First travelling to India in 1911, Jacques Cartier met with Sayaji Rao III, the Gaekwar of Baroda, who, following their meeting, commissioned Cartier to reset his entire jewellery collection in platinum, so inspired was he by the new precious metal and the innovative jewellery styles that he had been shown. This moment proved an important turning point for the firm; until this time they had remained steadfastly loyal to the traditional Belle Epoque motifs which had until then dominated their oeuvre.
In 1913, Cartier New York held an exhibition of fifty ‘jewels from the Hindoo, Persian, Arab, Russian and Chinese’ of which, according to the accompanying catalogue, twenty were inspired by Indian art. For the next quarter of a century Indian rulers asked Cartier to transform their jewels. The Maharajah of Patiala was responsible for the most famous commission due to the quality and vast quantity of his crown jewels. In 1928, before returning the reworked jewels to Patiala, Cartier exhibited them in their showrooms on the rue de la Paix. This event not only attracted huge publicity but dramatically increased Indo-Persian inspired commissions both from India, Europe and the United States.
Of all gem stones, emeralds are the most closely associated with India, due to the long established tradition of Indian rulers acquiring and wearing the best examples of Colombian mined stones. Having arrived in India these emeralds were often carved on both sides with typical Mughal floral sprays and in the case of this pendant watch with a flowering plant on the obverse and a peacock on the reverse. This jewel is an extraordinary example of the Indian influence prevalent in Cartier’s work during the 1920 and 30s; combining as it does, an abundance of richly coloured gems and brilliant-cut diamonds, a 19th century carved emerald inset with a modern miniature skeletonised watch, contrasting with vibrant cabochon cut stones.
Jeanne Toussaint's influence, undoubtedly one of the most creative and talented people ever brought into the firm, is also evident here. Toussaint was inspired by the jewels of India and combined this rich tableau with other exotic themes as well as the dazzling colour and movement of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Along with her ‘panthere’ designs, Toussaint is perhaps most famous for the developement of Cartier’s signature carved gem and diamond tutti frutti jewellery, arguably the most sought-after of the firms Art Deco creations.
This pendant watch is a true masterpiece, epitomising the exoticism and Indo-Persian influence which so richly imbued some of Cartier’s most spectacular designs of the 1920s; a period of truly extraordinarily innovative production, this jewel is Cartier at its best.