The Baignoire was first conceived in 1912 when Louis Cartier — a grandson of Louis-François Cartier, who founded the French maison in 1847 — unveiled the house’s first oval-shaped timepiece. It wasn’t until 1958, however, that the design evolved into the signature rounded silhouette of today’s model.
Fifteen years later, the style was christened the Baignoire — not, as many believe, a reference to the French word for “bathtub,” but instead a nod to the VIP seats at the opera. Today, this model continues to command the market; once a favorite of actresses such as Romy Schneider and Jeanne Moreau, it now counts the likes of reality star Kendall Jenner and actress Catherine Deneuve among its champions.
“The Cartier Baignoire, in essence, is a timeless piece,” says Nicholas Hickey, managing director of pre-owned luxury watch retailer Luxe Watches. “Its unusual shape has been a solid model in the Cartier collection. It also closely resembles the Cartier Crash, one of Cartier’s most rare and sought-after timepieces.”
Last year, the house unveiled a reinterpreted Baignoire — part bangle, part timepiece — at the Watches and Wonders trade fair in Geneva. The mini Baignoire de Cartier in 18-karat yellow or rose gold has a current price tag of $11,800, while a rendition in full white gold with 552 brilliant-cut diamonds is available for $48,800.
As for vintage examples, “prices vary depending on whether the model is on a leather strap or full gold bracelet, diamond-set or not, the condition of the watch, and supporting documents,” says Hickey.
Special limited-edition pieces command a higher premium, as do rare one-of-a-kind designs. The latter are often commissions from VIP clients who have a significant purchase history with Cartier.
“The fact that Kendall Jenner was recently spotted wearing the [Baignoire] has helped the model trend, along with its competitive price point,” Hickey adds. “You can find a good-condition pre-owned model online for circa $8,000.”
And while the design has historically been and continues to be marketed as a ladies’ watch, it has attracted significant attention from a wide variety of collectors, men included.
“Collectors are starting to stray away from the larger-case models like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore and are considering smaller, more petite pieces,” Hickey explains. “Considering that the Cartier Crash can sell for [over] $200,000 on the secondary market, the Cartier Baignoire could be considered a more affordable alternative.”
Main image: Cartier Baignoire. (Cartier)
This article is from the January-February 2024 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.