Let’s talk, first, about the mystery, myths & misinformation.

Many of you may have heard the whispers and the romanticised stories behind the Cartier Crash. 

I regret to inform you that the Cartier Crash was not, unfortunately, inspired by a Cartier who had been involved in a car accident, nor was it inspired by Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory’, despite the glaring resemblance. 

So how did this asymmetric piece come to life? What is the true story behind the Cartier Crash? Let’s first start with a brief who’s who…

The Cartier Family

Louis-François Cartier founded Cartier back in 1847 and was followed by his son Alfred, who became the second Cartier to lead the jewellers. 

Alfred’s sons Louis, Pierre, and Jacques were the next of the Cartiers to continue the growth of the business, establishing Cartier as the ‘Jeweller of Kings and the King of Jewellers’. 

Jacques’ son, Jean-Jacque is the Cartier who began the story of the Cartier Crash in the 1960s. 

So, the Cartier Crash, how did it truly come to life?

Jean-Jacques Cartier, who has since been described as the true designer of the three brothers, was the man heading up the Bond Street store in London. 

Each of the Cartier branches had a level of independence when it came to design and innovation. 

The world over, the 1960s was a period of rebellion and deviation from norms and traditions and this philosophy was no different for watch design. 

A distinct design language and freedom of spirit helped to inspire Jean-Jacques Cartier when creating the Cartier Crash. 

The Cartier Crash Design

cartier crash

Image Credit: CNN

Jean-Jacques came up with the idea of pinching the case at two points to create the unique shape we see today. After many attempts and finding a way to paint the asymmetrical dial, the company finally landed on what we know now to be the Cartier Crash. 

In the early years of this model, it is known that very few models were ever produced, although we will never know how many, it is thought that close to the 20 mark is an accurate figure. 

Since that point, all of the other versions were short in their respective production runs, until 1991 when approximately 400 were produced by Cartier Paris. 

The Crash’s Ever-Growing Popularity

The Cartier Crash remained reasonably under the radar until the likes of Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Tyler the Creator and Jay-Z began purchasing these exclusive pieces. Around a similar time, Eric Ku, a long-standing Hodinkee contributor and one of the communities’ stalwarts, began to really show his interest in the Crash. 

We’ve seen such a spike in popularity and now these watches are particularly hard to find and harder to afford. The Cartier Crash remains an icon from the 1960s and one which stands firmly as one of Cartier’s all-time greatest creations. 

It looks great and it’s iconic, but what is it like to wear?

Image Credit: Hodinkee

Well of course there’s not really another watch that we can draw a comparison to as the Crash is pretty unique. But this is not your everyday watch, that’s for sure. 

This is a special occasion type of watch and is most definitely suited better to formal attire. Despite the fact that Jay-Z seems to carry it quite well, this is a dressier watch and we’re not all as cool as Jay-Z. 

The Crash doesn’t wear super snug to the wrist, so you certainly notice its presence. It’s far from intrusive or bulky and goes well under a cuff, but it’s hard not to notice it, especially given how beautiful it looks on the wrist. 

So, the Cartier Crash is one of the most iconic timepieces out there. When it comes to rarity, it’s certainly one of Cartier’s more exclusive pieces, you’ll struggle to find any Crash that’s not priced on application. 

But the price tag can be somewhat justified by the unique beauty and rarity. If it wasn’t yet on your grail list, it should be by now.