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The Past and Present of Cartier’s iconic Pasha de Cartier

Published 2 December 2020

Cartier watch

In 1985 Cartier released their version of a luxury sports watch, a large, masculine watch with a round case and a prominent crown protector: the Pasha de Cartier.

Although the official launch of the Pasha de Cartier was in 1985, there’s a persistent tale that the origins of Pasha story go back a little further, to 1930s Marrakesh, and its refined Pasha, Thami El Glaoui. The Pasha, so it is said, commissioned Louis Cartier to make a unique timepiece in gold, robust enough to keep pace with the Pasha’s sports pursuits. Unfortunately, there’s no actual record of the Pasha’s supposed to watch, except for a photo of a watch from 1943 that does look like a modern Pasha. Cartier itself plays it safe on the association saying, “its name pays tribute to the Pasha of Marrakesh, a lover of fine watchmaking and a lifelong customer of Louis Cartier.” Perhaps one day the original inspiration will surface, but until then, we’ll have to be satisfied with the romantic inspiration.

The development of Pasha de Cartier in 1985 might be less evocative, but it is still significant. At that time Cartier was well known for its dressier watches, and consumer tastes were quickly shifting to sportier – and often steel – timepieces. So to make its new sporty model, Cartier enlisted the help of someone with some expertise in the area: legendary watch designer Gerald Genta. Genta’s design featured a large 38mm round case, distinctive Vendôme lugs and a cabochon-set crown cap that screwed down and was secured with a small chain. And while the Pasha collection has grown and changed a lot in the 35 years since it was first released, those key details of the round case, lugs and crown protector have remained constant ever since, and are the defining elements of the Pasha de Cartier.

Another key to the Pasha de Cartier’s appeal is the dial; a square set inside a circle that serves as the focal point of the watch, while simultaneously showcasing Cartier’s masterful ability to play with, and interpret shapes.

If the Pasha de Cartier was created in 1985, the scope and popularity of the collection exploded in the 1990s. A steel model was first released in 1990, and in 1995 the addition of the smaller steel ‘Pasha C’, which measured 35mm across made the collection an attractive option for women. In the following years the popularity, and complication, of the Pasha de Cartier grew. The family grew to include tourbillons, skeleton models and the other feats of micro-mechanical engineering for which the Maison is famous.

As is always the case with Cartier, it isn’t simply the watches that impress. Cartier is synonymous with elegance and a style that transcends fashion. So it’s unsurprising that the Pasha has a few famous fans. In the 80s crooner Frank Sinatra gave fellow Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr a gold perpetual calendar model. Pierce Brosnan is another member of the Hollywood set who wore Pashas in the 80s and 90s. A more current crop of Pasha de Cartier fans includes the next generations of famous faces, with Rami Malek, Willow Smith, Maisie Williams, Troye Sivan and Jackson Wang appearing in a creative campaign for the models most recent reprise.

Now, in 2020 the Pasha de Cartier is stronger than ever. Cartier has focused on the fundamentals of the model — those core details of the elegant case, distinctive lugs, and that now-iconic crown protector. At the heart of the new collection are the time-only pieces, in 35mm and 41mm, aimed at women and men respectively. The larger model is offered in steel with either a bracelet or a fine alligator strap, and there’s also a homage to the original 1985 offering in the form of a yellow gold model. There’s even more on offer in the smaller model, steel and rose gold, with an additional rose gold bracelet, as well as models with a dazzling bezel, set with 48 brilliant-cut diamonds. All these models live up to the active promise of the original, with 100 metres of water resistance, Manufacture Cartier automatic movements and the Maison’s innovative and convenient QuickSwitch interchangeable strap system, which allows the wearer to swap straps colours quickly, and without needing to use tools. If your Pasha has a bracelet, you can easily add or remove links using the SmartLink system.

The user-friendly features don’t end there. All the QuickSwitch equipped Pasha’s come with two straps as standard, and there’s a charming hidden feature to these watches. Should you wish, you can personalise your Pasha by engraving a set of initials on the case side, in the recess that is usually hidden from view under the chain that secures the crown cover.

While these models comprise the heart of the Pasha de Cartier collection, there are a few exceptional examples which show just what the Maison is capable of. There is a white gold 35mm model with a fully set case and bracelet, a dazzling 488 stones weighing in at 8.78 carats. Skeleton designs are another Cartier speciality, and that is something very much in an open-worked trio of hand-wound watches, cased in steel, rose gold or diamond-encrusted white gold. The latter two boast a tourbillon that whirls within a distinctive ‘C’ shaped cage.

Cartier’s Pasha de Cartier was originally conceived as a luxuriously elegant sports watch. While the collection has ebbed and flowed over the years, the Pasha de Cartier still lives up to that promise and has evolved into its own. If the past and present are anything to go by, the future of the Pasha looks bright.

So, if you’re looking for something sporty with more than a dash of dress watch, and loaded in old-world charm, take a look at the Cartier Pasha de Cartier.

Article written by Andy Green and Felix Scholz

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