Fine Watches

Fine Watches

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 101. 'Cheich' Montre bracelet mécanique unique en or jaune | Unique yellow gold mechanical wristwatch Vers 1983 | Circa 1983 .


'Cheich' Montre bracelet mécanique unique en or jaune | Unique yellow gold mechanical wristwatch Vers 1983 | Circa 1983

Lot Closed

September 30, 09:01 AM GMT


200,000 - 400,000 EUR

Lot Details






Montre bracelet mécanique unique en or jaune |

Unique yellow gold mechanical wristwatch


Vers 1983 |

Circa 1983


Cadran: blanc

Calibre: remontage manuel, cal. FE 664

Boîtier: or jaune 18K (750°/00), fond sécurisé par 2 vis

Numéro de boîtier: 226'291

Fermoir: bracelet associé en cuir et boucle Cartier en or jaune 18K (750°/00)

Dimensions:  38 x 24 mm environ

Signé: boîtier, cadran

Ecrin: oui

Papiers: non

Accessoires: écrin Cartier


Dial: white

Calibre: manual winding, cal. FE 664

Case: 18k yellow gold, back secured by 2 screws

Case number: 226'291

Closure: associated leather strap and 18k yellow gold Cartier buckle

Dimensions: 38 x 24 mm approx.

Signed: case, dial

Box: yes

Papers: no

Accessories: Cartier presentation case


Poids brut 46.3 g |

Gross weight 46.3 g

This watch is nothing less than an absolute ultimate dream piece.

This watch is the piece those who have had them all and seen them all, have never had and even never seen.

This watch is mythical and has been – until of late- shrouded in mystery.

This watch symbolizes the combination of rarity, masterpiece of design and the feat of surpassing oneself.

This watch has never been available to the public and was won by an incredible person who made the impossible possible.

This watch is the Cartier Cheich, a unique piece won by Belgian motorcycle rider Gaston Rahier after winning the most difficult race in the world, the iconic Paris-Dakar… Twice in a row.

This is the first time a Cartier Cheich is being offered on the international market. In fact, this lot is the only example that might ever be available. The appearance at auction of this extraordinary piece, representing an utterly exciting opportunity for the entire watch community, is the opportunity to pay tribute to one of the most celebrated challenges and to Mr. Gaston Rahier, the “little man with the giant reputation”.

Sotheby’s is extremely humbled and grateful to the Rahier family to present such a treasure on the international market.


Gaston Rahier (1947 Chaineux, Belgium – 2005 Creil, France)

Gaston Rahier was born in 1947 in Chaineux, Belgium. He is considered as one of the greatest champions in mechanical sports in history. Indeed, the “little man with the giant reputation” won several times many of the most important international competitions several times. His nickname was due to his size, 1m57. He literally had to climb onto his motorcycle!

He started his career in motocross and won the Junior Belgian Championship at the age of 16. A few years later, in 1967, he won his first Belgian Championship. He was World Champion three times in a row, from 1975 to 1977 with Suzuki. He then rode for Yamaha and Gilera and won many other international competitions. In 1982, he had a terrible accident during a race. He had his hand nearly entirely severed. The doctors predicted the end of his career. Nevertheless, thanks to his immense determination, he started the competition in rally the following year. Indeed, in 1983, he participated for the first time to the Paris Dakar. He rode a BMW R80DS with Hubert Auriol in his team. Unfortunately, he had to abandon the rally after a fall. He came back the following year and won the competition before winning again the next edition in 1985. Gaston Rahier was the first non-French person to win the Paris Dakar. He was elected Sportsman of the year in Belgium. He continued competing until 2000 and won over 1,000 races in his career. He also lived his passion by training and coaching young moto riders as well as by creating new rallies. As a complete athlete, he was also an excellent car driver, he participated at Le Mans, and he was a talented plane pilot, very good golf player (a passion he shared with Alain Prost) and skier.

Gaston Rahier passed away in 2005, at the age of 58, after a battle with cancer.   



Paris Dakar – The race and its origins

Created by the motorcycle racer Thierry Sabine, the first edition of the Paris Dakar took place in December 1978. The idea of this rally arose during the Abidjan-Nice rally while he got lost in the Libyan desert. He felt in love with the breathtaking landscapes and wanted to reveal the magic of this place to other motorsport enthusiasts.

The Paris-Dakar was open to everyone, amateurs or professionals, and was the most demanding race ever created, starting in Paris, ending 10,000 kilometers further, in Dakar, Senegal.

It was a serious human and sportive challenge for all the participants. Most of them would not finish the race due to technical issues, accidents, getting lost in the inhospitable environment, along with reaching physical and mental limits.

The twenty day rally was always full of twists because of the unpredictable and extreme weather conditions, with 35°C during the day and 0°C overnight, and most people were sleeping under the stars. The competition was open to cars and trucks but the motorcycle riders were the true heroes of the event as stated several times by the famous Belgian Porsche driver Jacky Ickx.

To quote Gaston Rahier, “the Paris Dakar was a physical and mental long hardship where you constantly had to push your limits”.

The event had a massive outreach and quickly became a highly popular celebration with extensive media coverage. Even the start of the challenge in 1978 was broadcasted live on TV.

The Paris-Dakar became iconic as it was instantly considered as the most prestigious and challenging rally.

The public was fascinated by the human, technical and geographic dimensions of the competition but also by the famous people taking part to the race. A professional driver would be in competition against the Prince of Monaco, Johnny Halliday, or an anonymous student or hairdresser. They were all made equal by facing this incredible challenge. There was obviously a competitive aspect but also a camaraderie and spirit of adventure as well as a deep respect to the territories they crossed. This was the soul of the Paris-Dakar created by Thierry Sabine: combining adventure, camaraderie, pushing oneself and the mechanics to their limits in some of the most beautiful landscapes on this planet.


Paris Dakar 1984

The 6th Paris Dakar started on January 1st, 1984.

436 vehicles including 124 motorbikes started from the Place de la Concorde. They were supported by 30,000 spectators who came for the occasion. 

That edition would last for 20 days, during which they would drive 12,000 kilometers to reach their final point, the mythic Lake Rose in Dakar.

Unfortunately, due to extreme difficulty of the rally and the weather conditions, only 50 motorbikes managed to cross the finish line at Retba Lake (the other name of the Rose Lake).

Before starting the first Speciale in the heart of Algerian Sahara, between Chebaba and In Salah, 19 competitors had to give up the race due to the difficulty of rough terrain and rock strewn roads.

The astronaut Jean-Loup Chrétien lost his support truck, the car of the legendary Jacky Ickx had a flat tire, the bike of Hubert Auriol had an oil leak and Bernard Darmiche, whose nickname was “the sledge”, was already disqualified. A dark day for the big favourites!

During the nineth leg, the Dakar caravane left the Niger region for the Haute Volta, today known as Burkina Faso. During the liaison between these two legs, the main contesters had incidents. Indeed, Rahier, Auriol and then Metge hit cows on the road. Many participants also had to face border check issues. Some of them even crossed the border without the requested authorizations. That day was so extreme that Thierry Sabine had to cancel the leg.

One of the most difficult parts of the Paris Dakar was crossing the Tenere Desert. The Tenere was nicknamed “the desert that scares the desert”. Sponsored by Cartier, that part of the rally was named the “Raid Santos of Cartier” paying tribute to Santos Dumont for whom Cartier created the first wristwatch. The Raid was 1,453km long. It truly requested a strong mental and physical preparation. During the previous edition of the Raid Santos of Cartier, there was a terrible sandstorm and many of the participants became lost or were forced to give up the race. Despite taking a wrong track during part of the Raid, Gaston Rahier won it. A couple of days later, thanks to his strong mentality, regularity and sense of direction, he won the Paris Dakar for the first time. 


Paris Dakar 1985 

The seventh Paris-Dakar left the Royal Castle of Versailles on January 1st 1985. That year, 552 participants took part to the race but only 146 of them would succeed. The total distance of the rally had been pushed to 14,000km with half of it made up of Speciales (timed races). According to Gaston Rahier, the 1985 Paris Dakar was the most difficult edition, due to the length of the race as well as the extreme weather conditions, with many strong sandstorms. As a winner of the previous edition, he also had a lot more pressure on his shoulders. His previous team member Hubert Auriol, who was the main BMW racer, had joined Ligier Cagiva. As such, in addition to defending his title, Gaston was now the main rider for the German brand.

He had a very unlucky start. A truck hit his motorcycle during the first leg. The frame of his motorcycle got twisted and it took his team valuable time to carry out an ad hoc repair. Despite this, his motorcycle remained unreliable and difficult to ride for the entire rally. At the end of the first day, Gaston Rahier was in 30th position.

A few days later, both of his BMW teammates Raymond Loizeaux and Eddy Hau gave up the race, leaving Gaston on his own to face the many challenges through the African continent.

Thanks to his extraordinary talent and determination, he pushed his motorcycle and himself to their very limits and, leg after leg, got closer to the top of the ranking. During the Raid Santos in the Tenere, he proved that he deserved his title of “King of the Desert” by surpassing all the other participants. He was then in second position, just behind Italian Franco Picco. Hubert Auriol was also determined to win and put all his energy in the race. It was a fierce competition with the very best riders and motorcycles in the most extreme race. Approaching Senegal, Picco took a penalty and had some technical issues. Rahier, who was just a few minutes away from him, took the lead. The suspense was at its maximum until he finally passed the finish line and won the mythical Paris Dakar for the second time in a row!



The Cartier challenge:

In 1983, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Paris -Dakar, Mr. Alain Dominique Perrin from Cartier and Mr. Thierry Sabine, founder of the race, created the Cartier Challenge. In order to win it, one would have to win the Rallye Paris Dakar twice in a row in his/her category: either motorcycle, car or truck. The trophy had to reflect the spirit of the rally. Alain-dominique Perrin worked with Jacques Diltoer, the creative director of Cartier. They came up with the Cartier Cheich, directly inspired by the Paris-Dakar logo and submitted it to Thierry Sabine. This is how this piece was born.

Very interestingly, Cartier did not create one but two trophies: one for men, the present lot, and one for women. Each of them was unique. While the two pieces were crafted in the famous Trois ors, the lady’s version had a smaller size and was diamond-set.

As the winners of the 1983 edition did not win again in 1984, the competition for the Challenge was still open. Gaston Rahier won in 1984 and in 1985 with his BMW motorcycle. As such, he won the challenge in his category. While there have been some discussions as if French motorcycle rider Hubert Auriol could also have won the Cartier challenge, it appears that it is not possible as, per the challenge’s rules, there could only be one winner per category. Furthermore, Auriol won in 1981 and 1983, not twice in a row and one instance was when the challenge had not started yet.

In 1986, Mr. Thierry Sabine was victim of a helicopter crash during the Paris – Dakar and died. The Cartier challenge was stopped the year after. No one else has won the race twice in a row in his/her category since. This tragically explains why only one watch was ever given as a trophy. The lady’s version was never awarded and is part of the Cartier Collection.

The Cartier Cheich was made in only four examples in total. The two first pieces were made in 1983 when the Cartier Challenge was launched. After Gaston Rahier won the men’s version in 1985, a third watch was created for a hypothetical new winner in the men’s car and truck categories. As each piece had to be unique, the dial of the third watch was different with elongated Roman and baton indexes and no rail track. The challenge ended with the passing of Thierry Sabine and the 1983 lady’s watch as well as the 1985 man’s watch have stayed in the Cartier Collection since then. A fourth example was made and offered by Alain-Dominique Perrin to Thierry Sabine. This watch was supposedly then passed to Hubert Auriol. However, that piece is today considered as lost.

With four watches produced, two belonging to Cartier, one lost and one given to Gaston Rahier, this lot is the only example of the Cartier Cheich that may ever be available. Furthermore, this unique piece is the only one that deeply embodies the values of the Paris-Dakar, as it is the only one awarded.

One cannot stress enough the importance of this lot and the opportunity its sale represents.


The watch:

Never before a watch has adopted such a radical yet elegant shape. Cartier has been renowned for this subtle combination when creating a new watch. Nonetheless, with the Cheich, its audacity has been pushed to an extreme never achieved before. While the size of the timepiece can today be considered as classic, its aura and charisma is simply mind-blowing.

The idea of taking the emblem of the Dakar was ingenious and instantly iconic.

The watch as a trophy could not embody the race in a more explicit way. Usually, winners of a championship would receive a standard watch with an engraving on the back. On this occasion however, the watch itself symbolizes the trophy and the race in the most meaningful way. It embodies it to such an extent that the back of the Cartier Cheich does not bear any special engraving.

Interestingly, “Cheich” is named “Tagelmust” by the Berber people. That was a name with a very Cartier consonance, especially in the mid 1980’s when the Must collection was highly popular.

Mr. Perrin, Mr. Diltoer and Mr. Sabine pushed the barriers and, like for the Paris Dakar itself, created something unique and groundbreaking. Even to this day, there are no comparable examples with trophy watches.

Creating a new piece with a new design just for one occasion involves an amount of work that is too heavy and costly for any company. On this aspect, this association with Cartier played a key role. Indeed, the Maison has some of the best skilled craftsmen and an unparalleled experience at creating bespoke pieces. This savoir faire was the key to create what can be considered as the ultimate trophy watch.

While the design of the watch pays tribute to the emblem of the Paris Dakar, it also produced one of the most beautiful pieces ever made. The watch looks like no other piece created by any brand.

Cartier has produced some of the finest pieces by paying homage to the designs of various cultures, especially visible through in Cartier’s clock making. The Cheich continues this tradition in the less explored field of wristwatches. While some Cartier objects have been influenced by Eastern North Africa, like the Egyptian design, the Cheich is the only piece inspired by the Tuareg culture.

The shape of the Cheich suits the Cartier aesthetic perfectly. It pushes the creativity of a form watch, which is Cartier’s most celebrated field, to the highest degree. The watch is also asymmetric, another Cartier’s favourites. Yet, the created effect is perfectly balanced.

The celebrated “Trois Ors” or “Trinity” was first introduced in 1924 by Louis Cartier. It was conceived to symbolize Love, Friendship and Fidelity. Under Mr. Perrin’s era, the Trois ors gained huge popularity and became one of the emblems of the Maison. While most of the creations consisted in objects made of three pieces, each in a colour of gold, very few pieces were made in one piece combining the different gold colours. The Cheich is one of these. The created effect is mesmerizing. While the difference between each colour is subtle and smooth, it adds further contrasts and depths to the watch. The use of the Trois Ors was meaningful. It was not used to add a fashionable element to a trophy watch for marketing purposes, it was chosen to serve the beauty and character of the watch.

The construction of the case is highly unusual. The unique shape of the watch could not allow the use of the usual bars screwed through the lugs and attaching the strap. Instead, the back of the main case is carved and has two vertical tubes. The strap has two holes to go around the tubes. A triangular piece of gold is applied on each side of the case on top of the strap to maintain it. Two screws on each side of the case go through the triangular pieces and the tubes to press and secure the strap.

The dial of the watch counterbalances the ground-breaking case design. It follows the interior shape of the case, forming a sort of heraldic escutcheon. Its center is the decorated in the classic and timeless Cartier Paris style: the rectangular rail track with baton and Roman indexes and the two blued-steel hands. The clever choice of a traditional Cartier Paris dial combined with a radical case design was the key to create what can be considered as a horological and design masterpiece.



The presentation case:

The charm and the appeal of the famous red box is legendary. The Cheich was presented with a very special and elegant Cartier presentation case.

Its shape is very different to any other. It has a curved triangular shape, which reminds the dunes of the desert.

The inside of the lid is marked “Trophée Paris Alger Dakar” under the Cartier signature.

The inside of the base is raised, reminding again the desert surface while prominently presenting the watch.

This presentation is naturally part of the present lot.


This Cartier Cheich has been preserved in wonderful condition. The watch has spent the majority of its life in its presentation case. As much as Rahier’s family can remember, the watch was never serviced. The absence of watchmaker marks inside the case back and the very well-preserved movement tend to corroborate it.

Gaston Rahier cherished this watch immensely. For him, it was both a superb watch as well as the trophy crowning his incredible racing career. It was the piece that only he won and no one could ever win again.

He kept it in its presentation case all his life and worn it only a few times on special occasions.

After he passed away in 2005, his family continued to look after the Cartier Cheich, preciously keeping it in its presentation case.

Today, almost forty years after the Cartier Challenge was won by Gaston, they decided to present this piece, one of the most important and beautiful Cartier wristwatches ever produced, to pay tribute to the legendary and beloved “little man with the giant reputation”.