It’s that time of year again: the days are shorter and the air chillier, holiday decorations are on their way to store windows, and luxury watch brands are offering sneak peeks of selected new timepieces launching this coming January at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. First up is Cartier — by far the largest brand showing at the world’s most elegant watch salon — with two new high-complication watches equipped with so-called “mysterious” movements: the Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon and Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Day & Night Watch.
Much as Breguet has embraced the tourbillon, and Patek Philippe the minute repeater, as signature horological specialties, Cartier has adopted the technology of the groundbreaking “mystery clock” — born in 1912 of a collaboration between brand founder Louis Cartier and watchmaker Maurice Coüet — to inspire several of the pieces in its Fine Watchmaking collection, including, most recently and notably, last year’s Rotonde de Cartier Astromysterieux. The “mystery” refers to the elements on the dial, such as hands and tourbillon carriages, which appear to be floating in midair rather than anchored to a movement but are actually attached to stacked sapphire disks driven by the gear train of the cleverly hidden movement.
The Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon Watch (above), powered by Cartier’s in-house Caliber 9465MC, is — you guessed it — a skeletonized version of the first Mysterious Double Tourbillon model, which made its debut in 2013. As in that watch, a double flying tourbillon, completing a rotation in 60 seconds, and its cage, which performs a second rotation every five minutes, appears to float in mid-air, unconnected to the rest of the movement, while sword-shaped, blued-steel hour and minute hands keep the time in an off-centered position at 12 o’clock. For this new iteration, the movement’s bridges have been skeletonized into the shape of Roman numerals — a design flourish that has become a hallmark of Cartier’s skeletonized timepieces in recent years (check out 2016’s Clé de Cartier Automatic Skeleton, for example).
The watch’s round, 45-mm case is made of platinum, with a beaded crown set with a sapphire cabochon, another mainstay element of Cartier’s Rotonde de Cartier series. This decorative crown is used to manually wind the skeletonized, 286-part movement, which features 26 jewels, a 21,600-vph frequency, and a 52-hour power reserve and is enhanced with chamfering on the bridges, drawn flanks, and polished screw heads. All of these embellishments are on display in both the front and back of the watch through sapphire crystals. The strap is navy blue alligator, with a folding buckle made of 18k white gold. The watch, whose price will be announced at SIHH 2018, will be limited to 30 numbered pieces.
The other new piece that Cartier has shown us pre-SIHH represents a first for the brand’s Fine Watchmaking collection, combining the architecture of the “mysterious” movement —developed, as mentioned above, for Cartier’s famed “Model A” Mystery Clock in 1912 — with a day-night indicator that was incorporated into another historical Cartier clock, known as the Comet clock or Planet clock. The Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Day & Night Watch (above) features a stylized sun and moon arcing from left to right across the top half of the dial, indicating the hours on Roman numerals on the flange, while the minutes are displayed in the bottom half by means of a blued, retrograde pointer hand. moving in the opposite direction on a scale from “00” to “60.” The luxurious look of the timepiece is accentuated by the radiating guilloché and satin-brushed sunray finish on the dial, most prominently in the bottom half but also on the brown dial flange.
The 40-mm 18k rose-gold case houses the Cartier manufacture Caliber 9982MC, manually wound by the beaded, cabochon-set crown, which is on display through a clear sapphire caseback. The movement is composed of 174 parts, including 26 jewels, and has a frequency of 28,800 vph and a minimum power reserve of 48 hours. The warm gold of the case (Cartier says a white-gold version will also be released) resonates nicely with the gray alligator skin strap, culminating in a rose-gold folding clasp. Cartier has not indicated that this watch will be a limited edition; its price, like that of the Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon, is expected to be announced at SIHH 2018.