Cartier launches new Crash watch to mark Design Museum show

Norman Foster has curated the 170-piece chronicle of the French watchmaker

A special version of the Crash watch has been made for the Design Museum exhibition, £67,000
A special version of the Crash watch has been made for the Design Museum exhibition, £67,000

The first luxury brand to have an exhibition at the Design Museum in its new Kensington home will be Cartier. Celebrating the centenary year of the iconic Tank model, Cartier in Motion (May 25 to July 28) will trace the history of Cartier watchmaking, and the wristwatch in particular, and will coincide with the launch of a special-order version of the Crash watch.

Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, for whom Louis Cartier designed one of the world’s first wristwatches
Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, for whom Louis Cartier designed one of the world’s first wristwatches

A 170-piece exhibition featuring extracts from archives and scrapbooks as well as precious objects, Cartier in Motion started with just two watches – a Santos-Dumont and a Tank, among Cartier’s most classic designs – acquired for the museum’s permanent Designer Maker User display. Discussions between the brand and the museum’s director Deyan Sudjic led to a grander plan, and Norman Foster was asked to curate a large-scale exhibition.

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Cartier accessories produced during the glamorous interwar period, the influence of Parisian culture and architecture on the brand, and the details behind the watchmaker’s craftsmanship – especially skeleton movements and mystery clocks – will all feature prominently, as will Cartier’s links with early aviation, a personal passion of Foster’s. Louis Cartier designed one of the world’s first wristwatches for Brazilian flight pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, to allow him to check the time while manning a plane’s controls, which was commercialised in 1911.

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The exhibition also tells the story behind various watches Cartier has pioneered over the years, not forgetting the London creative workshop where, in 1967, the famous Crash watch was designed – inspired, according to legend, by a watch brought in for repair after being crushed in a car accident. The surreal design has been reworked since, most recently as a unisex skeletonised model. 

To celebrate the exhibition, Cartier has made a special platinum version of the Crash watch (£67,000), available on special order only. The traditional sapphire crown has been replaced by a ruby with small sapphires, while the alligator straps come in dark red and navy blue. Also on sale from Cartier's Bond Street store will be six vintage watches and small clocks from the Tradition collection, which is made up of original pieces that have been bought back at auction and restored. These include an oval-dial, flexible bracelet, gold and diamond Résille watch (€57,600), made in London in 1972, and a gold and gilt desk clock (€85,200), set with diamonds, in a square chalcedony frame, which was sold in London in 1952 to King Baudouin of Belgium.

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