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The Style Section The Panthère De Cartier Goes Back To Its Roots With A New Large Model

They shrank the Tank and now they've supersized the Panthère. Is Cartier on a mission to make everything for everybody?


The Panthère de Cartier is a watch that has the women of New York City swooning in droves – at least the women I know (and their girlfriends and sisters and co-workers twice removed cousins). It's the popular choice among a certain set of ladies in the city. In 2021, the founder of Dimepiece, Brynn Wallner, christened the Panthère the ultimate "it girl" watch in an article for Harper's Bazaar. It was titled "Why Are All the It Girls Obsessed With This Watch?" Which got me to thinking: How is this ubiquitous watch still an emblem of cool to so many New York City women?

Whether you pay absolutely no mind to celebrity culture and need a full definition (or maybe even just a 2024 refresher) of the term "it-girl," or whether you're currently living on a cultural diet of TikTok, nicotine vapes and Alaia flats (who, me?!) and could have basically written last year's widely circulated New York Mag article on the subject, you know that the Panthère de Cartier exists as a leading staple in the pantheon of women's watch design. It doesn't quite have the cultural cachet of a Tank, but you still recognize it as an important piece of watch design history, lusted after by many. 

Panthere watch

From old pictures of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow wearing the watch to current day paparazzi snaps of Zendaya (who is a Bulgari ambassador for the record) and Dua Lipa, there has always been a buzz around the Panthère. Originally created in 1983 and marketed towards a glamorous 1980s clientele, it was available in mini, small, medium, and large sizes, in two-tone and yellow-gold options (with a steel model introduced in 1991). The Panthère disappeared sometime in 2004, leaving a hole in Cartier's lineup – until 2017, when it was re-released in mini, small, and medium in almost identical specs to the original.

Panthere watch ads

A collection of vintage Panthère ads. Courtesy of Ad Patina

This fall the maison will reintroduce the LM (large model) back into the Panthère de Cartier family in yellow gold, stainless steel, and stainless steel with gold. The dimensions have increased incrementally over the years: in 1983 the first LM measured 36x27mm; in 1985 for the relaunch of the LM it was slightly inflated to 40x29mm (the '83 LM model became the new Medium model size); today she sits at 42x31mm, which feels mildly mammoth in proportion for a square watch from Cartier. At least it seems big for a Panthère.

Despite my propensity for aggressively honest takes, when I first saw the LM I simply understood that it was one of those things I would just have to learn to get used to. It's not that I was offended by the size, it just felt unfamiliar. Like seeing a close friend without their glasses for the first time, it takes a slight mental recalibration before you forget they were ever there in the first place.

Panthere watch
Panthere watch on MC wrist

So how did the Panthère become the "it girl" watch? Well, celebrity association is the number one factor. But Cartier is the undefeated champion of making watches that are recognizable and, for the most part, accessible. Furthermore, the brand remains undefeated in the jewelry category when it comes to making what's known as "core collections." These are entry-level pieces, such as Love bracelets and Juste un Clou rings that are easily identifiable as Cartier. They have become little symbols of the maison that pop up constantly on strangers signaling entry into some sort of girl-club. All are welcome if adorned in the right jewels. It's a clever way of creating loyal consumers from an early age and a very clever way to make customers who can't necessarily afford more ornate pieces feel like they too can belong to the tribe. It works the same way with the Panthère de Cartier. Though the "it girls" du jour are usually spotted sauntering around in a yellow-gold model, Cartier has made it possible for everybody to get a slice of the "it girl" action with the far more affordable stainless-steel models.

But surely inflating the size of the Panthère negates the very thing that made it attractive to "it girls" in the first place? It's a nonchalant accessory – slinky and feline, usually worn loose and/or stacked. It's a bracelet with a watch attached – the perfect watch-jewelry hybrid. Outside of the very insular niche watch-collecting universe, where Cartier London and Privé reign supreme, it's the Panthère that anchors Cartier as the real jewelry-watch hybrid brand for the masses. A precursor to the Baignoire bangle, which is, put simply, a "bracelet with a watch." Or perhaps both the Panthère and Bangle are an extension of this half bracelet, half watch idea that Cartier has been flirting with for the better part of a century.

Panthere watch

If you're a little bit more nuanced fashion-wise, then you'll go for the supersized Juste un Clou bracelet that's thicker and heavier and less "basic," or the love bracelet hoop earrings, which kind of turn the whole idea on its head. You're choosing the slightly less expected because you're also in the club – you just need to remind us that you're also maybe a little cooler than the average member. Perhaps the larger sized Panthère fits into this subsection?

Today (or at least for this short paragraph), I shall make a concerted effort to judge the Panthère based on its design merits rather than its ubiquity. Let's picture, for one brief moment, the Panthère outside of the "it girl" watch pantheon. If you silence the noise, this watch stands as a solid watch-jewelry hybrid contender. The bracelet is elegant and perfectly limber, and reminds me of the brick-like links on vintage watches from the 1940s. Unlike its born-in-the-90s-and-therefore-slightly-more-androgynous-looking cousin, the Tank Française, which feels angular and industrial, it has held onto its status at the top of the "ladies' watch" hierarchy.

"While it feels fairly entry-level, it actually has a little more sensuality than your standard Tank Française," explains Hodinkee Alum Cara Barrett. "I like the Panthère because it's a little bit slinky, a little bit Santos, and it's not a Tank." But it has to be said that the gold version of this watch has almost nothing to do with the steel. Barrett agrees with me and admits to only liking it in yellow gold. And as much as I want to advocate for a lower priced option, if you want full-effect-1980s-glamour Panthère, you want yellow gold, or at least two-tone.

Panthere ads 1980s

A collection of vintage Panthère ads. Courtesy of Ad Patina

Is a jumbo-sized Panthère a curious contradiction? Can you be feline and elegant with supersized specs? The Panthère has the mythical quality bestowed upon Cartier designs that mean, regardless of size, they are never really dismissed as just "ladies watches," which is likely even more true for the Panthère because it has always been unisex. Back in the '80s it was spotted on the wrists of "it boys" Pierce Brosnan and Keith Richards. What should be noted about supersizing a Panthère is Cartier's intention to broaden its appeal. Much like the shrinking of a Tank LC to mini size, they are making everything for everybody. Their sheer popularity warrants this approach as feasible. Despite the fact many onlookers seem to be growing tired of the "all watches should be unisex argument," jewelry and adornment are deeply reflective of cultural mores. The question of size and fluidity exists on a much larger scale in the fashion industry; we are simply seeing a trickle down effect. And to be blunt, this is exactly what we asked for. And so, the conversation remains relevant.

Panthere watch on MC

Eighties in its borderline gold gaudiness, but contemporary in its sleek unisex appeal, it's up to the owner to project their personal belief system onto their own Panthère. Some even think a larger size works better than the more commonly loved mini/small/medium.

"This is a rare example of bigger being better in the world of Cartier watches," explains Cartier enthusiast and Internet personality Mike Nouveau. "This size is great for someone looking to dip their toes into classic Cartier after getting tired of gold Day-Dates or Royal Oaks… and it will almost definitely be easier to get."

Panthere watch

There's no doubt that the "it girl" factor adds a level of excitement to the watch – a buzzy kind of glamour, a little piece of the paparazzi picture that one can emulate at home. It works for the girl who receives said watch for her Sweet 16 and remains placidly content with the style credibility she has been granted by dint of owning a Panthère. But beyond its celebrity status, this is about a clever play on ubiquity. Making a larger version makes sense. Yes, we are accustomed to the Panthère's small case architecture, but our eyes will soon adjust. Cartier is moving in the direction of AP by making multiple sizes of a core, and very sellable products. And they are changing very few details other than size. Just as the Tank LC mini is not a diminutive version of the standard LC, it's just a shrunken-down version, the jumbo-sized Panthère remains sleek in profile with its fine features and fluid bracelet. It's a clever business decision: classic Cartier models for everybody. No size or metal is left unturned.

The Panthère de Cartier LM measures 42x31mm, and comes quipped with a quartz movement. The yellow gold is priced at $30,000, the two-tone at $10,200, and the stainless steel at $5,700. All prices subject to change. The Panthère LM will be launched in September 2024.