“I mentioned the fact that, from my point of view, the most fascinating and bizarre and incredibly innovative case ever made by Cartier is the Cheich, which was something that was so elusive and so rare that I actually had never had the opportunity of seeing one in the flesh.” His friend was a good one: he offered to try and arrange a time for him to see the piece.
Unlike the ones that came before it, this Cheich is made entirely out of white gold. According to Zenga, it was made in 2010 for the famous collector Giorgio Seragnoli, who exclusively collected white-gold pieces—from Patek Philippe, but mostly from Cartier. However, by the time Cartier was ready to ship Seragnoli the watch, he had gone bankrupt and wasn’t able to collect. Zenga said he bought the watch directly from Cartier after he spent a month ringing them up multiple times a day to inquire after it.
When the yellow-gold Cheich first came up for auction last year, I called it one of the coolest watches in existence. Ku, who says he wears it often, calls the piece “wearable art. It’s like a little sculpture on your wrist.” (Zegna used the exact same terms to describe the piece.) I usually blanch at that description but it’s hard to argue with here. The meticulously layered case is, as Zegna describes it, “almost liquid.”
Outside of the obvious difference in golds, the key difference between this new watch and the original is what’s inside. Ku’s features a mechanical movement, while this one is powered by quartz. “It’s always exciting seeing previously unknown things come to the market,” Ku said over the phone Wednesday.
The Cheich is everything that I love about Cartier watches. A completely unique design-driven piece that no other watch company would even dream of. Plenty of other brands cook up watches to award race winners—they’re all standard models with special engravings on the back. The Cheich is everything that’s great about the beloved Crash—a distinctive design that’s seemingly in motion—but even stranger and infinitely more rare.
This particular watch stands out even more because of its white-gold case. The material was of special import to the Italian Zegna. “Italians have collected white metal watches for a long time,” Zegna said. “We obsess about white gold and platinum watches, when the rest of the world wanted everyone to know that theirs was in yellow gold.”
When Zenga first took possession of this watch he wasn’t sure he was going to sell it, but now is dedicated to finding it a good and loving home (and presumably one with a lot of cash in the bank). Since posting it Wednesday morning Zegna said he’s gotten plenty of interest already. Once the interest is consummated, this watch will likely return to the shadows. Hopefully, wild and unique pieces will continue to re-emerge. Until then, make sure to tell your dinner dates about the legendary watches you’d like to come across. Manifestation works.