This surrealist Cartier watch just sold for US$1.5 Million (S$2.1 million), breaking a world record

Cartier Crash auctioned

The 1967 London Crash is from the very first year the timepiece was produced

This watch may look like a circa 1930s Dalí painting, but its price is pure 2022.

A 1967 Cartier London Crash just sold for US$1.5 million (S$2.1 million), almost double its high estimate and a new world record. The 18-carat yellow-gold timepiece is one of the earliest editions to have come to auction, according to Loupe This, the relatively new online auction house that led the sale.

“The Crash has a reputation as a sought-after watch that isn’t released by Cartier very often,” Eric Ku, a co-founder of Loupe This, wrote about the watch. “With its mysterious origin story and extreme rarity, it has quickly become every Cartier connoisseur’s favourite timepiece to fawn over.”

Cartier Crash auctioned
Despite its shape, the Cartier London Crash sits comfortably on the wrist

That unconfirmed backstory includes tales of fiery car crashes and stroke-of-luck inspiration after a badly damaged watch arrived at Cartier’s London shop. However the London Crash came to be, it’s definitely a showstopper. Conceived as a Cartier Oval with “twisted ends,” the Crash showcases the jeweller’s iconic exploding black Roman numerals, off-white dial and blue steel hands. Inside, you’ll find a Calibre 841 manual-wind movement signed by Jaeger-LeCoultre.

The model was created by Jean-Jacques Cartier, the then-head of Cartier London, and the designer Rupert Emmerson in the mid-’60s. Cartier, the person, had decided that the London store should make its own watches, and the city’s editions of the Crash have now become some of the most coveted since the watch was first produced there.

Cartier Crash auctioned
A peek inside the watch

For the Crash, the two men took inspiration from the time period’s surrealist craze, and the timepiece recalls Dalí’s 1931 painting The Persistence of Memory.

The version of the London Crash that sold early this month has some slight wear but was described as being in excellent original condition, which likely contributed to its record-breaking selling price. The previous record was held by a 1970 Crash that hammered down for almost US$885,000 (S$1.2 million) at Sotheby’s Geneva last year.

For a watch whose starting bid was a mere US$50 (S$70), we’d say this ’67 London Crash hasn’t done too bad.

Loupe This

This story was first published on Robb Report USA