Getting To Know: George Cramer
An interview with George Cramer, a Cartier enthusiast
It is a great honour to have George Cramer as the premier guest of my “Getting To Know” interview series. For many Cartier enthusiasts, such as myself, Cramer is undeniably a huge source of inspiration. The countless tantalising images of Cartier’s finest creations on his Instagram page (@george.cramer) are heavily responsible for my sudden surge of interest in the brand a few years ago. I personally know of many who are huge fans of his discerning tastes as well. I hope that this series of questions will let you have a greater insight into the passion and thoughts of this exceedingly knowledgeable gentleman. As passion is infectious, I also hope that his words will spur in you some interest for the French Maison, as it did for me.
Q: When and how did you start collecting watches?
When I was about 30 years old, I bought for myself a first “serious watch”, and that was the all-steel Santos. I was amazed by its square shape and the myriad of screws that can be seen adorned on the entirety of the watch case and bracelet. It was definitely a very unconventional but appealing aesthetic for its time. Before that, I was actually wearing digital watches though they didn’t actually interest me that much.
Q: Your Instagram is a great source of inspiration for many Cartier watch collectors. What was the inspiration for you instead when you first started to collect Cartier timepieces?
Everybody started off being inspired by a particular thing. For me, it was history that grabbed me. When I first bought the Santos, I learnt from my dealer that it was inspired by the original Santos Dumont model from 1904. It struck me as particularly interesting and from there, the addiction and passion slowly build.
Q: Which Cartier watch would you recommend for first-time buyers?
That depends a bit on the age and the budget of the buyer. If it is a younger person who is looking for a daily beater, I would certainly recommend the Santos as it is so versatile and can be worn with anything and on any occasion. If the buyer is more mature and already owns some sports watches, a Tank Louis Cartier could be the excellent addition to class things up a notch.
Q: If you were to bring back a classic Cartier shape that has not been released for a while, what would it be and how would you like it to look?
For the mainstream collection, I would love to see another watch on bracelet - one that is dressier than the Pasha or Santos. One that I can think of right now is the delightful Cartier Ceinture but in a larger case and affixed with a bracelet. Another amazing revival that they can do would be a Tank Basculante, as it has been two decades since we’ve last seen one. I bet both would look very refined when worn with a Cartier bracelet that is styled like the one of the Panthère de Cartier.
Q: What do you think makes a watch interesting?
Many people view watches as a piece of jewellery or accessory that complement their personality. While that certainly counts for me, I find the most important and interesting factor to be how brands figure out how to make readability coexist with design. Since I never use my iPhone to check the time, my watch has to show exactly how much time I have for my next train or appointment. While doing so, it has to look its absolute best. Hence, appearance and design elements have to be appealing, such as the manner in which the hands of a watch contrast with the dial.
Q: Which of your watches do you wear most often these days?
That depends on the season. During summer, I wear the Santos Galbee XL and the Panthère (large vintage model) most of the time. In winter, I often wear a Ballon Bleu on leather or the Tonneau. Though I have to be fair, Cartier is not the only brand I like to wear.
Q: I have your book, “The Gentleman’s Files”, and it’s an amazing book with tons of incredible pictures. What was your greatest challenge when writing it?
Thanks so much! The greatest challenge was deciding on where to begin and when to finish it. I tried to make a book about Cartier watches that has not existed before. This means just men's watches without much on history, celebrity pictures and jewellery since most books on the market have already covered that very well. But whenever I thought that I have completed the book, I got informed about new upcoming models which made me want to wait another few months to see the pieces and photograph them for the book. This process kept continuing and in the end, the total production time of the book was 7 years.
Q: In your opinion, what has Cartier done right in recent years?
One of the best decisions of Mr Cyrille Vigneron (current CEO of Cartier) was to bring back more historic designs and reducing the cases of the watches to more wearable and elegant sizes. We see this in the Cartier Privé collection where icons such as the Tank Cintrée, Tank Asymétrique, Tonneau and most recently, the Cloche de Cartier, have made incredible comebacks with superb modern interpretations.
Q: What do you think Cartier should do in the coming years?
Many Cartier watches like the Pebble, the Tortue Monopoussoir and the Santos Dumont 90th Anniversary have recently fetched astronomical prices at auctions. The hype does not seem to be slowing down on them either as prices continue to climb, even for models such as the Tank Basculante and the Tank Chinoise (both of which are also becoming very desirable). I see it as Cartier’s responsibility to protect these extraordinary timepieces that have made La Maison where it is today. Hence, they should not re-release such watches with close resemblances and in high quantities as that would kill the market value of its predecessors.
I would like to once again sincerely thank Mr. Cramer for taking his time for this mini interview. All pictures featured in this article can be found on his Instagram page (@george.cramer).