The name Cartier needs no introduction. As one of the most influential and celebrated jewelry and watch brands of the last 100 years, it has always stood as a mark of luxury and desirability. Without taking away from its historical significance, I would say that when it comes to watches, Cartier has always been predominantly known as a ‘design’ brand rather than a pure watchmaking one, with stunningly iconic models such as the Tank, the Crash, and the Santos Dumont all seen as important due to how it looks. In fact, to this day, it is the beautiful and unconventional designs that attract collectors and a unique position in the watch brand hierarchy that no other possesses.
Out of all of Cartier’s designs that went on to attain their respective ‘icon’ statuses, there was one design that stood out to me in particular, and that is the Tonneau, which is also the watch we are very proud to offer today - the Cartier Tonneau XL Ref. 2802H in rose gold. The Cartier Tonneau is one of the earliest watches ever made by Cartier in 1906, which came only two years after the introduction of the Santos Dumont pilot watch. The name itself “Tonneau” refers to the elongated and curved shape of the watch case, and interestingly it became recognized as en vogue during the 1920 - 1930s when most watches from that particular era were conceived with the spirit of the Art Deco movement in mind. Instead of conforming to the design principles of Art Deco, Cartier created the Tonneau as a means to challenge the traditional round shape of the pocket watch.
Over the past few decades, the Tonneau, which literally translates to ‘barrel’ in French, has proven to be a timeless icon known for standing against the grain in the middle of a revolutionary design movement. The Tonneau was relaunched back in 2006 by Cartier for its 100th anniversary as part of the Collection Privée Cartier Paris (CPCP) as a celebration of the Tonneau’s heritage and design roots.
This is a watch that appropriately captures the spirit of the Tonneau and adapts very well to contemporary dimensions. Measuring at only 29.4mm x 43.4mm (excluding the lugs), this is a watch that can effortlessly sit and look great on any modern wrist. For avid Cartier enthusiasts, there is just so much to love about this piece - black roman numerals, blued Breguet-style hands, a mesmerizing dial with a gorgeous guilloché “Rose Motif”, alongside Cartier’s signature cabochon fitted crown, a “Swiss Made” signature at 6 o ‘clock and an 18-carat rose gold folding buckle. Also, encased within the 18-carat rose gold case is the manual winding, Cal. 9790MC.
An absolutely stunning watch in every aspect, and not one that is seen often enough in the wild. Apart from Cartier’s other iconic designs that came after the Tonneau, the Tonneau is just as definitive as it gets for a Maison like Cartier, it is rich, exclusive, and exudes a slightly mysterious aura, even in a convention of watch connoisseurs, you are quite unlikely to find someone who is familiar with the origins of this early Cartier design.