The history of the Pasha watches from the House of Cartier

The origins of Pasha

The origin of the Pasha de Cartier is said to begin in 1931 or 1932 (our memory fails us!), when the Pasha of Marrakech, Thami El Glaoui, commissioned Louis Cartier to create a unique watch. A mechanical gold watch, strong enough to keep up with the pace of the Pasha's active life, and which could boast a level of water-resistance uncommon for the time. The solution was a self-winding watch with a large diameter, a crown cover and a metal grill to protect the dial.

The only problem is that there is no concrete evidence that this watch was made for the Pasha of Marrakech. The closest thing to it is a 1943 photograph of a watch that has all these characteristics and looks very similar to the modern Pasha watch.

 

Thami El Glaoui

The Pasha of Marrakesh, Thami El Glaoui

 

Cartier's official line is that "its name pays tribute to the Pasha of Marrakech, a lover of fine watchmaking and a long-time client of Louis Cartier". Until we get a proper watch investigation, the story of the Pasha and his watch is just a story.

 

1985 : The rebirth of the Pasha de Cartier

It would be difficult to talk about Cartier without mentioning a legend in the watch industry, Alain-Dominique Perrin, CEO of Cartier from 1975 to 1998. Understanding that he was at the helm of Cartier during a turbulent time marked by the quartz crisis, the OPEC oil embargo, and the global economic recession of 1973 to 1975, he knew he had to think differently than the competition. It was also a turbulent time for luxury watches; not only because of quartz, but also the emergence of the luxury steel sports watch. The Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak had been released in the previous decade and were making waves with their innovative designs.

 

Alain-Dominique Perrin CEO of Cartier from 1975 to 1998

Alain-Dominique Perrin, CEO of Cartier from 1975 to 1998 - a very creative period for the House

 

Building on the massive success of the Le Must de Cartier watches - the brand's low-cost diffusion line - launched the previous year in 1977, he introduced a revolutionary new wristwatch in 1978 called Santos, with the goal of connecting Cartier's design language to a whole new generation. By the 1980s, when Alain-Dominique Perrin was at the height of his creativity, it was clear that there was a market for waterproof luxury watches, with timepieces such as the Ebel 1911 Classic Wave gaining popularity and the solid gold Rolex Submariner taking a dominant position.

And in 1985, it was time for something sporty and new. A great men's watch that was meant to make a statement, but that remained committed to the inherent elegance of Cartier. And to help with its design, they called on a designer with a track record of success, Gerald Genta.

 

Gerald Genta pasha cartier 1985

 Le designer Suisse Gerald Genta et la Pasha originale de 1985

 

The original 1985 Pasha round watch was a departure from Cartier's oval and rectangle series. The Pasha also featured a large (for the time) 38mm case, with a wide bezel, the distinctive Vendome lugs of the time and the screw-down crown, with cabochon and a delicate retaining chain.

Throughout its history, details have remained at the heart of the Pasha's silhouette. The dial has also claimed its share of Cartier brand identification marks. Indeed, the square minute ring is placed in the center of the circular off-white dial. And then there was the 12, 3, 6, 9 dial layout, with the oversized crown that, if you use your imagination a bit, is reminiscent of some of the most iconic military watch designs out there.

The first generation of self-winding Pasha watches received more than minor design additions, as Cartier introduced chronographs, GMT models, a "moon" phase and even a perpetual calendar. All of these models bear varying degrees of resemblance to the original Pasha.

 

Pasha Cartier 1989

Pasha Cartier perpetual calendar from 1989 - Image: Christie's

 

The famous Figaro by Cartier

Now we come to one of Cartier's most iconic Pasha models - the yellow gold Pasha, featuring a protective grill and the signature "Figaro" bracelet. "This Figaro bracelet is the best bracelet Cartier has ever created for its great watches," says Cartier expert and authority George Cramer, "and it was only available in the early years, after the Pasha line was released." For Cramer, it's the combination of the gold, the grill and the bracelet that makes this model such a prized chronometer, at least until some limited editions hit the market in the late 1990s.

'No doubt inspired by the main character in Pierre Beaumarchais' play - is a lovely bracelet, offering precisely the kind of "heavy elegance" one would expect from a solid gold bracelet. The combination of Pasha's horns and the Figaro's five smooth shoulder links, along with its hidden clasp, exudes the opulence of the time. Unfortunately, the Figaro's life was short-lived, as it disappeared from the catalog shortly after its arrival, to be replaced by a much more conventional bracelet, meaning that the original Figaro is a hot commodity in 2020 for Cartier collectors.

pasha cartier

Pasha by Cartier on a Figaro bracelet (Image: Watchprosite)

 

1990: The Steel Pasha

In 1990, the Pasha de Cartier ended five years of precious metal exclusivity and introduced a new case material - steel - to its collection. And while other details, such as the 38mm case size, screw-down crown cover, and various bezel options remained the same, the stainless steel case revived the Pasha's once treasured sporty promise. According to George Cramer, "This model is, to begin with, a great Pasha. It's a beautiful watch that can be worn on any occasion and it features a simple, easy-to-maintain ETA movement (Switzerland's largest movement manufacturer).

 

1995: The Pasha C

The Pasha's reign of steel continued in 1995 with the introduction of the Pasha C automatic watch. Smaller (35mm) and with a sporty "H" link bracelet, the Pasha C represented a striking new entry in Pasha history. It also saw several new dials, including a copper or salmon dial, covered with a delicate grid that offered another interpretation of the evolving "square in a circle" motif.

 

 pasha c watch

Pasha C models from the House of Cartier

 

Not only does the Pasha C continue to appeal to a new, younger demographic, but its smaller size is also a nod to the fact that more and more women are wearing the Pasha. This phenomenon was formalized a few years later, in 1998, with the release of a 32mm Pasha, offered in a range of setting options and with softer strap colors. This historic watch officially became unisex, becoming an automatic watch for both men and women.

 

1997: Celebrating 150 years in style

As the millennium draws to a close, the House of Cartier is in fine form, celebrating its 150th anniversary around the world. In London, for example, the party was held in the Egyptian room of the British Museum, with a guest list of the rich and royal.

It was also the year that Cartier released what George Cramer believes to be the most underrated Pasha: "The steel Pasha with the grid and ruby (spinel) in the crown that was launched for Cartier's 150th anniversary is still available on the market, and at very reasonable prices. The movement was very nicely decorated, and the series was limited to 1847 pieces."

Indeed, this was just one of the many celebratory creations Cartier launched that year, offered in editions of 3150 or 1847 pieces. Do not confuse this limited edition (with the red spinel) with the regular production (with a blue spinel) released shortly after.

 

Cartier Pasha 150th Anniversary in steel

Limited edition Cartier Pasha 150th Anniversary in steel (Image: Sotheby's)

 

1998 - 2008: The CPCP era

We are now entering one of the most sacred eras for modern Cartier collectors, the CPCP issues. CPCP stands for Collection Privée, Cartier Paris and represents a collection of limited releases, usually of 100 pieces or less. The Pasha has seen many editions released under the CPCP umbrella, usually "complication" offerings like a perpetual calendar. For the uninitiated, a complication refers to any feature other than the basic functions of a watch. But for George Cramer, this long-standing collection has produced two of the most desirable Pasha models ever made, the Pasha Tourbillon de Cartier watch and the Pasha Day and Night.

Cartier made four tourbillon models of the Pasha, limited to 10 pieces each, and powered by a three-bridge Girard-Perregaux movement, dubbed the caliber 490 MC, with a semi-skeletonized tourbillon. The first of these models, released in 1998, featured blued hands, an intricate hand-engraved dial, and the Cartier "double C" logo that took up most of the rose gold dial.

The 1999 version, while still made to the most luxurious standards, offered a more conventional dial design, with a square minute track bridge, characteristic of the Pasha on the tourbillon movement. The 2000 and 2001 editions offered variations of this same design, with the 2000 edition being particularly striking thanks to the insertion of the interlaced logo in blue enamel.

Pasha mouvement CPCP Tourbillon

First Pasha with CPCP Tourbillon movement in 1998 (Image: Watchprosite)

 

The Pasha de Cartier Day & Night is an equally refined, but very different chronograph. Introduced in 1999 as a limited edition of 20 pieces, the Day & Night model took the now-familiar shape of the Pasha case (in yellow gold) and added a design inspired by another iconic Cartier creation - the mystery clock.

The Day & Night model evokes the floating arcs of the Maison Cartier's historic clocks by using a reworked Fréderique Piguet caliber, which displayed the time in 24-hour time, allowing for a single central hand, one end of which is marked with a sun, and corresponding to the arc from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., while the other hand, with a moon tip, was read against the track displaying the night hours from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

A second runs down the dial, and the dial design remains visually appealing with a beautifully executed "clous de Paris" pattern. The designer behind this striking and contemporary concept is none other than the renowned Svend Anderson.

 

Pasha Cartier Day Night

Limited edition Pasha de Cartier Day & Night (Image: FratelloWatches)

 

2005: The 20th anniversary of this exceptional automatic watch

The 2000s marked an important turning point for Cartier watchmaking. The brand consolidated its watchmaking facilities in-house and the House developed its own "Haute Horlogerie" collection, under the direction of Carole Forestier-Kasapi, resulting in an explosion of Cartier's high-end complications. And of course, 2005 marked the official 20th anniversary of the original Pasha, so a festive update was in order.

That watch was the Pasha 42, which not only added 4mm to the case diameter, but also matched the decade's taste for larger watches. In addition to the increase in size, the Pasha 42 also received an upgrade to its movement, the Calibre 8000MC, made exclusively for Cartier by Richemont stablemate Jaeger-LeCoultre (which at the time had been supplying movements to Cartier since 1900).

Other than these two changes, nothing has changed in terms of visual appearance - there is a bit of guilloche on the dial, but that circle around a square, interspersed with Arabic numerals, is still very much present. The Pasha 42 found once again that, with incremental improvements, the core of Genta's design has remained unchanged and as relevant as it ever was.

 

2006 : The Pasha Seatimer

Naturally, the sporty design of the Pasha was fertile ground for experimenting with new masculine designs, and so 2006 saw the release of the Pasha Seatimer. It's a watch that took many of the attributes of the Pasha dive watches (the waterproof screw-down crown, rotating bezel, etc.), and brought it to its commercial version. A 40.5mm case, with a luminous black dial (a white version was also available).

The most striking feature, however, was the addition of a rubber strap, or rather a rubber strap with a steel core. Two years later, Cartier doubled down on the sporty style with a chronograph version.

 

Pasha Seatimer de Cartier

Pasha Seatimer de Cartier

 

2020 : The Pasha of today

The Pasha is now 35 years old, and with this generation of Pashas, Cartier has once again managed to balance the momentum of the original with the tastes of the present. Two main sizes are offered: a 35mm case (in stainless steel or rose gold) without date, or a larger 41mm model with date (in yellow gold). All the dial details of the original are still there, but this time done in a much more textured, subtle and sophisticated way.

The movement is the Caliber 1847 MC. The lugs and bracelet are still the same, but wearers now benefit from Cartier's excellent "QuickSwitch" system, which allows the bracelet to be changed on the fly, and the "SmartLink" system, which allows for painless (and tool-free) adjustment of the bracelet links.

We also find most of the details of the Pasha, the screw-down crown, which provides 100 meters of water resistance (unchanged from the 1985 original, funnily enough). A nice touch is the fact that, hidden on the profile of the case, visible only when the cap is removed, there is just enough room for a small engraving. Very classy, very Cartier...

Cartier's new Pasha family is available in steel, yellow gold and rose gold, in two sizes with alligator leather straps.

 

Pasha Cartier Skeleton steel 9624MC calibre

The Pasha Skeleton by Cartier in steel with calibre 9624M

 

Three special models of the new Cartier Pasha were also presented: a skeleton tourbillon with diamond-set movement, case and buckle; a skeleton tourbillon model in rose gold; and a skeleton Pasha that reminds us why Cartier is the true master of skeleton movements.

The Skeleton, bearing the hand-wound caliber 9624?, integrates the minute track, hour markers and Arabic numerals into the movement's bridges, under which the gear train sits invisibly.

The Pasha de Cartier Skeleton Tourbillons are the kings of this luxury watch collection, equipped with the caliber 9466MC with a tourbillon at 6 o'clock. The tourbillon bridge bears the Cartier "C" logo and is surrounded by a seconds track. On the set model, brilliant diamonds cover the bezel, minute hand, seconds counter, buckle and crown. The Skeleton Tourbillon model is a refresh of the Skeleton Tourbillon Pasha from the Haute Horlogerie collection, but in a much more compact size than before.

Cartier Pasha skeleton tourbillon

Pasha Skeleton Tourbillon de Cartier models in white and rose gold

 

The Pasha of Marrakech, Thami El Glaoui, may never have ordered or worn the waterproof Cartier prototype. In the end, it doesn't matter. What matters is that Cartier's iconic 1985 Pasha by Gerald Genta is a sporty model that gave birth to its own renowned dynasty.

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