If Cartier’s Tank and Panthère watches are the main star of the house when it comes to timepieces, the Baignoire is a rebellious side performance. Not classic enough to reach the wrists of royals – Princess Diana wore a military-inspired boxy top while Kate, the new Princess of Wales, lives in a sportier Ballon Bleu – the quirky Baignoire, affectionately named for its bathtub shape, is a firm French favourite. Among your fans? Gallic doyennes Catherine Deneuve, Romy Schneider and Jeanne Moreau.
As fashion shifts its weight towards timeless pieces, Baignoire is enjoying a new wave of support from individuals who want caché Cartier, sans the predictability of, say, the Panther. Cheers to Tyler, the Creator—a famous auctioneer for rare Cartier chronographs like the psychedelic Crash and vintage Petit Cylindre—and now his friend Kendall Jenner, who was spotted with a Baignoire peeking out from the sleeve of her Bates Rave Flag Cafe Racer jacket for the weekend. Set against her other luxe wardrobe staples—including The Row boots, an Olsen bag, and Khaite’s Danielle jeans—the slim watch looked vibrant, intriguing, and expensive in keeping with the piece’s history.
Born in 1912, when it was somewhat revolutionary to shake up the tradition of watchmaking, Louis Cartier, grandson of Louis-François Cartier, designed a striking watch with an oval face and a horizontally rotating dial, which he presented to a top Russian client, Grand Duchess Pavlovna. It wasn’t until 1957 that the Baignoire – French for those decadent bathtub shapes of the time – was released as Cartier’s new signature in a multitude of metals and sizes – some with 70 diamonds scattered around the band.
Fast forward to the 70s, the jeweler stretched the design even further for the novel Baignoire Allongée in keeping with the swinging style of the decade. His long and winding journey culminated in the rumor that, according to VogueRachel Garrahan, “The Cartier Crash, a surrealist masterpiece and perhaps the most sought-after of all Cartier watch designs (Jay-Z wears one, and a 1967 model sold for a record $1.5 million at Sotheby’s last year) was actually , originally inspired by the client’s Baignoire Allongée that had been killed in a car accident.” We’ll leave that to the horolophiles to debate.
As interesting as this witty fashion accessory is, it shows how Cartier can adapt and pick up new followers, like Kendall, who is trying to carve her own way in the crowd of It-girls who they cycle through trends like there’s no tomorrow. Baignoire, with its playful history (watch fanatics are currently obsessed with the ’60s and ’70s), is an instant conversation starter—something worth its weight in gold in an industry that capitalizes on the herd’s instinct to buy heroic pieces. Jenner’s turn for French shows it’s time to change things up.