Cartier Ronde Louis Cartier Regard de Panthère: Titillating Tessellations
Seeing is believing, as the saying goes, and nowhere is this more true than with art.
Okay, claims of magic, ghosts, and miracles probably need to be seen to be believed. Still, aside from fanciful tales of the supernatural, the impact of art is often lost when not viewed in the original form or intended context.
Pieces like Pablo Picasso’s La Guernica, Jackson Pollock’s Mural, Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (formerly Woman In Gold), and the stunning La Pietà sculpture by Michelangelo, are artworks that have to be experienced in person to fully grasp the power and emotion inherent to them.
I’ve been lucky enough to view La Pietà in the Vatican. I have yet to lay eyes on my other examples, yet I know that to be in their presence would be dramatically different than experiencing them in any other format.
In many cases, art isn’t just the image but the medium, the context, and the physical act of beholding the works at scale. The way that light plays off the paint, or the marble, the glow that can come from perfectly selected hues, or the sheer presence on a large wall or surrounded by other magnificent pieces of art . . . these factors play such an essential role in imbuing works of art with an emotional resonance that cannot be captured on a page or screen.
I think this is why many discount art: because most of us are exposed to the greatest masterpieces of the last millennia on the page of a book or a low-resolution JPEG on a computer monitor. This is clearly not how Michelangelo expected La Pietà to be viewed, or how Pollock imagined his largest works being absorbed by the art lover. They are meant to be experienced up close, viewed first-hand and without the filter of another medium.
The same can be true with watches. While there are pieces that look wonderful in a press photo but lifeless in the real world, there are also watches that simply photograph poorly so that their true effect can only be experienced on the wrist and in the metal.
A great example of this is the Cartier Ronde Louis Cartier Regard de Panthère, a stunning mosaic watch that must be seen and handled personally for the full effect. Often jewelry pieces can look stunning on the screen, but I feel this piece is not best represented in digital pixels and is perfectly suited for a real-life experience.
Regard de Panthère
The Cartier Ronde Louis Cartier Regard de Panthère is a watch that debuted among a treasure trove of pieces at the 2019 edition of the SIHH, and since it was only one of many (very many) it was easy to get lost in the crowd. Cartier always has amazing new releases, and that some get more coverage than others is no surprise. But I think this one got underrepresented for one reason: the photographs don’t do it justice.
Whenever I cover a piece I look to see how it has been represented online, what the opinions have been, and just how well it has been received. And it appears this watch hasn’t been given much love other than a few rewordings of press releases and initial impressions. Analysis has been pretty much absent (and I searched for English, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Dutch, and Swedish articles to cover my bases).
So I want to lift the limited edition Regard de Panthère out of the wash of a now not-so-busy fair season (with another year to wait for the 2021 fair season) and talk about how beauty can be hard to translate out of the first-person experience and relate it to this incredible piece.
The Regard de Panthère in brief: it is a tessellated mosaic of mother of pearl, gold, brilliant-cut diamonds, and numerous hand-painted squares, all topped by black-painted details of the panther’s face, with a pair of glowing eyes in Super-LumiNova.
The squares do not provide a smooth image of the panther, instead they are like a pixelated low-resolution image mashed together with a high-resolution painting, providing a dazzling vibrancy to the image that keeps your eyes moving in and out as the sparkle and shine crosses the delicate shading of the panther.
Geometry-nerd side note: Tessellation is an arrangement of shapes closely fitted together, especially of polygons in a repeated pattern without gaps or overlapping. The simplest form is a square grid, with the most complicated tessellations being best described with math equations and moving into multiple dimensions. A honeycomb is an example of a hexagon tessellation found in nature.
The bezel surrounds the dial with another 43 brilliant-cut diamonds set into yellow gold, a bold metal choice that helps set off the hues in the dial. Aside from another diamond set in the crown, that is pretty much the totality of the Regard de Panthère. Of course, like most art, the general description does not convey everything the watch has to offer.
Separate they combine as one
The tessellated image is at the heart of why this design is so successful. Traditional wood marquetry or even stone mosaic dials are already very interesting, but when they flow into the image, shaping wood or stone to mimic the shapes of the intended subject, the emotion is related to how well the materials conform. The scene goes where one might expect.
Now this isn’t a bad thing, and that craft is so incredibly difficult that it stands on its own for many other reasons.
But the tessellated image using larger squares with randomly interspersed mother-of-pearl, gold, and diamond “pixels” disconnects the materials from the intended image. It shows the contrast of painted images, natural materials, and pure geometry and seeks to let them coarsely combine to form something new.
The individual squares are made up of portions painted to follow the literal image of the panther directly next to sections painted solid colors or inserted with the natural mother-of-pearl. And next to these are more sections with sparkling diamonds and silver or gold squares.
The squares with solid colors aren’t necessarily at a similar intensity or value as the panther painting keeping the image from feeling too coherent. This is accentuated even more by the panther’s spots applied over top, cutting across squares and disconnecting related portions of the intended subject from the reality of the image.
And there’s more: under very low lighting conditions, the Super-LumiNova in the eyes and the diamonds on the dial and around the bezel will catch the light and provide highlights that are also disconnected from where one might expect the highlights to appear in a typical painting.
Combined with the stark contrast of some adjoining squares that are dramatically different in color, intensity, or value than their neighbors, the image strains to hold itself together when viewed too closely. It could be said to be related to pointillism in that the whole image coalesces into an understandable picture when viewed at a distance.
This relationship to a watch dial means that when viewing very closely on your wrist, it always retains the disconnection of the tessellation and allows for a viewing experience that excites your brain as it tries to make sense of what it is seeing.
This is why pieces from Picasso, Pollock, or Klimt have the effect they do: it isn’t a smooth, clearly understood image. The dissection of shapes and how bodies relate to each other keep your synapses firing as your feeble brain matter attempts to filter out the imperfections, but it can’t because they were put there on purpose.
The Regard de Panthère borders an optical illusion, with much of the image unrelated to the painting of a panther. It is this precise variety that makes viewing it a unique experience, and why seeing it on the screen or in images takes so much away. The interplay of light, the glow that comes from the diamonds and the luminous eyes, these play against the image of the panther to draw you in as you attempt to comprehend.
Beholding a piece like this will always be different than seeing an image of it; it just cannot create the same experience. I find this to be true quite often with artistic crafts on watches: some photograph well, others may not, but all of them, practically universally, will be much more breathtaking in person. The Cartier Ronde Louis Cartier Regard de Panthère is not exception.
As a bonus to watch aficionados, it even has an automatic movement, the solid Caliber 1847 MC, instead of going the easy route with a quartz movement inside. This can’t often be said about many artistic craft pieces from major brands, simply due to the market for such pieces.
But truly, the point of this watch is the experience of that dial and the synaptic excitement that it delivers when seen in person.
The Cartier Ronde Louis Cartier Regard de Panthère was a surprising highlight of SIHH 2019 for me from Cartier, and I am glad to share it with you. As it is a limited edition of 30 pieces and, as I’ve repeated, deserves to be seen rather than read about online, I do urge you to keep an eye out for one, or see if your local retailer happens to have one to experience (if they aren’t all sold out already).
I believe you will understand when you get to handle it just how curiously interesting the dial is and how very cool a tessellated image like this can be. Cartier really knows how to reimagine its iconic panther in ever more ravishing ways.
The image is already broken up, so let’s break the watch down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.3 This is a piece that is truly all about the wowza factor, and it becomes obvious when seen in person!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 77» 755.112m/s2 The force holding you in your chair is directly proportional to how hard your brain is working to keep the image in focus!
- M.G.R. * 51 A very solid movement from a great company, showing that Cartier can build a workhorse to reduce its dependence on ETA!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A The added function is an optical brain teaser as you take a discordant set of pixels and make them into a stunning creature! As such you can skip the Gotta-HAVE-That cream this time around.
- Ouch Outline * 7.9 Touching your fingers with a soldering iron! When you are trying to solder very tiny contacts on individual LEDs and you are in a hurry, it is very possible that at some point you will touch bare skin. And ooh wee that smarts! But I’d happily get little first- and second-degree burns on my fingers if I was able to get the Regard de Panthère on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * You seriously have to see it to believe it! The whole point of a piece like this is actually getting to see it. Once that happens it only makes sense that you’d be head over heels in no time!
- Awesome Total * 780 First multiply the number of pieces in the limited edition (30) by the hours of power reserve (40), and subtract the result from the movement number (1847), then add the number of diamonds mounted to the watch (133) for a dazzlingly tessellated awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.cartier.com/en-us/collections/watches/exceptional-creations/exceptional-panthère- watches.
Quick Facts Cartier Ronde Louis Cartier Regard de Panthère
Case: 36 x 9.1 mm, yellow gold set with 43 brilliant-cut diamonds, diamond cabochon in crown
Dial: painted mother-of-pearl marquetry with 90 brilliant-cut diamonds (1.81 ct total for all 133)
Movement: automatic manufacture Caliber 1847 MC, 40-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 30 pieces
Price: upon request