Watches are not unusual prizes for race winners. For over 30 years, Rolex has given winners of The 24 Hours of Daytona the watch named after the course. Winners of the Indy 500 have a special edition Tag Heuer waiting for them after the checkered flag. Those are the watches though typically marked with a logo, and not much else. Cartier took much more dramatic inspiration from the Paris-Dakar insignia.
Rather than engrave any branding on the case, Cartier turned the entire watch into the logo of the race: a person wearing a cheich (the cloth wrapped around the head to protect against sun and sand). Fitting for Cartier – which is known for its distinctive models and of late, auction houses such as crashed and Rolling Stone– the watch is unlike anything else out there. Cheich has all the layers and folds in the headdress made of a combination of white, yellow and rose gold. If the Crash is loved for its fluid, sticky form, the Cheich seems to dial up to 100. The detailed folds look as if they might suddenly start billowing in the wind. The watch has what collectors call “wrist presence” out the wazoo.
This piece is estimated to sell somewhere in the €200,000 to €400,000 range this fall, but auction houses typically understate the true value of a watch to generate interest. And while the watch’s atypical shape helps get the bidding going, its rarity will also play a big role here. There are only four Cheich watches in existence. One of them – rumored to have been assigned to Hubert Auriol in the early 80s and now considered lost – is more myth than reality at this point. The other two belong to Cartier, who intends to keep them permanently in his collection. Watch up for auction, which comes directly from Rahier’s estate, is being touted as the only one an aspiring collector will ever have the chance to own.