Watches

The Legend of the Pasha de Cartier Is Murky, Mysterious, and, Honestly, Half the Fun

Here's a closer look at a watch with one hell of a tale to tell.
IMAGE MARK CLENNON
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The Pasha de Cartier is, as the story goes, named for the Pasha of Marrakech, who commissioned the timepiece from the French brand in 1933. He wanted something waterproof—Rolex’s Oyster, the world’s first waterproof watch, had debuted just a few years before—that could stand up to his penchant for active sport. Thus a modern icon was born. Just one thing about that story: It’s not true.

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The Pasha, back in the ’80s.

Photo by Cartier.
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Why the confusion? Record keeping and self-mythologizing, mostly. When its namesake fell from power, the original Pasha watch supposedly disappeared. In 1943, a Cartier special order featured a watch with a rounded case and a steel cage to protect the glass. And 42 years later, in 1985, a watch bearing a striking resemblance to that timepiece—brought to life by Gérald Genta, the legendary watch designer behind heavy hitters like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus—hit the market. Its name? The Pasha de Cartier. How the name became associated with the special order and not the rectangular 1933 one-off is debatable. What seems certain is that in 1985, in order to take a bold step away from classic Cartier shapes, the maison leaned on the rounded—and, frankly, more interesting—1943 model.

Pasha de Cartier Watch

Photo by Cartier.
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A Cartier Watch Is a Very Worthy Addition to Your Collection

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But none of that historical murk really matters in the end. In 1985, the Pasha de Cartier created its own instant myth, oozing solid-gold charm but with a sporty edge not until then synonymous with Cartier. It was a huge hit for the brand with fans who liked both its scale (38mm was big for Cartier) and its unusual good looks. Takes on the Pasha proliferated for 25 years until it slipped from production in 2010. Now, however, like a lot of things from the ’80s, the Pasha is back, this time in two sizes, a 41mm in steel or yellow gold and a 35mm in steel or pink gold. With the benefit of a little time—and a damn compelling story, true or not—the Pasha could well be a hit again.

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This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Nick Sullivan
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