Of all the panther-inspired creations by Cartier, the Panthère de Cartier watch would easily be regarded as one of the most abstract interpretations of the big cat. This timepiece, however, is yet another testament to how brilliant design will remain relevant in any period.
The Eighties’ style was synonymous with exuberance and maximalism. It was all about making a statement and being seen with big hair, oversized shoulders, bright colours and bold accessories. For Cartier, it has always been about permanence and creating pieces built upon generations of style and yet will last well into the future. Although rather often, trying to strike a balance between being trendy and timeless can be tricky.
The panthère (panther) has always been a well-known symbol of Cartier. During the art deco era (1920s to 1930s), during which the French jeweller and watchmaker produced some of its most iconic creations, the big cat was a popular motif. Subsequently, the legendary style icon Jeanne Toussaint, who served as Cartier’s Artistic Director for high jewellery between the 1930s to 1970s, was also affectionately nicknamed “La Panthère” – because of her elegance, ferocity, and determination, just like the qualities of a panther.
Rather than the abstract and poetic interpretations of a panther’s characteristics, Toussaint favoured more figurative and sculptural takes. Her creative vision of the big cat led to many of Cartier’s iconic panther creations we know today, including a couple of historical pieces once owned by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.
While the panther has appeared in more literal forms in Cartier’s timepieces, few of them were as emblematic as the Panthère de Cartier that was created in 1983. This timepiece is often regarded as one of the first jewellery watches in contemporary watchmaking – not jewellery in the sense that it is set with gemstones, but rather as a watch-meets-jewellery type of object and the accessory that embodied the glamour and powerful energy that was so symbolic of the 1980s.
Like the emblematic Tank watch, the Panthère de Cartier was loved by both men (Pierce Brosnan and Keith Richards are famous fans) and women alike. However, it is more often associated with the powerful women in music, fashion, culture and even politics who wore them – Margaret Thatcher, Madonna, Jane Fonda, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sofia Coppola, and Jill Biden, to name a few. These are women who were trailblazers – not afraid to voice their opinions in public and embrace the power of womanhood.
Though one may not immediately be able to see the resemblance between the Panthère de Cartier watch and a feline, this abstract interpretation of the panther is very much inspired by the aloofness, elegance, and puissance of the animal. This sleek gold bracelet watch, recognisable even from a distance, symbolises power, sophistication, and timelessness.
Cartier stopped producing the Panthère watch in the early 2000s. However, upon seeing that there were many young women bringing in their mothers’ or grandmothers’ Panthère de Cartier pieces for servicing because they loved wearing them, Cartier decided to relaunch it in 2017. As successful and well-loved as it was, the Panthère de Cartier exemplifies an enduring style that transcends eras – there was no need for transformation of any kind. The current Panthère de Cartier watches share the same iconic design as their predecessors in the 1980s, but are updated to reflect the technical advancements and design finesse of the current era, and also to play up the jewellery aspects of the watch.
It is presented in two sizes (small and medium) and in many more finishes and material combinations than before, ranging from entry-level steel models to fully gem-set high jewellery renditions. Reworked details include a whiter dial, and tighter links on the slinky bracelet (known as the Maillon bracelet). The legendary Panthère de Cartier continues to be seen on the wrists of some of the most stylish, inspirational, and influential women of today, such as Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Jisoo, Zendaya and Dua Lipa.