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ART DECO DIAMOND, PEARL, AND ONYX WATCH BY CARTIER, PARIS, CIRCA 1920

A watch with a square, cream-colored dial with Roman numerals and blued steel hands within a diamond border, a rose-cut diamond winder, onyx and diamond arched shoulders, and openwork clasp, a bracelet of five graduated rows of pearls with onyx and diamond spacers; mounted in platinum and gold, with French assay marks

  • The dial signed Cartier, nos. 20259, 10996, and 173 to reverse; movement signed European Watch and Clock Co. Inc.
  • Length: 6 7⁄8 inches

Additional cataloguing

Literature

  1. Barracca, Jader, et al. Le Temps de Cartier. Milan: Wrist International, 1989, p. 115.
  2. Rudoe, Judy. Cartier: 1900–1939. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997, p. 242, no. 175.

 

Exhibitions

There is an identical version of this watch in the Cartier Collection, WL 25 A21.

 

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

Recognized for their superb jewelry designs, Cartier also created watches that were both functional objects and beautiful works of art. Whether all gold, enameled, or set with gemstones, each one was specially created in the prevailing styles of the period. Every watch was made with the same exacting standards of all their creations.

At the beginning of the Art Deco period, the color palette in jewelry design was limited primarily to two tones, black and white. It would take a few years for the explosion of color to burst into the design repertoire. Cartier excelled at creating watches in the two-tone pattern in the first few years of the 1920s as epitomized by this watch. The whiteness of the diamonds and pearls is juxtaposed with the dark onyx accents, providing a play of contrasts. But it is the iciness of the diamonds counterbalancing the luster of the pearls that is a subtle but artistic accent. Only a superb jeweler would understand this distinction.

Cartier earned their reputation as one of the premier jewelers of the twentieth by creating artistic jewelry, jewelry that is just as wearable today as when it was first made. This watch functions as a teller of time but it is also a beautiful jewel.