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One of Cartier’s secrets to success is their ability to adapt to the times and turn challenges into opportunities. In the 1970s, the popularity of mass produced quartz watches caused upheaval in the Swiss watch industry, and many watchmakers found themselves in a crisis. Cartier approached these challenging times by coming up with fresh and exciting new designs and capturing new and younger clientele.
Led by Robert Hocq, who purchased Cartier in 1972, the maison launched the Les Must de Cartier collection. The new range, whose name roughly translates to “Cartier, it’s a Must!” experimented with unconventional shapes and material combinations. Moreso, it included a range of accessories including pens, leather goods, and perfumes. When creating the new collection, Hocq and the designers at Cartier had the passionate new luxury consumer in mind. Les Must de Cartier became a success and spawned new watch models.
One of those models was the Must 21. It presented unique shape combinations, and the use of gold and steel materials, which would later on be symbolic of the era.
The Cartier Must 21 watch features round casing and a wide bezel with large Roman numerals engraved onto the surface. The numerals are recessed, making steel models easy to read, and providing a space for Cartier to experiment with gold plating.
Dials are signature Cartier with opaline finish, blued steel hands, and a small sapphire cabochon on the crown. The dial is protected with a sapphire crystal, and inside beats a Cartier 81 Swiss quartz movement.
The Cartier Must 21 watch was made available in three models: the original Must 21, the Must 21 Autoscaph, and the Must 21 Chronoscaph.
Cartier Must 21 - this time-only model comes in three sizes: 28mm, 31mm, and 34mm. It is available in stainless steel and two-tone steel and gold, where the center links, crown and Roman numerals are gold plated. On the dial is a Must de Cartier inscription. Protecting the dial is a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and this model is water resistant to 30 meters. It comes with a variety of bracelets available – Rouleaux or bullet-style bracelet, three-piece links, and a combination of bullet-style and five-piece links.
Cartier Must 21 Autoscaph – this time-and-date model is a sportier take on the Must 21. It measures 37mm, and comes with luminous markers on the dial, in addition to the Roman numerals on the bezel. The dial is matte black with a repeated double C motif.
Cartier Must 21 Chronoscaph – similar to the Autoscaph, the Chronoscaph shows the sportier side of the Must 21 line. Featuring the same C-motif dial, this chronograph model has three registers to measure 1/10th of a Seconds, 30 Minutes and 60 Seconds. The date aperture is also creatively placed diagonally between 4 and 5 o’clock. It is slightly larger than the Autoscaph at 38mm, but a ladies edition measuring 32mm was also later made available.
The sporty, masculine look of the Autoscaph and Chronoscaph is emphasized further by their bracelet designs. Three options were made available: a black rubber strap for the black dial editions; a white rubber strap to match the white dial edition; and a hybrid of rubber and stainless steel on a three-link bracelet.
These two watches are suitable for sports activities as they are water resistant to 100 meters.
All in all, Cartier Must 21 watches make a statement on the wrist while remaining distinctly Cartier.
The Cartier Must 21 is a sporty-elegant timepiece that helped Cartier rise above the tumultuous Quartz Crisis. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Cartier Must 21 line.
The Cartier Must 21 is a watch that was introduced in the 1970s. It is part of the Les Must de Cartier line, which aimed to introduce the brand to new and younger clientele.
It is characterized by a round case and wide bezel with Roman numeral engravings. It was one of the first instances where Cartier experimented with combining stainless steel and gold.
Cartier Must 21 watches have a water resistance level of 3 bar or 30 meters. With this level of water resistance, the watch is protected from splashes from light rain or hand washing, but it is not recommended for use during water sports or swimming.
Meanwhile the sportier Cartier Must 21 Autoscaph and Chronoscaph are water resistant to 100 meters, which make them safe to use for swimming and water sports.
It is also important to note that a watch’s water resistance level is not permanent. It can be reduced as the gaskets and parts of the watch age over time. Due to the Cartier Must 21’s vintage nature, it is also recommended that they be sent for routine maintenance every two to three years to maintain their accuracy, water resistance, and performance.
The Cartier Must 21 was discontinued in the 2000s.
Today, watches from the collection can only be acquired on the secondary watch market. Explore our selection of Cartier Must 21 watches here.