The most remarkable watches are often unique pieces, custom-made for clients of means. And back in the day clients of means often turned to the mercurial design talents of Louis Cartier. One such client was Thami El Glaoui, the Sultan of Marrakech. ‘Lord of The Atlas,’ or pasha, as he was known, enjoyed a reputation for throwing lavish parties and giving his cosmopolitan guests extravagant gifts.
El Glaoui led an active life, keeping fit with swims in the pool at his palace.
Looking for a watch that could keep up with him meant having a watch that was watertight and yet still elegant enough to wear when greeting heads of state and celebrities. For this he turned to Cartier for a one-of-a-kind solution.
Cartier created the Pasha, a wristwatch made watertight by a case that screwed shut and by having a chain-secured cap that fitted over the crown.
After Cartier delivered the original watch to the pasha, who was ousted from power in the 1950s, it vanished. The whereabouts of the watch, which featured a distinctive protective grille pattern on its face and an 18-karat solid gold case, remain unknown.
In 1985, Cartier launched a new line of Pasha watches designed by the legendary Gerald Genta. The new Pasha dispensed with the protective grille and took on the silhouette we still see now. It was originally designed as a man’s watch but proved a hit with women too. Indeed, the Pasha de Cartier has proved to be one of the brand’s best selling lines and the company has continued to release new variants ever since, including the very special example we have here.
It’s one of only 40 examples made and features a spectacular and exotic cloisonné enamel dial depicting two parrots on a palm tree, against a brilliant blue background. Framing this scene is a stunning pavé-set diamond bezel which itself adorns a 42mm 18K white gold case. This is Cartier doing what Cartier does best; bringing together great watchmaking skills with the finest decorative artisan jewellers to create spectacular timepieces that transcend the mere telling of the time.
Enamelling of this kind is a highly specialised and sought-after skill, but there’s a lot more to this watch than its colourful dial. Cartier’s own Cal. 8000 MC automatic movement (27 jewels) is superb and in the spirit of the original Pasha de Cartier, this model sports a respectable 100m of water resistance.
Paired with a luxurious white alligator leather strap featuring a deployment clasp, this band is adjustable up to 18 cm to ensure ultimate comfort for its wearer. Another nice touch, and adding yet another illustrious name to the lineage of this watch is that the deployant clasp is made to a design that Louis Cartier and Edmund Jaeger (founder of Jaeger Le Coultre) came up with way back in 1909.
Neither the Moroccan leader nor Louis Cartier could have predicted that their collaboration on a purpose-built timepiece would inspire an entire line of magnificent wristwatches over 70 years later. Today, the Pasha is a permanent part of the Cartier family and, as can be seen here, it remains a canvas for creativity from ‘The Jeweller To Kings.’