Every great masterpiece ever created has had a definitive point of inception. The moment inspiration strikes, the creative juices start flowing. Back in 1914, Louis Cartier commissioned a watercolour painting called Woman With A Panther by George Barbier, featuring the feline at the feet of an elegantly dressed woman. He loved it so much that, the same year, the Panthere was first spotted as a black and white onyx-and-diamond-pavé motif on a Cartier bracelet watch. This was the beginning of the legacy, as we know it today.
The century-old legacy of the panther cannot be told without the woman who made it all possible. Jeanne Toussaint was Louis Cartier’s long-time friend and muse, who later joined the Maison at around 1933 as the Director of the Fine Jewellery Department. The reign of the Panthere began under the impeccable vision and creative leadership of Toussaint. The entire three-dimensional Panthere first made its appearance in 1917, on an onyx atop a vanity case that Louis Cartier specially designed for her.
The inspiration for a full-bodied Panthere, imagined in emeralds and diamonds, first struck her when she spotted one on a safari with Louis Cartier. She was already the artistic director for Cartier by then, and soon after that epiphany, the big cat started prowling the house displays. Toussaint was fiercely opinionated and intelligent and was often seen wearing leopard-skin fur coats. Panther skins adorned her Paris apartment and she was aptly nicknamed by Mr Cartier as La Panthère. Many would consider this ignorant, obnoxious, and inhumane, which is true for the most part, but Toussaint did have a taste for class.
The Panthère de Cartier watch collection was initially launched in 1983, during the decade of decadence and was in production all the way through the early 2000s after which it was discontinued. The wildly exotic and mystical panther retained its appeal in the vintage markets even after its production was stopped. Bringing the iconic collection back was an instrumental move in carrying on the legacy.
La Panthère de Cartier watch could’ve been forgotten in the drawers of the story’s chest, yet, the Maison decided to bet on its past glory and successfully relaunched it in 2017. In honour of the line’s 100th anniversary, the new Panthère de Cartier collection featured more than 50 pieces of fine jewellery, and contemporary renditions of iconic watches, to capture the essence of the current times.
The revamped Panthère comes in two sizes, small and medium, measuring 22mm and 27mm in diameter, respectively. Both sizes offer the same signature square case with a screwed-down bezel and a linked brick-lay bracelet with a concealed folding clasp. They are powered by a quartz movement, just like the original ones.
The Panthère collection runs the gamut in yellow gold, rose gold, rose gold with diamond bezel, white gold with diamond bezel, white gold covered in diamonds, white gold covered in diamonds with black enamel panther specks, two-tone steel and yellow gold, plain steel, and a limited-edition rose gold with black lacquered links. It is available in a range of models starting from steel, to full gem-set high jewellery pieces.
A century is like an eternity in the world of fashion, but in the world of fine jewellery and watchmaking, the mystical panther of Cartier is the embodiment of power, elegance and above all, endurance. The allure of the classiest feline lives on and rests languidly, wrapped around our wrists.