New Watch! • 10 Dec 2018

Patagonian Art, Brazilian Aviators & Cartier Watches

by Meghan Dansie


It is one thing for a watch company to celebrate its own art, and another for it to celebrate art in all forms. Suitably nestled in between the Port-Royal Maternity Hospital and The Catacombs of Paris, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art is a tribute to the beauteous, elevated product of human life: art.

Facundo de Zuviría, Fray Bentos, Uruguay, 1993 C-Print (2014) 26.4 × 39 cm. Private collection © Facundo de Zuviría.

Offering artistic workspace alongside temporary exhibitions, the light-filled building hosts the lifespan of contemporary arts at its conceptive, formative and mature phases. This melding of historicist wisdom with future-facing patronage is typified by the Foundation’s latest exhibition: Southern Geometries, from Mexico to Patagonia. Including sculpture, modernist abstract art and ceramics, the Southern Geometries exhibition brings together 250 artworks spanning from the Pre-Columbian period to the present.

Anna Mariani, Xique-Xique, Bahia, Brésil, 1979 Façades series, 1973–86. Inkjet print, 20.6 × 30.6 cm. Collection of the artist © Anna Mariani

It is a celebration of the colour and diversity of the unique geometric art of Latin America, as well as the value-driven art of its exhibitor. It is an exploration of the relationship between time, space and people, and the form and beauty of their cultural artefacts. It is an exemplification of Cartier’s approach to how it shapes and exhibits that curious vocation of telling the time. Indeed, the ethos of the Southern Geometries exhibition is reflected in Cartier’s latest update to the Ballon Bleu collection: the Ballon Blanc, which endeavours to maintain cultural heritage whilst keeping the brand ticking along with the times.

Carlos Raul Villanueva – Univercidad Central De Venezuela

Welcoming the Wristwatch to the World

Mention the prospect of a Cartier watch to anyone – horologist or not – and chances are that they will picture the classic Tank style that has become synonymous with its maker. Since the beginning of the wristwatch, there has been Cartier. Rather presciently, it was Louis Cartier’s friendship with a Latin American pilot that led to the first ever watch designed for the wrist from its point of conception.

Santos-Dumont N° 5 1901 (September 13) Deutsch-Price attempt

In 1904, Louis Cartier created a specially-made watch for his friend Alberto Santos-Dumont. After all, the Brazilian aviator needed a way to tell the time without taking his hands away from steering his early aircraft. So it was that a product borne out of the unique conditions of one remarkable human innovation gave life to another. The refined version of this initially customised watch was put into production in 1911 – about half a decade before the brand’s Tank first surfaced. This historic relationship between Cartier and aviation is no mere coincidence. Rather, it is a testament to the brand’s creative cartography, which at its heart is about the coupling of beauty and function, of space and time.

From aviators to Royalty. Kate Middleton was spotted not too long ago wearing a stainless steel 33mm Cartier Ballon Bleu

Teenage Blues

Cartier’s latest update to their Ballon Bleu collection, aptly meaning “Blue Balloon,” shows how this relationship has grown from its conception.  The Ballon Bleu model was first debuted in 2007. Its circular case and integrated crown formed a bold new shape for the brand. Diverting away from their classic Tank shape paid off, with Cartier showing the beauty of diversity – much like a certain exhibition.

Delivering such elegance in a unisex, updated form might not have been pulled off if it was not for the watch’s namesake feature: the blue sapphire cabochon crystal that seals the watch’s integrated crown. Indeed, it gives the impression of a floating balloon tethered by the watch’s aptly sapphire-coloured hands; one almost gets the sense that without the mechanisms of this watch, it might just float away. This seminal Cartier piece, therefore, manages to simultaneously emphasise elegant form as well as function – perhaps even suggesting that you cannot have one without the other.

Alberto Santos Dumont ascending in the “pocket-sized” gondola of his free spherical hydrogene balloon Brazil on July 4, 1898 from the ground of the Jardin d’Acclimatation, Bois de Boulogne, Paris, France.

Looking Toward the Heavens

With the announcement of their latest update to the Ballon collection, Cartier has artistically finessed two truths of mature vision and craft: that self-growth is an ongoing process, and that one must know the rules in order to break them. The Ballon Blanc is a watch designed in such a way, for such a woman. Retaining the circular form of previous models in the collection, the Ballon Blanc has two diametric options, with the added option of illuminating the watch’s spherical border with diamond-set bezels. To this end, the 30mm model is framed by a bezel set with 44 diamonds, while the 26mm option is accompanied by 37.

Whichever bezel option is chosen, the pride of this model’s form is the 18-carat diamond situated at the four o’clock position. This updated feature sits in lieu of its predecessors’ integrated crown – a glittering star that shows just how high Cartier’s balloon has risen.

Due to its removal of the crown, the Ballon Blanc is fitted with a quartz movement, with the necessary button a small, streamline inclusion on the back of the case. The updated, understated elegance of a black alligator band exhibits these inclusions in their full glory. These features create an updated meaning for the Ballon Blanc. If the Ballon Bleu linked beauty with function, then the Ballon Blanc shows that, when it comes to women’s wristwatches, confidence and femininity are vital to both function and purpose.

Final Thoughts

The wearer of the Ballon Blanc can, therefore, enjoy its classical elements, whilst being the recipient of a watch that is ticking into the future (in ways that surpass the obvious). Cartier’s latest update of the Ballon Blanc is a carte blanche– a blank slate that invites its wearer to see their own meaning in its illuminating shine. If the Ballon Bleu is a tethered balloon, then the Ballon Blanc is for those who have come back down to Earth; it is for those who know that the magic of exploring new places, people and times lies not in the skies, but in their own hands.

Freddy Mamani, Cholet in red brick residential area, El Alto. Photo © Tatewaki Nio, Néo-andina series, 2016. This work was produced with the support of the musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

Meghan Dansie

Meghan majors in Politics, International Relations and English at the University of Melbourne. As Meghan sees it, there is no better way to investigate a period of time than through its timekeepers.


Related Reading





Related Videos

Subscribe to The Hour Glass

And stay up to date with the watchmaking world

Sign in

We’re here to help


Change Country

Select your country:

Share

Share via:

Collector’s Guide

Select your collectors guide:

Step 1 of 2

50%