Going once, Going twice... sold

What is the secret behind the longevity of stylish watches like the Tank, the Santos de Cartier or the Baignoire? They lend elegance to time. A point of view confirmed by BENOÎT Colson, international expert at Sotheby’s and collector, who answers our questions.

Interview with Benoît Colson

Expert and collector

How would you describe the evolution of the vintage watch market ? How do you explain it ?

This market has been growing steadily. Historically, the market for vintage Cartier watches was one of the first and most important. If you look at an auction catalog from the 1980s, Cartier is in first place, alongside complicated pieces from other well-known brands. With the growing interest in collector’s watches, connoisseurs have tried to go back to the roots and rediscover the DNA of the collections. They looked for quality, rarity, with exceptional pieces that inspired emotions they could not find in the current contemporary offerings. 

2015 Crash Skeleton watch
2015 Crash Skeleton watch

Cartier and other vintage pieces produced in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as the Collection Privée Cartier Paris (CPCP), were exactly what they were looking for. Produced in small quantities, these watches remained true to the origin of the Maison and its unique appeal. This is also the case for some of Cartier’s contemporary pieces. Cartier watches have always been collected by the best dealers, auction house specialists or collectors. While they have access to and see many, many pieces, these are the ones they keep to themselves because they love the beauty and quality.

1967 Crash wristwatch
1967 Crash wristwatch

In your opinion, what makes a luxury watch creation successful? Its history? Its design? Its brand? 

For me, a watch is successful when it is first and foremost loved by people who really like and appreciate watches. The recognition of a wider public comes next, naturally. These connoisseurs will choose pieces for their enduring beauty, their timeless elegance and uniqueness, the quality of the components, a certain rarity, the history of the model, and so on... 

1936 Basculante wristwatch
1936 Basculante wristwatch

What is your favorite Cartier watch? Why? Have you had the opportunity to evaluate any of them? 

I have a special bond with Cartier because it is a family tradition to receive a Cartier watch. I was given a yellow gold Tank Basculante with manual winding from the early 1990s. I am wearing it today and I have loved it for over 15 years. 

One of the most incredible watches from Cartier is the Crash. Whether in its original version from the late 1960s, its numerous reissues or other contemporary series, it is a truly exceptional watch in the history of watchmaking.

1983 Cheich wristwatch
1983 Cheich wristwatch

I had the chance to auction a very old model during our last “Important Watches” sale in Geneva. It belonged to a private collector who cherished it more than any other piece in his collection. We talked about it for five years before he decided to put it up for auction. The watch sold for CHF 800,000, setting a new world record. It was an unforgettable moment.

Besides the Crash, one of my favorite Cartier watches is the Cheich watch, created for the winners of the Cartier Challenge at the
Paris-Dakar. I would give anything to be able to hold it in my hands. 

Record sales for the Crash watch

Auctioned on the watch auction platform, Loupe This, on May 4,
2022, a Crash de Cartier watch made in London in the 1970s and estimated at between 500,000 and 800,000 dollars broke all sales records, selling for 1,503,888 dollars. In the 1960s, at the time of the Swinging Sixties, Cartier London
created one of its most iconic designs: the Crash watch. A fusion of boldness and tradition, the watch displays a unique shape said to have been inspired by a watch damaged in an accident and taken to the Cartier London workshop
for repair.