There are few watches that instantly strike me as being distinctive, yet identifiable and at the same time reflect a kind of classicism that speaks to their rich, illustrious history. Once such collection is Rotonde de Cartier. Gearing up for Watches & Wonders 2021, Cartier brings on a new spin to the collection, unveiling a set of five three piece limited edition skeletonised Rotonde de Cartier watches – Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux, Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon and Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon.
The common denominator here are two complications dear to Cartier: the mysterious and the skeleton. Cartier’s mysterious movement appeared in 1912 on a clock called “Model A” whose completely transparent dial showcased two hands that appeared to be suspended in mid-air – an unprecedented innovation, perfected at the beginning of the 20th century by Maurice Couët, one of the Maison’s watchmakers. Inspired by the work of the illusionist Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, Maurice Couët perfected an exclusive system that was brought to life on this first clock. It is this innovation, as complex as it is fascinating, that the Maison is pairing this year with an emblematic movement of Cartier Fine Watchmaking, the skeleton. Created in heavily protected workshops at the Cartier Manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, these three creations reveal an entirely openworked timepiece whose bridges help to tell the time.
Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux
I’ve always been a fan of the ‘less is more’ approach to watchmaking and that’s probably why I’m a tad bit bias towards the Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux of the 3. In this 43.5mm platinum watch, the space dedicated to the hidden gears has been reduced to the bare minimum leaving behind only what is REALLY essential. The tourbillon carriage integrates not only the watch’s regulating organ but also the entire wheel train from the barrel to the balance which is all carried by a sapphire disc. The elongated carriage ensures the function of the minute hands and completes one revolution of the dial every hour. Powering the watch is Calibre 9462 MC, a hand wound manufacture movement that beats at 21,600 vibrations per hour and delivers a power reserve of 55 hours. Other details include: the brushed silver / grey outer ring with Roman numeral hour markers, the beaded crown set with an aquamarine cabochon and a blue alligator leather strap.
Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Astrotourbillon
At 47mm, Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Astrotourbillon is the largest of the three timepieces. With this version,
Cartier explores a movement conceived and developed by the Maison’s master watchmakers in 2016 after five years of development at the Cartier Manufacture in La Chaux-de- Fonds in Switzerland. Today, Cartier places it at the centre of an ultra-graphic dial with a grey case back and silver-coloured transferred numerals. Due to its complex structure, the tourbillon lends itself to a play of geometry and transparency. This fascinating movement presents two major peculiarities that make it a unique tourbillon. First and foremost, the tourbillon carriage has a specific rotation axis situated at the centre of the movement. The design process was therefore totally different in comparison with that of the gear train, from
the two barrels of the movement to the minutes and hours display. Secondly, this tourbillon carriage is positioned “above” the movement and not directly integrated into the movement, as is the case with a classic tourbillon. These precise mechanics form the basis of a signature aesthetic that takes its shape from the principles dictated by the Maison’s design vision: clean lines, radical design, and the importance of aesthetics. The entirely skeleton movement displays oversized
Roman numerals, a Cartier signature, acting as bridges. The winding crown is set with an aventurine cabochon matching the colour of the alligator-skin strap.
Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon
Like the other Rotonde de Cartier watches, the new Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon features a heavily skeletonized dial and is fitted with a double flying organ which appears to defy the laws of gravity. Unlike the classic tourbillon, the flying tourbillon here has no upper bridge. It effects a complete rotation in 60 seconds and appears to be floating completely free in space, with no visible connection to any gear train. The illusion becomes even more striking when the same tourbillon carriage performs a second rotation, completing an orbit every five minutes. To create the illusion of a levitating carriage, the watchmakers at the Cartier Manufacture used a sapphire disc with a space cut out of it, matching the tourbillon’s dimensions to give the most flawless possible effect. An expression of virtuosity and style that Cartier has been mastering since 2013, when the first calibre of this genre appeared. Today, the watchmakers have moved it to the heart of an entirely skeletonised dial, whose XL Roman numerals structure the space. Stretched around the area
left empty for the Mysterious Double Tourbillon, they allow the movement’s raw edges to peek through. The winding crown is set with a jade cabochon matching the colour of the alligator-skin strap.
Oh and it doesn’t end there. All 3 watches are presented in an extremely precious, lacquered wooden box created by Cartier. With this presentation box, Cartier pays tribute to Wood Marquetry – a craft that is not only rare, but extremely dear to the maison. It involves applying meticulous shading with an airbrush to create movement, depth and relief. In this case, the result is a gradation of green, blue and grey to match the hues of each timepiece. Once assembled, these tiny pieces of wood form a pattern made of three interlocking spirals. At the centre of each one, an optical lens reveals the dial of a watch. The result is astonishingly vibrant, between the movement of the design, the wood veining, and the chromatic gradation. The wooden marquetry box also includes a travel pouch in alligator leather and a pair of white gold cufflinks with three interchangeable stone bars in sodalite, jade and blue quartz. A prestigious and ultra-exclusive edition limited to 5 boxes.