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ART DECO DIAMOND AND ONYX BRACELET WATCH BY CARTIER, PARIS, CIRCA 1925

A wristwatch composed of a central line of onyx with a line of diamonds on each side, and looped around the face; mounted in platinum and yellow gold, with assay marks

  • Signed Cartier, 19154, 13491, 2936
  • Wrist circumference 5 7/8 inches

Additional cataloguing

Biography

Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier. His three grandsons, Louis, Pierre, and Jacques, built the house into a famous international jewelry empire serving royalty, Hollywood stars, and socialites. Cartier has created some of the most important jewelry and objects of art of the twentieth century with many iconic designs such as mystery clocks, Tutti Frutti jewelry and the Panthère line. In 1983, The Cartier Collection was established with the objective of acquiring important pieces that trace the firm’s artistic evolution. Today, Cartier has 200 stores in 125 countries.

 

Significance

In the 1920s when hemlines fluctuated and backless and sleeveless dresses became de rigueur, bare arms provided ample area for sparkling wristwatches. With this accessory came a new feminine gesture, that of gazing gracefully down at the wrist to see the time. Watches in this period were mounted on a variety of bands, including silk ribbons, leather straps, and pearl chains, but the most opulent were placed at the center of diamond bands.

During the 1920s, platinum was the rule for jeweled wristwatches. The strength and rigidity of this metal, which had been introduced into jewelry design at the end of the nineteenth century, allowed the jeweler to reduce the amount needed so that it could be worked into thin, almost invisible, mountings that showcased the radiance of the diamonds. By the middle of the 1930s, diamond wristwatches became the most important accessory of the well-dressed woman.

Cartier’s flat and neat watchcases—square, round, rectangular, hexagonal, and octagonal—coincided with the Art Deco taste for geometric outlines. This wristwatch characterizes the geometric style; the rounded watch face is centered on an elegant band designed with thin lines of diamonds centering a strip of contracting onyx. The black and white palette of the bracelet is balanced by a superb design detail, the loop of diamonds that circles one side of the watchf ace, creating a perfectly balanced asymmetry. More than just a timepiece, this watch is a superb artistic achievement.