Sotheby's beat the legendary Cartier Cheich that belonged to Mr. Gaston Rahier for over 1 million euros, awarded him as the winner of two consecutive Paris-Dakar.
The Cartier Cheich has always been a watch wrapped in an aura of charm and mystery. It is a timepiece object of the forbidden dreams of the collectors of the Cartier maison .. and looking at it you can understand why. The idea of taking the Dakar emblem was brilliant and certainly iconic. Furthermore, the specimen sold at Sotheby's could be the last to appear on the market.
The current Dakar was created by Frenchman Thierry Sabine. Its first edition took place in 1979. The names of the competition's departure and arrival cities, Paris and Dakar, would become known in the four corners of the world as the largest and most difficult off-road race ever created by man.
The official name of the race was Paris-Alger-Dakar Rally. Algiers is the capital of Algeria, port of arrival of the caravan in Africa in those editions. During the first 10 years the route always passed through these cities, but the name “Paris-Dakar” became very well known, most of the time it was not even mentioned rally.
In 1983, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Paris-Dakar, Mr. Alain Dominique Perrin of Cartier and Mr. Thierry Sabin, founder of the race, created the Cartier Challenge. To win it, you had to win the Paris - Dakar twice in a row in your category: motorbike, car or truck. The trophy had to reflect the spirit of the rally.
Alain Dominique Perrin worked with Jacques Diltoer, Cartier creative director, inventing the Cartier Cheich, directly inspired by the Paris-Dakar logo.
It is very interesting to note that Cartier has not created one but two trophies: one for men and one for women. Each of them was unique. While the two pieces were made in the famous Trois ors, the women's version had a smaller size and was set with diamonds. Since the winners of the 1983 edition did not win again in 1984, the competition for the Challenge was still open.
Gaston Rahier he won in 1984 and 1985 with his BMW motorcycle, thus winning the Cartier Challenge in his category. Although there has been some discussion that French motorcyclist Hubert Auriol could have won the Cartier challenge as well, it seems that this is not possible as, according to the rules of the challenge, there may only be one winner per category. Furthermore, Auriol won in 1981 and 1983, not twice in a row and one case was when the challenge had not yet begun.
In 1986, Mr. Thierry Sabine lost his life, victim of a helicopter crash during the Paris-Dakar. The challenge was stopped the following year. Since then no one else has won the race twice in a row in his category. This tragically explains why only one watch was ever given out as a trophy. The female version of the Cartier Chiech has never been awarded and is part of the Cartier Collection.
With four watches produced, two belonging to Cartier, one lost and one donated to Gaston Rahier (the one put up for auction at Sotheby's) it is the only example of the Cartier Cheich to appear on the market. Furthermore, this unique piece is the only one that deeply embodies the values of the Paris-Dakar, as it is the only one to have been destined for a winner of the Cartier Challenge.
The Cartier Cheich has such a radical and elegant shape that it is comparable only to another Cartier masterpiece, the Crash.
THE CARTIER CHEICH
The aura and charisma of the Cartier Chiech has very few precedents in the history of watchmaking.
The idea of taking the Dakar emblem was brilliant and immediately iconic. The watch as a trophy could not embody the race more explicitly. The Cartier Cheich, however, the watch itself symbolizes the trophy and the race in the most significant way. He embodies it to such an extent that the back of the Cartier Cheich bears no special engraving.
Interestingly, "Cheich" is called "Tagelmust" by the Berber people. A name with a very familiar consonance for Cartier, especially in the mid-80s, when the Must collection was very popular. Mr. Perrin, Mr. Diltoer and Mr. Sabine pushed the barriers and, like the Paris Dakar itself, created something unique and revolutionary.
Creating a new piece with a new design for just one occasion is too much work and too expensive for any company. On this aspect, this association with Cartier has played a fundamental role.
Indeed, the Maison boasts some of the finest craftsmen and unparalleled experience in creating bespoke pieces. This savoir faire was the key to creating what can be considered the ultimate trophy watch. The watch does not look like any other piece created by any brand.
Cartier has produced some of the finest pieces paying homage to designs from various cultures, particularly visible through Cartier's watch production. Cheich continues this tradition in the less explored field of wristwatches. While some Cartier objects have been influenced by East North Africa, such as Egyptian design, the Cheich is the only piece inspired by the Tuareg culture.
The construction of the house is very unusual, but it showcases all the craftsmanship of Cartier craftsmen. The unique shape of the watch could not allow the use of the usual bars screwed through the lugs and fastening the strap. Instead, the back of the main case is sculpted and features two vertical tubes.
The famous "Trois Ors" or "Trinity" was first introduced in 1924 by Louis Cartier. It was conceived to symbolize Love, Friendship and Fidelity. Under the era of Mr. Perrin, the Trois ors gained enormous popularity and became one of the emblems of the Maison. Although the difference between each color is subtle and even, it adds further contrast and depth to the watch.
The strap has two holes to go around the tubes. A triangular piece of gold is applied to each side of the case on the top of the strap to maintain it. Two screws on each side of the case go through the triangular pieces and tubes to press and secure the strap.
The watch face contrasts with the innovative case design. The internal shape of the case follows, forming a sort of heraldic coat of arms. Its center is decorated in the classic and timeless Cartier Paris style: the rectangular track with Roman baton and indexes and the two blued steel hands.
The clever choice of a traditional Cartier Paris dial combined with a radical case design was the key to creating what can be considered a masterpiece of watchmaking and design.