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One of the beauties of Cartier watches is unearthing models that are no longer in production but are certainly worthy of another look. Take the La Dona watch for example; a ladies’ watch that was launched in 2006 in honor of actress, singer, and loyal Cartier client, María Félix. A shapely timepiece that flaunts a unique silhouette, the backstory of the Cartier La Dona watch is a fascinating one.

Cartier La Dona Watch

María Félix and Cartier

At the height of her fame, legendary actress and singer María Félix (1914-2002) was known for her powerful sense of style, which always incorporated showstopping jewelry and bold accessories like hats and capes. Unsurprisingly, María Félix, who earned the nickname, La Doña, turned to the leading name in fine jewelry, Cartier, to create some incredible bespoke pieces for her.

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Among María Félix’s Cartier jewelry collection, two of the most famous include the imposing Snake Necklace and the striking Crocodiles Necklace. The snake necklace, commissioned in 1968, was crafted in platinum, white gold, and yellow gold and adorned with 2,473 brilliant- and baguette-cut diamonds on the body and two pear-shaped emeralds for the eyes. The yellow gold Crocodiles Necklace, commissioned in 1975, featured a pair of articulated crocodiles, one paved 1,060 emeralds and one paved in 1,023 brilliant-cut fancy intense yellow diamonds, which could be worn as a necklace or as two separate brooches. Legend has it that María Félix brought in her baby crocodile pet to Cartier so that the master jewelers could replicate the beast as realistically as possible.

The Cartier high-jewelry pieces commissioned by María Félix (Images: Cartier)

Before she died in 2002, María Félix sold her two necklaces and these pieces are now part of the official living heritage Cartier collection, which frequently goes on tour around the world for the public to see.

Cartier La Dona Watch

In 2006, Cartier paid tribute to its relationship with María Félix by introducing a new watch collection called La Doña–in honor of her famous nickname. The watches did not just take the same but its distinct design draws inspiration from the late superstar’s favorite animal, the crocodile.

The case of La Dona is fashioned after a crocodile head

The Cartier La Dona watch features a trapezoid-shaped case–some set with diamonds in the bezel and some left unadorned–as a subtle nod to the asymmetrical profile of a crocodile’s head while the chunky bracelet with solid, polished, and articulated half-moon links mimics the scales of the reptile.

The links of the Cartier La Dona watch recalls the scales of a crocodile

Along with metal bracelet options, Cartier also made the La Dona watch available with colorful leather straps. While the shape of the watch is bold and shapely, Cartier stayed true to its classic dial style with black Roman numerals sitting on a light-colored background and a pair of blue sword-shaped hands at the center. What’s more, the faceted crown is typical of Cartier design, complete with a blue stone embedded into it.

La Dona watches on leather straps

Cartier is no stranger to making animal-motif watches and jewelry; its archives are filled with odes to panthers, reptiles, and birds to name a few. And while the La Dona watches aren’t overt duplicates of a crocodile, they are a fitting tribute to the fierceness of María Félix and her love for her exotic pets.

Written by

Celine Simon

Celine is a freelance luxury watch writer who has enjoyed working in the horology industry for over ten years. Like many of the high-end timepieces she writes about, she comes from Switzerland—the heart of fine watchmaking. From Singapore to Montreal to Geneva to Dubai, Celine has lived all over the world but now calls Southern California home.