I have a confession to make. After complaining about how women’s watches are too small and insisting that 36mm is the perfect size watch for any woman, I, Cara Barrett, have rediscovered my love for small watches. I know, I know, the hypocrisy of it all! But that’s how fashion and style work – ebbs and flows, and all that. Watches are no exception. As far as this new interest in smaller watches is concerned, there’s one culprit to blame, and that’s the new Panthère de Cartier Replica.
Back in January, we saw Cartier re-release its iconic (and I really mean that) Panthère de Fake Cartier. This is a watch that was first released during the Must de Cartier days when it was marketed to a glamorous 1980s clientele, and it’s been a classic every since. When I saw this new version, I recognized the watch immediately and I knew I had to get one on to my wrist for a review as quickly as possible.
Unlike the Tank, the Panthère isn’t quite a household name. First introduced in 1983 during the heyday of opulence, the Panthère was praised for its sleek design, concealed clasp, and linked bracelet. It quickly became a huge hit among the who’s who, men and women alike, with celebrities such as Pierce Brosnan and Keith Richards amongst the noted wearers (I will never not love the picture of Brosnan below). During a time when Studio 54 was the hottest nightclub in town and glamor was everything, it’s no surprise that this watch was a hit.
In order to fully understand the impact of such a watch, it is important to know what it was up against at the time. After the death of Pierre Cartier in 1964, his two children and nephew moved to sell the family business. As a result, the company was split up into three semi-autonomous companies, Cartier New York, Cartier Paris, and Cartier London, with each producing different products at different times. This created an uneven brand strategy and allowed for each location to do its own thing. In one particular instance, Cartier New York started selling a gold-plated steel Tank watch for $150 in 1971. This was unheard of at the time, and greatly devalued the image of the brand in the eyes of many longtime patrons.
You have to remember that, at the time, Cartier was the ultimate luxury brand, and up until the 1970s it had been producing super exclusive, astronomically expensive, and very high-quality objets – think Mystery Clocks, personalized shutter watches, and ornate cigarette cases. So selling a gold-plated watch was sacrilege, even though the watch did quite well commercially. Despite marring the image, the idea of a less expensive watch later led to the Must de Cartier collection in 1977, after Cartier was bought by a group of investors. The collection was the brainchild of Joseph Kanoui (who gathered a group of investors to purchase Cartier, Paris), Alain Dominique Perrin, and Robert Hocq. The collection included a variety of shapes and was produced in gold-plated silver, allowing for a more reasonable price point. It was a way of re-branding and appealing to a broader audience (much like Montblanc and TAG Heuer creating smartwatches today), and when quartz movements came into play, it was all the more accessible.
So what does all this have to do with the Panthère? To be clear, the Panthère was NOT part of the Must de Cartier collection, which is why it probably was such a hit with certain clientele. Additionally, there weren’t that many fresh-to-market designs at the time, making the Panthère even more desirable. But what I think is most interesting about the timing of the 1983 launch of the Panthère is that even though it seems like a simple ladies’ watch, it was quite a big release for Cartier during a time of increasingly affordable timepieces and must have been a hero collection for a heritage maison trying to regain its footing in the global market. It was first launched in mini, small, medium, and large sizes, in two-tone and yellow-gold options (with a steel model introduced in 1991). The Panthère disappeared sometime in the early 2000s, leaving a hole in Cartier’s lineup – until now.
One of the main things to reflect on is the fact that the Panthère de Cartier in 1983 was a high-luxury timepiece in comparison to the rest of the market at that time. Fast forward to today, and the same exact watch has become almost mainstream in the same industry. Furthermore, what the Panthère de Cartier does best is appeal to a specific group of buyers. These buyers aren’t watch nerds and they aren’t worried high-end movements. They might not even be interested in most of the usual-suspect ladies’ watches. I think this is why I was so surprised that I enjoyed wearing it so much. After years of complaining about a lack of mechanical watches for women, I found myself back at the source with a 27mm quartz ladies’ watch and I loved it.
I think the major takeaway here is that the Panthère de Cartier re-affirms that good design and wearability are more than half the battle. This is something that Cartier understands and applies to all its products. It’s a strategy that clearly works. I have always been a huge fan of Cartier and the Panthère de Cartier further solidifies that. And I am sure I am not the only one.
For more information on the Panthère de Cartier, visit Cartier online.