There are a lot of novelties in watchmaking but one of the most entrancing has always been mystery watches. These timepieces have been designed to look like they couldn’t possibly function and yet they do due to the use of illusion integrated into their mechanisms – such as structural components being hidden through the use of transparent sapphire crystal.
Cartier has been producing mystery clocks and watches since 1910 and recently they’ve been releasing one every year, which means that they’re arguably the most competent at it in the world… but even by their standards, the Masse Mystérieuse is something else.
You just need to look at this watch to understand how amazing it is. It’s an openwork dial revealing a skeletonised movement which has been reduced in size to the extent that the entire mechanism fits inside the bi-directional rotor. It’s nothing short of miraculous, made all the more so by the transparent void that makes up the rest of the watch. It’s super impressive, more than practically any other mysteries they’ve produced in the last five years, even my personal favourite, the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Day & Night.
The fact the rotor is also the movement means special attention had to be paid to how the bi-directional winding mechanism works and how the calibre operates the central hands. It’s vitally important that while mystery watches look impossible, they function like regular pieces. And so new methods had to be found to allow the movement to rotate around the hands without damaging them or altering their position.
In order to achieve this, the 9801 MC calibre uses technology inspired by cars. A differential system has been integrated into the movement at the very centre, which allows the hands and the rotor to move at different speeds on the same axis without damaging each other. Additionally, the speed of rotation of the rotor is purposely irregular to protect the balance wheel and maintain its vertical position.
And on top of the mechanical wizardry, it’s all contained within a 43.5mm platinum case with a ruby cabochon crown. The Cartier Masse Mystérieuse is perhaps unsurprisingly a limited edition with 30 pieces available on a range of strap or bracelet options.
Price & Specs:
Model: Cartier Masse Mystérieuse
Case/dial: 43.5mm diameter x 12.64mm height, platinum case, openworked dial
Movement: In-house 9801 MC calibre, skeletonised automatic, 43 jewels
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 42h
Functions: Hours, minutes
Strap: Semi-matt dark grey alligator leather
Price/availability: €250,000, limited to 30 pieces, €565,000 (baguette set with platinum bracelet) or €1,200,00 (full diamond set with platinum bracelet), limited to 10 pieces each
More details at Cartier.