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History : When Cartier created a waterproof watch exclusively for Thami El Glaoui

In the 1930s, Pasha Thami El Glaoui asked French watchmaker Cartier to create a waterproof watch for him to wear while swimming. After delivering it, Cartier lost track of the watch and ended up creating a line to honor the unique timepiece and its owner.

Pasha Thami El Glaoui. / Ph. DR
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Thami El Glaoui was an authoritarian Pasha and a man who fancied arts and luxury. During his powerful years as a Pasha of Marrakech, he led an extravagant lifestyle, throwing lavish parties and traveling to Europe to meet his fancy and high ranked friends and acquaintances. 

El Glaoui’s fame and wealth were linked to his relation with French Resident-General Louis Hubert Lyautey. As a Pasha of Marrakech and Lyautey’s right hand, El Glaoui financed his extravagant lifestyle by demanding huge yearly income through «monopolies on the Southern markets for olives, hemp and oranges», Trudy Ring, Noelle Watson, and Paul Schellinger wrote in their book «Middle East and Africa: International Dictionary of Historic Places», (Routledge, Mar 5, 2014).

«El Glaoui’s insatiable quest for money led him even to violate the tomb of an Islamic saint in Marrakech by stealing its treasures», the three historians recalled. Despite drought and the drop in agricultural production, the Lord of the Atlas insisted to receive the same revenue from corps to finance his «costly venture».

The Pasha watch. / Ph. DRThe Pasha watch. / Ph. DR

According to Moroccan historian Maati Monjib, El Glaoui’s «closeness to the French allowed him to accumulate massive wealth». Indeed, Monjib reported in an article that the Pasha owned «thousands of hectares with loads of money deposited in banks in Morocco and France». He was also a shareholder in several companies, which made him «richer than the sultan».

A waterproof watch for El Glaoui's long swims

In the 1930s, the name of El Glaoui got connected with French luxury goods conglomerate Cartier. Many sources speak of the Pasha’s Cartier watch that inspired the French jewelry maker to start an exclusive line that pays tribute to him.

According to American luxury-lifestyle magazine Robb Report, «Louis Cartier created in 1931 for Thami El Glaoui» a watch which «was an early attempt to address needs that most busy, successful modern people will recognize».

At the time, El Glaoui wanted his Cartier watch to be waterproof to «keep fit with daily swims in his pool» the same magazine recalled. The Pasha insisted that his watch must be «durable enough to withstand constant submersion in water but elegant enough to wear when meeting celebrities and heads of state».

The Pasha Watch created in the 1980s. / Ph. DRThe Pasha Watch created in the 1980s. / Ph. DR

Responding to the Moroccan Pasha’s request, Cartier created a gold wristwatch that «could be rendered watertight by a case that screwed shut and a chain-secured cap that fit into the crown».

Years after delivering the luxurious watch to El Glaoui, Cartier wanted to keep track of the «Pasha», which had an 18-Karat gold case. Speaking to the same magazine, president and CEO of Cartier North America Stanislas de Quercize said that «maybe he gave it to an heir, or a friend». «We have hopes of finding it and buying it back», de Quercize added.

Years after creating the Pasha watch, Cartier decided to make a similar version, calling it the Pasha to render homage to the watch and its owner. The Pasha line was launched in 1985, maintaining the same components of the old Pasha watch, the same source concluded.

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