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Guide to Cartier Watch Models

What you need to know about Cartier's most popular watches

Celine SimonJul 19, 2022

One of the world’s most famous luxury houses, Cartier offers a wide range of high-end goods like jewelry, fragrance, leather goods, and of course, watches. Cartier has had a long history of making watches, and the brand is even credited with creating the first men’s purpose-built wristwatch back in the early 1900s when pocket watches were the norm for men.

Over the last century, Cartier has been responsible for plenty of iconic luxury watches, many of which have been part of the brand’s lineup for decades. Plus, thanks to their unisex watch designs and abundant size choices, Cartier has always catered to both men and women.

Cartier watches are known for their enduring and refined designs. Many of them have looked remarkably similar throughout the years, which makes Cartier a particularly great brand to browse in the pre-owned luxury watch market. In short, Cartier watches are classics and will never go out of style.

Cartier is not one to shy away from experimenting with watch designs. As such, the company has made dozens of different timepiece designs over the last century — some of which have been discontinued while others have continued to be mainstays of Cartier’s catalog. If you're looking to buy a Cartier watch or are simply curious about the company's famous models, we've put together a comprehensive guide to Cartier watch models.

Cartier Tank Watch (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Tank

The Tank is not only Cartier’s most famous watch model, but it is also one of the most beloved watch designs of all time. Taking its name and design inspiration from the military armored vehicles that roamed the battlefields during World War I, the Cartier Tank was created in 1917. The watch featured a rectangular case with vertical sides (referred to as “brancards” by Cartier) that stretched out far enough to serve as lugs to hold the leather straps in place.

Cartier debuted the Tank timepiece to the public in 1919 and since then, the company has made various iterations of the Tank watch such as the Tank Louis Cartier, Tank Française, Tank Anglaise, Tank Américaine, Tank MC, Tank Cintrée, Tank Solo, Tank Must, and others. Regardless of the version, all Cartier Tank watches retain their distinctive brancards.

Cartier Santos Watch (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Santos

At the turn of the 20th century, aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont needed a watch he could read while flying one of his pioneering machines. Since keeping both hands were required to steer the aircraft, a traditional pocket watch was not practical. Santos-Dumont told his friend, Louis Cartier, about his dilemma, and Cartier answered the call by designing a watch in 1904 that the pilot could wear on his wrist. This watch became known as the Cartier Santos and it is not only credited as the world’s first pilot watch but also the world’s first purpose-built wristwatch for men.

Cartier Santos watches generally have square cases, rounded edges, and visible screws on the bezel and bracelet. Similar to the brand’s other watch models, Cartier has made several versions of the Santos over the decades including the Santos de Cartier, Santos-Dumont, Santos Chronograph, Santos Galbée, Santos 100, Santos Demoiselle, and others.

Cartier Ballon Bleu Watches (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Ballon Bleu

The Ballon Bleu is one of Cartier’s more modern watch models, released in 2007. Designed to look like a pebble, the Ballon Bleu (French for blue balloon) is named after the blue stone-topped winding crown that looks like it is floating inside the case’s integrated crown cap.

Unlike traditional round watches that are flatter in profile, Cartier Ballon Bleu watches are voluminous thanks to domed sapphire crystals and convex casebacks. In addition to the classic time-only Ballon Bleu, Cartier has also made other versions like the Ballon Bleu with a date window, Ballon Bleu Chronograph, Ballon Bleu Extra-Flat, Ballon Bleu Tourbillon, and Ballon Bleu Moon Phase. Cartier has also recently released the ultra-luxurious Ballon Blanc (white balloon) jewelry watches with an off-center diamond-set crown cover.

Cartier Panthere Watches (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Panthère

Introduced in the 1980s, the Cartier Panthère quickly rose as a must-have status symbol of the decade. The Panthère watch is similar to the Santos watch in that it has a square case with rounded corners, in addition to a bezel with visible screws. However, what sets the Panthère apart from other Cartier watches is its distinctive bracelet with brick-like links.

Although Cartier discontinued the Panthère watch collection for a short time, thankfully the Maison brought it back in the mid-2010s for a new generation to fall in love with. Today, Cartier offers the Panthère in several bracelet variations, from a classic single wrap to a double wrap to a bold cuff style — but always with the supple links that’s as slinky as the big cat the watch is named after.

Cartier Pasha Watches (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Pasha

Conceived by famed watch designer, Gerald Genta, and launched in 1985, the Cartier Pasha was a sports watch unlike any other during its time. The Cartier Pasha watch emphasized the unusual combination of a square inside a circle by combining a round case and dial with a square minute track at the center. Other defining details included fancy Vendôme lugs and a cap covering the winding crown that’s attached to the case via a chain. According to Cartier lore, the Pasha name originates from a custom water-resistant watch that was made for the Pasha of Marrakesh, Thami El Glaoui, in the 1930s.

Cartier removed the Pasha watch from its lineup for a few years, only to bring it back again in 2020. While current Pasha models are clearly based on the same design language of the original versions made in the eighties, nineties, and early-2000, Cartier has updated the watches with some notable improvements including interchangeable straps, a sapphire crystal caseback, a new crown, and a dedicated area for personalized engraving. Whether looking at new or vintage models, there are plenty of versions of the Pasha including time-only, time and date, chronographs, tourbillions, GMTs, and divers.

Cartier Drive Watch (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Drive

In 2016, Cartier unveiled an entirely new men’s watch collection called the Drive. As its name suggests, the Cartier Drive is a vintage automotive inspired wristwatch, where the guilloché on the dial is reminiscent of retro radiator grills while the crown draws its design cues from bolts used on cars. The wide but thin cushion-shaped cases of the Drive watches are unmistakable vintage, which are tastefully paired with classic leather straps.

A touch sporty but entirely elegant, the Drive is available in a few versions including time and date, extra-thin, moon phase, dual time, and tourbillon. Irrespective of the complication of the watch, the Drive watches run on in-house Cartier movements.

Cartier Ronde Watch (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Ronde

Named after the French word for round, Ronde watches are not the typical shaped watches that Cartier is famous for making. Yet, these round watches are instantly recognizable as Cartier creations thanks to signature brand designs like the Roman numerals and blue hands on the dials, not to mention the blue stone-topped crowns.

However, Cartier Ronde watches do have a few distinguishing features too. First, there’s the double chapter rings on the dials, where the outside one has Roman numerals (from 1 to 12) while the inner one features Arabic numerals (from 13 to 24.) This layout not only permits the wearer to read the time on a 24-hour scale but it also adds visual interest to the face of the watch. Whether the simpler Ronde Solo in steel, the luxurious Ronde Louis Cartier in precious metals, or the sporty Ronde Croisière with ADLC black-coating, the Ronde lineup is Cartier’s approach to the traditional wristwatch silhouette.

Cartier Crash Watch (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Crash

A product of “Swinging Sixties” London, the amorphous Crash watch is a cult favorite among Cartier enthusiasts. While the origins of the avant-garde case shape of the Crash was once said to be the result of a melted Cartier oval watch that barely survived a car accident, that story is merely a myth. It was the outcome of watch designers trying to make an oval Cartier watch look like it had been in a fiery car wreck.

Vintage Cartier Crash watches were produced in exceedingly low numbers, which makes them a rare find in the secondary market. Cartier has released a few new Crash models in more modern times, but always in limited production runs. In short, Crash watches are one of the most, if not the most, collectible Cartier watches ever made.

Cartier Cle Watches (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Clé

Released in the mid-2010s, the Clé is yet another innovative case design by Cartier, which features a novel key-inspired winding crown mechanism reminiscent of the turning keys that were necessary to wind antique clocks. The ovoid-shaped Clé case is home to a round dial and round bezel. In addition to the new watch design, the Clé de Cartier is noted for debuting Cartier’s then-new in-house automatic movement.

While the earliest batches of Cartier Clé watches were exclusively fashioned in gold, the company soon expanded the collection with two-tone and steel variants as well. What’s more, in addition to standard time and date models, Cartier frequently uses the Clé collection to demonstrate its watchmaking mastery with complications such as mystery hours, tourbillons, and skeletonized movements.

Cartier Tortue Watch (Image: Cartier)

Cartier Tortue

Designed in 1912 and named after the French word for turtle thanks to its tortoise-shell shaped case, the Tortue watch is classic Cartier. In fact, this was the third wristwatch design to come out of Maison Cartier.

Cartier has never manufactured Tortue watches in large numbers but instead, produces them with serious Cartier connoisseurs and collectors in mind. As a result, Cartier only crafts Tortue watches from precious metals such as varying shades of gold or platinum. Women’s Tortue watches are often set with diamonds too. Along with the classic Tortue watches with time-only dials, Cartier has also made Tortue watches with complications such as monopusher chronographs, perpetual calendars, and multiple time zones.

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