So, this Cartier Watch Might Set You Back $1.6 Million

Sign up to never miss a drop

Let’s get this out of the way. I am a Cartier stan. Sure, I’ve got love for the Vacheron Constantin 4500V/110A-B126, might lust after the occasional Patek Phillipe 6104R-001, and when I am feeling adventurous, I will ogle a Ressence Type 1 or Type 3. But my first love is and will always be Cartier, with my WSSA0037 being my first step toward constructing a watch collection.

Often shadowed by its kingly and longstanding reputation in jewelry making, Cartier is slowly but surely getting some love for its contributions to the world of horology. More recently, Cartier has been turning the heads of even the most rigid watch enthusiasts.

The French brand was the bell of the ball at 2023’s Watches and Wonders, blessing us with some of the best watches to come out of the international watch exhibition in years. But, today, as you probably guessed, we will look at a more historical piece in Cartier’s line-up — the trippy and elusive Cartier Crash.

You may have encountered the Cartier Crash watch in your endless scrolling across fashion TikTok and your favorite rapper’s Instagram post. Amid the reinvigorated interest in Cartier’s watch-making and history, vintage Cartier Crashes are easily one of the most recognizable and coveted watches in the industry, popping up on the wrists of Tyler the Creator, Kanye West, and Jay-Z.

Upon first seeing the watch, you probably have some questions like “Why does the Cartier Crash look like a Salvador Dali painting?”, “Why is it called the crash?” or “Where can I get my hands on one”? Today, I will answer these questions and many more, whether you are curious about this horology black sheep or want to add the Cartier Crash watch to your current timepiece rotation.

Everything you need to know about the Cartier Crash and its origins.

What is the origin story of the Cartier Crash?

The Cartier Crash’s distorted case is iconic, to say the least. Tracking how it got that design is a bit complicated. Let’s explore.

The Cartier Crash watch’s first appeared at Cartier London during the “Swinging Sixties” — a youth-driven counter-cultural movement that centered on modernism and anti-establishment trends. At the time, Cartier was known for its conservative circular and square watches.

The design of the Crash was jarring, bordering on revolutionary at the time. Regardless of what origin story you believe, this decade of “fun-loving” art, fashion, and design impacted the Cartier Crashes design. But how did Cartier get there?

One theory centers around Salvador Dali. Because of the watch’s distinct melted, almost surreal aesthetic, it would be easy to see this watch as either a collaboration or an ode to the legendary surreal artist. Hell, the watch looks like it was pulled directly from Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Another theory stipulates that the Cartier Crash is a Cartier Baignoire gone bad. In this story, it is said a prominent Cartier client was in a horrible car crash, distorting and damaging their beloved Cartier Baignoire. When the client tried to bring the watch for repair, Jean-Jacques Cartier, great-grandson of Cartier’s founder, Louis-François, was so dumbfounded by the newly distorted watch that he eventually used it as inspiration for the design of what we know as the Cartier Crash watch today.

Unfortunately, though awesome, this is also myth.

So where did the Cartier crash get its design? The design is of the watch said to have come from Jean-Jacques Cartier and the talented artisan Rupert Emmerson. First released in 1967, Cartier brought in Emmerson to play with Cartier’s visual identity, stretching and bending the design more than his predecessors. In fact, Cartier did not like the new design but quickly changed his mind once he saw how people reacted to the modern design.

Is the Cartier Crash still being made?

Yes. But, it is one of the hardest watches to get your hands on, at retail. Modern Cartier Crashes are produced in limited series and are often claimed before even entering the market because of the staggering and ever-increasing demand.

Even more so, Cartier Crash after-market prices have soared over the years ranging from $195,000 to $275,0000 and beyond. In 2022, a Cartier Crash from the first initial release broke records and sold for a whopping $1.65 million. Regardless if you are looking for a vintage piece or want a modern piece from the French brand, be prepared to dish out thousands of dollars.

How many Cartier Crashes are there?

There have been multiple limited iterations of the watch throughout the decades. The first Cartier Crash watch was made in Cartier London and originally hosted a Jaeger-LeCoultre movement signed by Cartier. This specific model was 43mm long and 25mm wide, larger than most Cartier models, including later Cartier Crash models. The case itself sported 18k yellow gold and a crisp black leather strap. All the Cartier Crashes to follow would share similar features, with the biggest change being when Cartier Paris started producing the watch in 1991.

The Cartier Crash disappeared in the 1990s only to reappear later in the 2010s in skeleton form powered by a manual winding 35-jewel and 72-hour power reserve Cartier caliber 9618 MC. In 2019, the Cartier Crash released the Cartier Crash ref. WGCH0006 for their London boutique. This iteration was much like the Crashes in the 80s and 90s but was powered by a manual winding Cartier caliber 8971MC. Sadly, only 15 pieces were made. Today Cartier only makes one Cartier Crash a month, according to Chrono24.

How much is the original Cartier Crash?

If you want to go for the gold and cop an original Cartier Crash from its London run, expect to dish out at least a few hundred thousand dollars. Modern rereleases of the original London piece have gone for $60k.

Is the Cartier Crash worth the investment?

In short, yes. Like many of Cartier’s luxury watches, Cartier Crash tend to retain and even exceed their value — especially the vintage pieces. And, those lucky to own a vintage piece have seen the value of their watches double triple or even sell for 10x their original value.

Cosigns from celebrities, watch influencers, and Cartier’s limited production runs will fuel more demand for Cartier classics like The Crash, driving up the price. Nonetheless, if you are on the hunt for a Crash alternative, there is a much cheaper option.

Exaequo’s Softwatch proudly claims that its distorted case is directly inspired by Salvador Dali’s work. The watch features a Swiss – Made quartz movement in a 30 x 45mm melted case size in various colors for thousands of dollars less. You can find one for a few hundred dollars if you are lucky. If the Cartier Crash’s aesthetic is all you want, this is a solid choice.

Nonetheless, the Cartier Crash is one of the most original and eye-catching watches in horology. Like, Jordan 1s. I’ll be holding out until the next Cartier Crash Crash limited release.

Tyler The Creator definitely made me want one.

Meanwhile, here are some of the best timepieces to invest in.

  • cartier
  • tyler the creator

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *