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1980s haute couture - the Cartier Pasha 4020

November 05, 2023

One might think that the styles and designs of Cartier's watches never truly go out of fashion, but that's actually not true. While certain names, such as the Tank and the Santos, always carry on, the Cartier lineup moves around quite a lot. Does anyone remember the Cartier Clé? How about the Drive de Cartier? They were those funny square or cushion-shaped ones that everyone loved a few years ago and then forgot; they've since gone off sale but will most likely return in a few years. As a high-end fashion house, we naturally expect Cartier to move its collections around frequently, more so than a company that only makes luxury watches. One watch which has stayed pretty consistent in our minds but hasn't always been a central focus for collectors is the Pasha de Cartier. 

The origin story of the Pasha is a little vague. Supposedly, the design for the watch we know today came from the 1930s when the Pasha (high-ranking official/governor) of Marrakesh required a watch which could stand up to his active lifestyle. This sounds quite familiar to the foundation story of Jaeger-LeCoultre's Reverso, no? That watch was born out of a necessity for a rugged watch that could stand up to the beatings from polo matches, but overseas British forces in India requested it. Anyway, the Pasha's requirement was sent to Louis Cartier, who was apparently a long-time friend of the Pasha's and came up with something resembling today's design. The case was water resistant and quite large in diameter, with a metal grid over the crystal and a screw-on crown cover which is attached to the watch. There doesn't seem to be any further material on the connection between Louis Cartier and the Pasha of Marrakesh, so if it did happen this way, it was likely a "gentleman's agreement", so for now, we'll never know.

Now we skip forward to 1985, where Cartier seems to be one of a small group of watchmakers that's doing quite well in the aftermath of the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s. The Must de Cartier and the Santos lines of the late 70s have been highly successful, and it's time for something else. Cartier's CEO from 1975 to 1998, Alain-Dominique Perrin, brought in Gérald Genta to design the new piece, presumably after having observed the successes he'd had with Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, IWC and Vacheron Constantin throughout the previous decade. Genta's Royal Oak, Nautilus, Ingenieur and 222 designs are, well, a little renowned today, to put it mildly, although obviously, Cartier wouldn't have known that at the time.

What Cartier did know is that in the mid-80s, square and rectangular designs were all the rage, and the small, thin and round watches from the 1960s had long since passed. It would be easy to make another square watch, but it could seem that they're trying to fit into the crowd. Cartier, being a fashion house of significant influence, decided that a round watch was required to stand out from the crowd despite the apparent market shift away from the shape, and so the Pasha was introduced. The round case was half the story, the enormous Vendôme lugs pull their weight in the design, and some models came with a rather striking grille over the top of the crystal to protect it from knocks and bumps.

The classical Cartier crown cover with a fitted cabochon is also present and is perhaps the most distinctive part of the entire design. Much like the Reverso, which was a relatively standard watch with a reversible element to protect the crystal, the crown cover on a Cartier Pasha also serves a practical function. To adjust the time on the watch, the wearer must unscrew the crown cover first. A handy chain link keeps it fixed to the watch without taking away from the overall design. Fitting the crown under that cover does mean it has to be small, and it is, and that makes it quite fiddly in real-world use, but Cartier watches are known for their high levels of build quality and movement accuracy so it shouldn't be necessary to adjust the time constantly.

Cartier originally released the Pasha in precious metals only. While the idea of getting on the Gérald Genta-designed bandwagon was up Cartier's alley, it seems perhaps they weren't ready to go as far as calling stainless steel a luxury metal like other brands had done. 1990 saw that change with the unveiling of the first Pasha made in stainless steel, a 38mm case and sporty bracelet indicated that this was a sportier timepiece, albeit a very elegant one.

The Pasha line has been updated a few times since 1990 to keep it modern and fresh, but the signature look of it has remained consistent to this day. Indeed, Cartier has made a wide array of Pasha models with all manner of things included. The chronograph version is probably the most well-known; Cartier still makes those today, but there have been GMT versions too, and a Pasha made for diving called the Pasha Seatimer. For the lovers of haute horlogerie watches, Cartier has skeletonised Pashas, Pashas with moon phases and perpetual calendars (in quartz and automatic form). They've made several variants with a tourbillon fitted and even a full-on calendar watch with a minute repeater, which looks like something the Wolf of Wall Street would wear.

The Pasha 4020 in our collection is a lot simpler than that, thankfully, which means it's less delicate and more ready to rumble. Its stainless steel case of 42mm is slightly larger than many other sporty watches on the market today, and it's also way more elegant. The amount of polishing going on here helps it out too. A diving bezel also indicates that this watch has some real sporting potential.

It's true that these days, wearing a sports watch with a suit and tie isn't a faux pas; having a sporty watch that's also got some real class surely adds to your image if that's what you're after. The red Cartier box adds to the charm with its red leather and gold accenting, so we're pleased to be able to offer the box when we can


The combination of the white dial with blue sword hands that match the cabochon of the crown contrasts the more elegant and traditional details like the train-track minute markers and the Roman numerals, just like most of Cartier's watches, actually. They're always a unique blend of contrasting elements that seem to work together. There's also a small date window hidden in there, and the smooth sweep of the seconds hand indicates the presence of a self-winding movement within the case.

Overall, Cartier's Pasha model is an absolute classic in their lineup, and it's great that it has some (potential) linkage to Egyptian high society. This watch would make a great addition to any collection, whether you love modern or vintage watches.

If you're interested in purchasing a pre-owned luxury watch like this luxurious Cartier, please do get in touch, and we'll endeavour to source one for you, assuming we don't have one in stock already. Our website is continually updated as we buy and sell all kinds of watches. Don't worry if we don't have the watch you want in stock. We buy and sell a lot of watches, so another one is bound to come around, but you can always contact us, and we can help you source the perfect timepiece for your collection.

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