The Rising Star of Cartier

The Rising Star of Cartier

How New Affects Vintage

With a focus on the pre-owned market, it can be easy for a watch auction specialist to lose sight of the current market. Here, Head of Watches Sarah Fergusson shares the importance of always keeping an eye on new releases.

Working in the pre-owned auction world, it can be easy to become isolated from the current watch industry; after all, a specialist can go months without seeing a ‘new’ watch. In itself, this can be a good thing, as many specialists embark on their careers with a deep passion for vintage timepieces and interesting backstories. The risk, though, is simply not being aware of new releases at all as you are so focused on the watches you deal with on any given day.

You may wonder why an auction specialist should need to keep abreast of current releases when most of the watches we see are around 30 years old or more. There are two significant answers. If at the age of 20, you become knowledgeable in vintage pieces that are 30 plus years old, by the time you are well into your career, you won’t recognise the watches released new when you started out. New will always become old after all. (Is it scary that we call 30-year-old watches ‘vintage’ in this game?)

The other issue with ignoring the new in favour of the old is the risk of not knowing your market. The items we sell at auction may mostly be vintage or antique but the buyers are very current. That is not to say that all buyers are younger or chasing the latest trend, but buyers, no matter their demographic, are subject to following fashions to an extent. The fashions in the world of new watches do have an effect on the desirability of auction lots.


Cartier at Auction


Cartier is a brand synonymous with current and past luxury watch design. Easy and comfortable to wear, their watches are mostly referred to as design classics, with many having been created years ago and enjoying periodical updates. However, within the watch community, there has been a slight dismissal for the technical prowess of past Cartier watches. The assumption seems to be that, with their jewellery creation and design history, the focus may have been less on the mechanical movements of the watch and more on the aesthetic.

There has, however, been a shift in this opinion in the last five years, as Cartier has focussed more and more on creating watches with the internal clout to match the external beauty. As a result, the watch community seems to be casting aside their derision for those Cartier watches that feature quartz (battery-powered) movements. Presently, Cartier watches receive huge attention upon their release, with running positive commentary on both design and substance. Increased praise from watch aficionados will always result in an increase in price as Cartier's star continues to rise even after 176 years of success.

So how has this shift in Cartier’s current watch output affected the auction world? Over the past year or so, we have seen a significant increase in hammer price for Cartier watches of all ages. Bidders come from a variety of backgrounds; some are long-time watch buyers and many are Cartier jewellery fans. Some are perhaps priced out of buying a new watch and turn to an auction as a more affordable alternative. Others are purposefully seeking vintage examples of new watches they have seen advertised, in popular culture or even on wrists; what is cooler than having an ‘original’ after all?


Lot 122 | Cartier: A Gold Wristwatch | Panthère model 1060 2 | £5,000 - £8,000 + fees


View Lot 122 ⇒



In the Select Watches auction taking place on Wednesday 29 March, Lyon & Turnbull presents two Cartier Panthère wristwatches. One in stainless steel estimated at £700-£1,000 and the other in 18ct gold with a guide of £5,000-£7,000. The Panthère is an interesting model, and in some ways represents the evolution of the brand. The watch was first released in the early 1980s and it was, from the start, a quartz-only model. At the time, this may have largely meant it was considered to be ‘jewellery’ by watch connoisseurs. Now the market for quartz is wider – and the auction prices match. Over the last 5 years or so, it is possible to say that results for Cartier watches in general have seen an increase of around 20% or thereabouts.  

This year, Cartier has yet to release an updated Panthère model. They have, however, released a new version of their coveted Tank model which is described as ‘sportier’ by some commentators. This new release will of course lead to a surge in popularity for the Tank (in all its versions) at auction, and potentially Cartier watches in general.


Lot 139 | Cartier: A Stainless Steel Wristwatch | Panthère model 1310 | £700 - £1,000 + fees


View Lot 139 ⇒


As a watch auction specialist, it is our job to know what is put in front of us, to recognise a brand, a model, an era, and ultimately to put those factors together (with a few more) and come up with a current auction value for a watch. It is also our job to know how this value has changed and to keep our pricing, and commentary relevant; relevant to the auction world, but also relevant to the wider world of new watches, current trends, and ultimately current popular culture. If you have a Cartier watch to sell, now is the time. If you are looking for one, no wonder. Cartier's star hasn't stopped rising yet.



Auction Information



Wednesday 29 March at 10am

Edinburgh | Live Online 


View the catalogue ⇒





Lyon & Turnbull’s Watch Auctions department is a dynamic one with significant expertise, hosting diverse watch auctions across the U.K. featuring fine, rare, modern and vintage timepieces. Highlights from recent auctions include a rare Rolex Daytona 6263 that sold for £62,500 in October 2021 and an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak that achieved £106,250 (incl premium).


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Sarah Fergusson



0141 333 1992



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