Calibre de Cartier: A Retrospective

From the iconic Tank to the sophisticated Rotonde, Cartier has come up with a long list of elegant designs that set the standard for fine watchmaking. In the 2010s, the Maison sought to prove itself more than just a pretty face with robust and functional sports watches.

The Cartier Calibre is one of the shining masterpieces from this segment. By introducing the brand’s first serially produced in-house movement with an undeniably masculine design, the Calibre put Cartier alongside Rolex, Omega, and IWC in creating hard-wearing watches.

 

Here’s a retrospective on the game-changing Cartier Calibre collection.

 

Calibre Tourbillon
Cartier Calibre and Ballon Bleu Flying Tourbillon (photo: Sotheby’s)

 

The Back Story

While Cartier has long been a master of creating timeless designs, one constant point of criticism was its dependence on base movements from other companies. That changed with the introduction of the Ballon Bleu Flying Tourbillon in 2008; and the Calibre de Cartier Flying Tourbillon in 2010. These watches were the first to feature a Cartier manufacture movement and even earned the Geneva Seal, a prestigious mark of excellence for Swiss-made timepieces. It was a proud declaration of the brand’s readiness to create their own movements.

As a complicated Geneva Seal watch, the Flying Tourbillon belonged to the haute horology category and carried a prohibitive price tag. For its audience to enjoy their in-house movements, Cartier introduced the Calibre, its first widely produced sports watch featuring a Cartier-made movement.

 


 

Calibre de Cartier
Calibre de Cartier

 

Calibre de Cartier (2010)

They kicked things off with the Calibre de Cartier, the one that set the standard for all succeeding Calibre watches. It possesses all the qualities one will ever need in an elegant sports watch: a large and solid case, curved lugs that sit comfortably on the wrist and an extremely legible dial.

Even with its considerable presence, the Calibre was instantly recognizable on the wrist as a Cartier. Readable and neat, their dials consist of sword-shaped hands, Roman numeral and baton indices, a running seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock, and a vertical date window at 3 o’clock. There are also railroad patterns on the outer rim for an added vintage touch.

 

Calibre de Cartier
Calibre de Cartier

 

Secured with cushioned leather straps in various neutral colors, Cartier Calibre watches are all 42mm in size and are made of either stainless steel or pink gold. A year later, Cartier released a new wave of Calibre models bearing metal bracelets and various dial color schemes.

 


 

Calibre de Cartier Chronograph
Cartier Calibre Chronograph

 

Cartier Calibre Chronograph (2012)

In 2012, Cartier equipped the Calibre with a chronograph complication. It still bears design cues similar to its direct predecessor, with few subtle differences in the dial. Instead of bearing a single sub-dial, the Cartier Calibre Chronograph has two on both sides, along with an expanded date window above the 6 o’clock mark. There are also two pushers on the right side for the chronograph function, which both technically act as guards to the crown.

To add, the brand decided to place the minute track with five-minute increments on the bezel in order for it to act as a tachymeter.

 


 

Cartier Calibre Diver (2013)

Cartier wanted to be taken more seriously in the sports watch segment. In 2013, they released their first proper diving watch – the Calibre de Cartier Diver. It holds its own among the sea of dive watches, with its ISO 6425 compliance, a striking luminescent dial and a water resistance rating of up to 300 meters.

This is the most athletic-looking among the four Calibre watches and also the most commanding model in terms of appearance and design.

 

Cartier Calibre Diver
Cartier Calibre Diver

 

There are two changes with the Cartier Calibre Diver that wearers will probably notice right off the bat – first is the dial layout, which is pretty much the same with the original Cartier Calibre watch. Cartier also brought back the small seconds counter at 6 o’clock  as well as the date window replacing the 3 o’clock. Last is the bezel, which is made in ceramic and now comes in a unidirectional rotating format. This allows divers to accurately measure periods of time while underwater.

 


 

Cartier Calibre 38
Cartier Calibre 42mm vs 38mm

 

Cartier Calibre 38 (2015)

The final design from the collection is the Calibre de Cartier 38, a smaller alternative to the Calibre 42 models. It featured a modified dial layout to adapt to the smaller case, featuring a singular date window, blue hands and all-Roman numeral hour markers. These were also made available in a myriad of case metals and straps and bracelets,with the addition of a diamond bezel in some variations.

 


 

The Cartier Calibre has ceased production since 2018, but it is still considered one of the most versatile pieces ever released by the brand. Available in the pre-owned market, it remains a sought-after and well-loved design among watch collectors and casual wearers. Explore our selection of Calibre de Cartier watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.

 

 

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