There’s a long history of watches being gifted to the winners of motorsport races and rallies. Rolex is likely the most famous practitioner, awarding a special Daytona to each of the winners of the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona endurance races. The high quality Cartier replica watches used as the prizes for these events are typically variants of an existing production model, featuring a special engraving, material, or colorway; they aren’t unique pieces specially conceived for the occasion.
There is always an exception to the rule, and in this case, the outlier comes from 1980s Cartier, when Alain Dominique Perrin, the jeweler’s then-CEO, and Thierry Sabine, the founder of the legendary Paris-Dakar Rally, came up with the Cartier Challenge. The Paris-Dakar Rally started in 1979 as an off-road endurance competition where drivers start in Paris and race 6,200 miles across the Sahara Desert over approximately three weeks before crossing the finish line in the Senegalese capital. It’s considered one of the most difficult races in the world, but the grueling competition wasn’t enough for Perrin and Sabine. In order to win the Cartier Challenge, an individual racer had to finish first in the Paris-Dakar Rally in consecutive years. The back-to-back champion would then be awarded a brand-new watch, the AAA UK Cartier Cheich fake watches.
Designed by Jacques Diltoer, Cartier’s Creative Director at the time, the Cheich is another example of Cartier’s incredibly creative and unique approach to “form” case designs. The unique case construction was inspired by the traditional tagelmust cotton headscarf – also known as a cheich – that’s worn by the Tuareg men, a Berber ethnic group that’s native to the Sahara Desert, for sun protection. The uniquely layered case is actually crafted from three different types of gold – white, yellow, and rose gold – that are woven together. The best replica Cartier watches was produced in two different sizes and with or without diamond setting. The smaller watch with diamonds would be awarded to any potential female winners of the race, while the larger example was intended for the male winners.
I assume Perrin and Sabine felt fairly confident that the Cartier Challenge would be close to impossible. They were wrong. Gaston Rahier, from Belgium, racing on a BMW motorcycle, ended up winning the first two contests held after the Cartier Challenge was first announced in 1984, becoming the first – and, for now, only – individual owner of Swiss made copy Cartier Cheich watches. The Cartier Challenge was not long for the world. Sabine was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 1986, and although the Paris-Dakar Rally continued to exist, Perrin withdrew the challenge and award.
In its short existence, it’s believed that only four luxury replica Cartier Cheich watches were produced in total. Cartier built a pair of male and female examples in 1984 when the Challenge was announced. After Rahier was awarded his watch, they built an additional example of the larger size for a potential future winner, before the Cartier Challenge concluded. A fourth Cheich is believed to have been gifted to Sabine from Perrin. Rahier’s watch is slightly different from the rest as it features Cartier’s traditional railroad-style minute track on the dial. Two of the Cheich examples were never awarded and exist in the Cartier archive and will never be sold, while the cheap fake Cartier watches owned by Perrin is understood to have been lost for good. Rahier’s watch is the only Cheich that fulfilled the model’s original purpose as a trophy, and the only Cheich in private hands.
Knowledgeable Cartier collectors and enthusiasts have long known about Rahier’s Cheich, with many considering it to be one of the rarest and most desirable perfect Cartier replica watches ever created. And now, after close to 40 years, Rahier’s watch is set to come to market for the very first time, when Sotheby’s opens up its “Fine Watches” online auction in Paris this Friday.
The Cartier Cheich won by Rahier has never been sold. It remained in his possession until his 2005 death, and it has since remained with his family in Belgium.
“It comes directly from Gaston’s family,” says Benoît Colson, a Paris-based International Specialist for Sotheby’s who worked with the descendants. “It has never been shown or exhibited prior to this sale. It was a most precious thing for Gaston, so he only ever wore it once, when he appeared on television after winning the Paris-Dakar Rally; that was it.”
I haven’t had the opportunity to inspect or handle the Cartier super clone watches wholesale in person, but looking over the images our photographer shot, the 40-year-old watch does appear to be in immaculate condition, with only a slight spot visible near six o’clock. Interestingly, the Cheich features no additional engraving indicating its purpose as a trophy. It’s only on the watch’s original bespoke case, a triangular box in classic Cartier red that is included in the sale, that a small gilt label appears reading Trophée Paris Alger Dakar under the Cartier signature.
Rahier’s Cartier Cheich carries an estimate of between €200,000 and 400,000, but some of the Cartier experts and collectors I’ve spoken with recently have even higher expectations. Headlines have been dominated by the high prices achieved by exclusive and rare Cartier form watches that have appeared at auction over the past two years. Phillips sold a remarkable 1972 Cartier Pebble for €362,000 at its Geneva auction in spring 2021. And who can forget the jaw-dropping $1.65 million price achieved by a 1967 Cartier London Crash on the online auction platform Loupe This back in May of this year. It’s possible that the high quality Cartier Cheich replica watches surpasses both of those results.
“There are so many different collector profiles that could be interested in this watch,” says Colson. “You obviously have the top Cartier collectors that have been waiting for this watch for many, many years. I think car collectors will also be very interested given the Paris-Dakar connection. And you also have high-profile, high net-worth individuals who will want to have the watch that no one has and no one will ever get.”
Colson raises a fair point. The Cheich is a wholly unique 2022 Cartier fake watches. The two examples owned by Cartier will never be sold, and the fourth example is lost for good. The Cartier Crash pieces that have performed so well recently, for instance, are extremely rare but not one-of-a-kind in the same way as the Cheich.
It will be absolutely fascinating to see where the Cheich lands after bidding closes on the online sale on September 30, 2022. Although I’d love to see replica Cartier watches shop online like the Cheich sold via a live, in-person auction, Sotheby’s has admittedly had tremendous success with their online auctions, most recently setting a world record for a Rolex Day-Date during a London-based online sale earlier this year.