The Cartier Baignoire Allongée Is Finally Getting Its Due
A crazy London Baignoire Allongée sells for $176,000
I love the idea of collecting certain eras of watches, or even of specific brands. Rolex from the 1950s at the peak of its “sports elegance”; or perhaps military watches from the 1940s. But the best era of all might be Cartier London from the 1960s. Cartier’s London workshop was brimming with creativity during the “Swinging Sixties.” Just outside its doors, London was the center of a fashion and cultural revolution as the world finally shook off its post-war malaise. There’s no mistaking that Cartier’s designers and watchmakers were impacted by what they saw around them every day. The sex, the drugs, The Beatles; the general debauchery of it all.
I’ve written about iconic Cartier London designs like the Crash and Pebble before, but now it’s time to highlight an often-overlooked model: The Baignoire Allongée.
While the Baignoire traces its roots to 1912, it wasn’t until 1957 that it became a more widely produced model. In the 1960s, those kooks at the Cartier London workshop stretched the Baignoire to its logical conclusion, producing the Baignoire Allongée — literally, “elongated bathtub” in French. If the original Baignoire’s shape was daring, the shape of the new Baignoire Allongée was downright audacious. It measures 52mm x 22mm, a long, slender bathtub that many of us could only dream of squeezing into our bathrooms.
While those aforementioned Pebbles and Crashes have been achieving six-digit auction results the past few years, the Baignoire Allongée hasn’t seen the same hype — and honestly, perhaps it’s best that way.
Sure, a beautiful — probably unique — example in white gold with a beautiful grey dial sold for $365k last fall, but the more subdued yellow gold Baignoire Allongée in that auction sold for just $33k. (Both were from Cartier London.)
Well, no longer.
On April 14, Bonhams sold a yellow gold Cartier London Baignoire Allongée for $176,775. It’s a huge result for the watch, which Bonhams had pegged at a $60-80k estimate. As Bonhams explained, the Baignoire Allongée was only ever produced by the London and New York workshops.
Of course, it’s just the latest result in a parade of record-breaking numbers for Cartier over the past few years. The results are a reflection of a renewed appreciation for Cartier’s watchmaking, in particular the peculiar shapes of its greatest creations. Ask Cartier and they’ll tell you the ethos of its family founders was to “never copy, only create.”
Cartier London’s creations from the 1960s embody not only this spirit, but the spirit of London — the whole world, really — at the time too. What I find most interesting about watches is how they interact with the culture around them; with Cartier London, there’s no questioning what was happening outside Cartier London’s doors in the 1960s.
Congrats to Bonhams on the great sale and to the buyer on picking up an icon.
Rescapement is a weekly newsletter about watches. To get it delivered to your inbox each week, subscribe now: