartier to a whole new generation. In the 1980s, when Alain-Dominique Perrin was at the full height of his creativity, it was clear that there was a market for waterproof luxury watches, with timepieces such as the Ebel 1911 Classic Wave rising in popularity and the solid-gold Rolex Submariner taking a dominant stance.

      And in 1985 it was time for something sporty and new. A large, masculine watch intended to make a statement, but still hold dear to Cartier’s inherent elegance. And to assist with the design, they enlisted the help of a designer with experience in the space, Gerald Genta.


      Felix Scholz


      July 2020


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