SAGA – An extremely rare watch creation signed Cartier, commissioned by Thierry Sabine in the 1980s, will be sold at Sotheby’s in September next year.
Behind every watch hides a story. The birth of the mythical Cartier Cheich is above all a story of friendship. The one between Thierry Sabine, the creator of the Paris-Dakar Rally, and Alain-Dominique Perrin, the man who laid the foundations of the modern luxury industry and gave Cartier his share of luxury and dreams back in the 1980s.
In 1977, the man, who was still a motorcyclist, strayed into the vast Libyan desert while completing the Abidjan-Nice rally. Found and rescued after nearly three days, in the middle of the desert with his Yamaha XT 500, Thierry Sabine promises himself, if he gets out of it, to host the toughest motorcycle rally ever. This would be the Paris-Dakar Rally, launched two years later, in 1979. During a luncheon with the then President of Cartier, Alain-Dominique Perrin, Thierry Sabine asked him to create a watch that could reflect the spirit of his rally. To win it, the pilots had to win the “Défi Cartier”, consisting of winning Paris-Dakar twice in the same category (motorcycle, car or truck). Only two riders will succeed: Hubert Auriol and Gaston Rahier, both on motorcycles.
Jean-Pierre Tran, who once ran Paris-Dakar, recently recalled ordering five copies of this Cartier Cheich, in yellow gold, pink gold and white gold. One to Thierry Sabine, the other four to be given to the motorcycle, car and truck winners. All featured an incredibly cheich-shaped case, paired with Cartier’s blue cabochon crown and a brown leather strap. Only a few rare copies will eventually be produced and delivered, including one for Thierry Sabine himself. Another will apparently be given to Hubert Auriol and a final to Gaston Rahier, winner in 1984 and 1985. “In my memory, Thierry stole his own, trusted Jean-Pierre Tran, in response to a fan of this model. I do not regret having ordered more and not having one, even just in metal! ” No others will be produced hereafter, making this model so rare, equipped at the time with a simple quartz work. The Cartier Challenge disappears in 1986 with the helicopter crash that will cost Thierry Sabine, Daniel Balavoine, Nathalie Odent and Jean-Paul Le Fur their lives.
For Gaston Rahier, who died in 2005, this watch, as he said in an interview, was the best gift he had ever received in his life. It is precisely his Cartier Cheich watch that will be presented for the first time at Sotheby’s Paris next September, during the Luxury Edit sale. A rarity today estimated at between € 200,000 and € 400,000, offered for sale by the family to its original owner. “This Cartier Cheich watch is extraordinary in many ways, says Benoît Colson, international watch specialist at the auction house. Its intimate connection with the most famous car race in the world, consisting of victories and dramas, holds the full attention of true collectors. Gaston Rahier’s copy is offered in his original case, marked “Trophée Paris Alger Dakar” under the Cartier signature.
Designed by Jacques Diltoer, then creative director of Cartier, its stunning case is directly inspired by the rally’s logo, representing the face of a Touareg wearing a cheche, a traditional veil wrapped around its head to protect itself from the sun. Only a few models will be produced, which makes it all a rarity, despite the fact that it is only a quartz model. Two Cheich watches are part of Cartier’s collections, including the only women’s model, smaller and adorned with diamonds, as well as a 1985 example, with cane indices and elongated Roman numerals, without rail. Two others therefore still sleep somewhere, in the hands of an enthusiast or a collector, until they finally reappear, as so many other horological grails before them.