Cartier’s $600,000 Watch Shows Risks of Extending Luxury Brands

  • Watchmaker backtracks after push into technical timepieces
  • “Cartier wasn’t taken seriously enough” by connoiseurs

For over a century, Cartier has sold elegant, if simple, timepieces such as the Tank, which starts around $2,500 -- affordable by Swiss watch standards, and never confused with the level of technical finesse from brands like Patek Philippe.
Then a decade ago, Cartier sought to prove its own prowess, investing millions to build one of Switzerland’s largest watch factories and bringing in an industry veteran to head a fine watchmaking unit. The jeweler delved into the segment for connoisseurs known as “complicated pieces,” which sport analog mechanisms such as calendars that adjust for leap years and require painstaking hand craftsmanship. The effort culminated last year in the Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication Skeleton, a glass-backed confection priced at more than $600,000.

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