Pocket Full of Complications: Today’s Haute Horlogerie Pocketwatches

Cartier PocketWatchEven though the wristwatch long ago supplanted it in popularity, the classical pocketwatch continues to soldier on as a novelty in the world of timepieces, beloved by some collectors for their old-school appeal and large, decorative movements, and many of today’s watch brands have used the style to express not only their historical cachet but also their horological expertise. Here we shine the spotlight on some recently released modern pocketwatches from popular wristwatch brands.

One of the year’s most complicated pocketwatches comes from Cartier, a brand that in recent years has dedicated itself to strengthening its haute horlogerie cred. The Cartier Grand Complication Skeleton is in a white-gold case, 59.2 mm in diameter, with openworked Roman numerals elegantly carved from the white gold surface of the case. It contains a manual-winding manufacture movement, Caliber 9436 MC, which is visible from both the front and back, and is made up of 457 total parts. The watch has a tourbillon (with a bridge in the shape of a Cartier “C”), a perpetual calendar, and a monopusher chronograph activated by a push-piece set into the winding crown and topped by a sapphire cabochon. It boasts a power reserve of eight days, and comes with a white-gold chain and on a base of rock crystal and obsidian. Production is extremely limited: Cartier is offering 10 numbered pieces in white gold and five in white gold with baguette-cut and brilliant-cut diamonds. (All images can be enlarged with a click.)

Cartier Grand Complication Skeleton Pocketwatch
Cartier Grand Complication Skeleton Pocketwatch

Longines turns 180 this year, and among the limited-edition vintage-styled watches being released to commemorate the anniversary is this yellow-gold pocketwatch, the Longines Lepine 180th Anniversary Limited Edition. Its design echoes that of the first pocketwatches produced by Longines founder Auguste Agassiz, with a guilloché-patterned back cover that open up to reveal an engraved gold caseback. The white lacquered dial features black, painted Roman numerals and blued steel hands.

Longines Lepine 180th Anniversary pocketwatch

La Montre Hermès added a unique piece to its Arceau collection this year, the Arceau Pocket Astrolabe, a pocketwatch that showcases the artistic technique of plique-a-jour enamel. Designer Pierre Marie created the decorative case cover for the watch, which features an illustration of an astrolabe, an instrument used to measure time by determining the height of the sun or moon above the horizon, using the three-stage enamel process. First, the artist etches out the motif from the baseplate, then fills the resulting cells (or “pliques”) with colored enamels, and finally removes the metal backing after several successive firings at 800 degrees Celsius, resulting in a translucent, stained glass effect. Under the enamelled cover, with its shimmering shades of blue, turquoise and indigo, you find the dial in midnight blue and the distinctive curved Arabic numerals of Hermès’s Arceau watches. Inside the watch is automatic Caliber H1928 by Vaucher Fleurier, with an 18k gold rotor and 55-hour power reserve. The alligator strap complements the indigo colors in the case cover and dial.

Hermes Pocket Astrolabe w/cover
Above and below: the case cover and dial of the Hermès Pocket Astrolabe

Hermes Pocket Astrolabe open

For its Bentley Masterpiece, a unique piece created in homage to Bentley automobiles founder Walter Owen Bentley, Breitling used as its base movement an ébauche from the 19th century. It took the company — which also produces a line of Breitling for Bentley wristwatches — an entire year to create the final product, whose centerpiece is a 550-piece movement that includes both a perpetual calendar and a minute repeater. The 18k yellow-gold case has a dial cover engraved with an image of Walter Owen Bentley at the wheel of one of his race cars, along with the initials “W.O.”

Breitling Bentley Masterpiece pocketwatch
Breitling’s Bentley Masterpiece

Despite being a relatively new brand, Bell & Ross has long demonstrated its appreciation of the vintage military and pilots’ watches from the early 20th century. The Vintage PW1 is the brand’s first pocketwatch, drawing its inspiration from the timepieces used by aviators in the 1910s, before the first World War helped popularize the wristwatch. It’s got a polished steel case, 49 mm in diameter, with a barleycorn guilloché caseback, a galvanic black dial with sunburst finish, and luminescent Arabic numerals. The fob attaches to a 30-cm steel chain. For more on Bell & Ross’s vintage military watches, click here.

Bell & Ross Vintage PW1
Bell & Ross Vintage PW1


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