One of the Rarest—and Coolest—Watches Ever Sold for $1.1 Million

Watches are not unusual prizes for race winners. For over 30 years, Rolex has given winners of The 24 Hours of Daytona the watch named after the course. Winners of the Indy 500 have a special-edition Tag Heuer waiting for them after the checkered flag. However, those watches are typically branded with a logo, and not much else. Cartier took much more dramatic inspiration from the Paris-Dakar insignia.

Rather than engraving some branding onto the caseback, Cartier turned the entire watch into the race’s logo: a person wearing a cheich (the cloth wrapped around the head to guard against the sun and sand). Fitting for Cartier—which is known for its distinctive models and, as of late, auction house darlings like the Crash and Pebble—the watch is unlike anything else in existence. The Cheich features all the layers and folds of the headwear made out of a combination of white, yellow, and rose gold. If the Crash is beloved because of its liquid, gooey shape, the Cheich seems to dial that effect up to 100. The detailed folds appear as if they could suddenly start billowing in the wind. The watch has what collectors call “wrist presence” out the wazoo.

This piece is estimated to sell somewhere in the range of €200,000 to €400,000 this fall, but auction houses typically understate the true value of a watch to gin up interest. And while the watch’s atypical shape will help get bidding going, its rarity will also play a massive role here. There are only four Cheich watches in existence. One of them—rumored to have been awarded to Hubert Auriol in the early ‘80s, and now considered lost—is more myth than reality at this point. The other two belong to Cartier, which intends to keep them permanently in its collection. The watch up for auction, which comes straight from Rahier’s estate, is being touted as the only one a hopeful collector will ever have the chance of owning.

Courtesy Sotheby’s

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