Watch Of The Week: Cartier Pasha
What is it?
Why does it matter?
Over the past five or six years, Cartier has quietly moved its attention away from grandes complications and back onto its staple diet of shapely, elegant watches that shine brightest in their simplest forms. So, we’ve seen the introduction of designs such as the Clé (possibly born five years too soon, given the current enthusiasm for similarly cased vintage models) and the Drive de Cartier (a personal favourite) as well as the somewhat underappreciated Diver. The biggest hit, however, has been the return of the Santos. Cartier judged, astutely, that the time was right for an enthusiastic celebration of an 1980s icon – a thought that, in horological circles, would not even have been whispered aloud as recently as 2018. You can fill in the socio-economic commentary yourself; whatever similarities there are between the 2020s and the 1980s are yet to fully emerge, but we certainly seem ready to welcome back the decade’s best watch designs.
Which brings us to the Pasha. The myth behind the watch states that it harks back to a one-off commission by the Pasha of Marrakesh in 1933, who wanted a watertight watch. The production-line Pasha made its debut in 1985, and while it’s also true that the Pasha was a part of the Cartier line-up relatively recently – certainly well into the 2000s – it, like the Santos, wasn’t riding the zeitgeist quite like it is now. Culturally, it is a watch of the 1980s, and this year’s reimagining hews closely to the 1985 template.
At the core of the Pasha’s design is the stark – I would almost say blunt – tension between squares and circles. The roundness of the case is emphasised by intersecting with the flat bars of the lugs, rather than tapering towards them; the lugs themselves have rounded, faceted ends to soften the transition. The dial is defined by the square minute track and oversized numerals at the four cardinal points, but is framed by that wide, polished, featureless bezel.
None of which is to call the Pasha unrefined – far from it; look at the guilloché dial and contrasting bracelet finishing – but it is one of Cartier’s most emphatic designs, endowed with greater presence than a Tank, Ronde or Ballon Bleu, despite not being overly large at 41mm.
Its idiosyncrasies include the crown guard, which is attached to the case by a small chain link, which itself conceals a small plaque intended for personalised engraving. It’s also unusual for a Cartier men’s watch in not employing Roman numerals, and to my eye, that’s a choice that lends the Pasha a certain unisex appeal.
It’s the juxtapositions that make the Pasha so interesting. To read its technical specifications (it also houses a very up-to-date movement, the Calibre 1847 MC, with improved magnetic resistance), you would expect a solid, practical watch, but in its execution, it is as much a “form” watch as the Santos or Drive despite comprising almost exclusively the most traditional shapes of all: circles and squares. Its case and bezel are almost wilfully unfussy, but the dial delights in a radial guilloché pattern, feuille hands and cursive numerals. It’s a demonstration that even the simplest watches can be complicated in their own way; I guess that’s Cartier all over.
The key details
Pasha de Cartier
Materials: Stainless steel
Power reserve: 40 hours