Behind the HYPE: Why This Watch Sold For $1.6 Million Dollars

From frequently gracing the auction block at Sotheby’s to appearing in Tyler The Creator’s music video, as well as on the wrists of Kanye West, Jay-Z and more, the Cartier Crash has left its mark across industries, from fashion to music to art. First conceptualized at Cartier’s flagship London boutique, the avant-garde watch made its debut via a limited production run in 1967. It quickly became one of the most recognizable pieces on the market, a title it still holds today thanks to its warped, eye-shaped design.

In the latest episode of Behind the HYPE, Hypebeast traces the decades-spanning influence of the Cartier Crash, a heritage that continues to develop in the present day.

Last May, the luxury watchmaker set a new world record with the auction of a 1967 Cartier London Crash. Valued at $800,000 USD prior to sale, the Crash went on to fetch over $1,500,000 USD. Not only was the price nearly twice the valuation, but it also far surpassed the previous record of a Cartier Crash sale, which was held by a 1970 model that fetched $885,000 USD at Sotheby's in 2021.

One theory often told about Crash’s design inspiration is that a customer was wearing Cartier’s oblong-shaped Baignoire Allongée watch while in a car accident. Following the event, she brought the watch into Jacques Cartier’s Bond Street ship for repair, as its dial and case had been distorted from the heat. Rather than seek to return the watch to its original shape, legend has it the watchmaker was stirred to embrace and recreate the non-conformist design.

“They’ll take simple shapes, like a square or a circle, and they play with them,” watch specialist Charlie Foxhall says of Cartier’s approach to design. “They’ll bend them, elongate them, compress them – but ultimately, they’ll always refine them.”

For a closer look at the Cartier Crash, watch the video above to learn more about its history and impact and check out Hypebeast’s archive of stories on the acclaimed watch.