The Cartier Pasha is undoubtedly one of the most iconic timepieces of all time. And we’re not even being hyperbolic. Its unmistakable and unparalleled design, as well as its popularity amongst the many famous figures who have worn it, make it a household name when it comes to the watch world.
The first Cartier Pasha – as we now know it today – was introduced in 1985. We say “as we know it today”, because has some very high-profile origins (pre-dating 1985) that are fundamental in understanding the name and the spirit of the Pasha.
In 1932, Louis Cartier was approached by El Glaoui, the Sultan of Marrakech and well known international jet-setter, with a bespoke request.
The Sultan, referred to as the Pasha, desired a watch that reflected his formal royal duties, whilst also catering for his sporty and active lifestyle, without worrying about it getting wet.
Louis Cartier, already having been commissioned by various royal figures, accepted the Sultan’s request and created a timepiece to the outlined specifications – with the first priority being its waterproof features.
In fact, the Pasha ended up becoming not only the first waterproof Cartier watch, but also one of the world’s first waterproof watches, with Rolex only just beating them by launching their famous Oyster Case a few years before.
According to historical records and correspondences, Cartier wanted the watch that was commissioned by the Pasha of Marrakech to be commercialised. This, however, never came to fruition.
Despite Cartier’s best efforts, there is no knowledge of the original Pasha’s whereabouts, creating an exotic and mysterious aura around the watch.
Yes, unfortunately, the Cartier Pasha is a one of one.
Or is it?
Gerald Genta’s involvement
Up until 1985, the Cartier Pasha was an elusive unique piece, made for El Glaoui and El Glaoui only.
But then, the Pasha we now love today, finally appeared: a hefty 38mm case, Arabic numerals and all.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, and yes, the Pasha – they all have one thing in common: and he goes by the name of Gerald Genta. In 1985, the talented designer brought the Pasha forth to the public eye.
Genta’s Pasha was a stark contrast to all the other models in Cartier’s catalogue, a document filled with significantly smaller and with more oval and rectangular shaped cases.
But herein lay Cartier’s own idea: they wanted a much more muscular watch that was “full-bodied” and waterproof, whilst also staying true to the unmistakeable Cartier elegance – just like the original mighty Pasha made for the Sultan.
This union between Cartier and Genta produced a 38mm cased, Arabic numeralled, screwed-down caseback masterpiece. In order to ensure its waterproof properties, Cartier chose to protect the crown with a Cabochon “cap” chained to the case.
The first iterations of the Pasha from 1985 were made in limited quantities: all in yellow gold. They’re immediately identifiable through the absence of the cyclops lens on the date function. Apart from the time-only versions (first photo), perpetual calendars (second photo), GMT and chronograph versions were also offered, as well as an extravagant iteration – aptly named the Pasha “Golf” (third photo).
It is worth noting that the perpetual calendar and the “Golf” versions were available in both an automatic calibre as well as a quartz movement.
The legendary Pasha Grid
Now this is the real crown jewel amongst Pasha enthusiasts: this peculiar Pasha features a protective cage. This addition is an extraordinary design choice, which only builds on the Pasha’s inherent charm. Moreover, it underlines the sporty roots that this watch owes to the Sultan’s lifestyle back in 1932.
In the late ‘80s, the first yellow gold versions came with a stunning “Figaro” bracelet which, much to the disappointment of collectors, was quickly discontinued and replaced.
The steel version of the Pasha Grid would come nearly a decade later – in 1997. This was launched in celebration of Cartier’s 150th anniversary. Naturally, they made only 1847 of these.
The anniversary Grid models weren’t the first time that the Pasha was made from steel however: in 1995, Cartier released the Pasha “C” line. This more affordable version was largely successful, but it did not employ what would be considered “traditional” design by Cartier’s standards and did not feature the eye-catching Cabochon, either.
The Pasha “Collection Privèe Day & Night”
In 1998, an exclusive team was put together in Cartier’s watch department and it launched the peculiar and oh-so-elegant Pasha Day & Night: a testament to the way Cartier pushes the boundaries of horological design. The watch features two arcs in the top half of the dial, with a sub seconds in the bottom half. The outer and the inner arcs read the typical “day” (6am-6pm) and “night” times (6pm-6am) respectively. As a brilliant final touch, the two hands hold the Sun and the Moon at their tips.
These perfect proportions are harmoniously sat on a beautiful guilloché dial.
The Pasha Day & Night was produced in 3 series: in yellow, rose and white gold, with 20 examples each.
The first Pasha Tourbillon
At the end of the ‘90s, Cartier launched the first Pasha with a Tourbillon, in an extremely limited 10 pieces in white gold.
The skeletonised dial allows for the wearer (and the observers, of which there will be many) to see the calibre 490 MC Tourbillon movement, designed by Girard Perregaux.
In 2011, Cartier revealed two new Pashas.
This model is also housed in a mammoth 46mm case. Unfortunately, this is another instance (which as time goes on, becomes more prevalent) in which the large maisons ruin the very beauty that they create, by using unnecessarily large dimensions to follow trends that will quickly fade.
Pashas on famous wrists
Out of the many celebrities and collectors who enjoy wearing the work of art that is the Cartier Pasha, our favourite pick is Valentino Garavani. The founder of the designer label dons an intriguing Pasha Perpetual Calendar, belonging to the first series launched way back in 1985.
At this present moment, the Pasha does not appear in the Cartier catalogue, but we expect to see new iterations in the near future.
Translated by Patrick R.