Sure, the Santos-Dumont may be Cartier’s poster child this year in all its various limited editions, but for true haute horology look no further than the aptly-named Fine Watchmaking Collection. It does what it says on the engraved, complication-laden case and this year Cartier has brought not one but three new Rotonde de Cartier pieces to bear.
Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton
The first is the Rotonde de Cartier Mystery Skeleton, a complication Cartier have more history with than almost any other watchmaker. The aim of a mystery complication is to hide how indicators are attached, making them look like they’re floating in a void. Here that’s achieved by attaching the minute and hour hands to sapphire disks, which are in turn attached around the periphery of what would be the dial in a standard timepiece.
Because floating hands simply aren’t enough, the rest of the piece is then skeletonised, with the bridges taking the form of oversized Roman numerals, giving glimpses of a fantastically laid-out 9983 MC calibre manual wind movement underneath.
The only downside is that it won’t look its best when you actually wear it; instead of floating on nothing, the hands will look to be floating on your hairy wrist. If that does it for you, you have serious issues.
Case: 42mm diameter x 11.9mm thickness, 18k pink gold | Water resistance: 30m (3 bar) | Movement: Calibre 9983 MC, manual winding, 28,000 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 48h
Rotonde de Cartier Grand Complication Skeleton
If the mystery hands make your mind boggle, Cartier’s second Fine Watchmaking Collection entry is a little more traditional. A very little bit more. The Rotonde de Cartier Grand Complication Skeleton houses a perpetual calendar, minute repeater and tourbillon in its lavish, 45mm case, all of which have been skeletonised.
The only aspects that aren’t directly looking into the movement are the Roman numerals for 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10. They’re just about large enough to not get lost in the mix, while the rose gold hands stand out from the silver and black background of the movement to keep the mass of indicators readable. In short, the Rotonde de Cartier Grand Complication Skeleton is a ode to serious haute horology.
Case: 45mm diameter x 12.57mm thickness, 18k pink gold | Water resistance: 30m (3 bar) | Movement: Skeletonised calibre 9406 MC, certified “Poinçon de Genève”, 21,600 vph (3 Hz), minute repeater, perpetual calendar and flying tourbillon | Power reserve: 84h (3.5 days)
Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon
The final entry in Cartier’s fine watchmaking triumvirate is a mix of the two that have gone before: the Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon.
Unlike the others, there’s not even a hint of a dial on this one. Instead, the full minute repeater complication is laid bare so that you can watch as well as hear it chime. The blackened bridges and plates stand out nicely against the rose gold and are a damn sight lovelier to look at than anything as prosaic as guilloche.
The mystery this time is the double tourbillon at 10 o’clock rather than the main hands. As well as rotating around its own axis, the tourbillon orbits the plate of sapphire crystal, in theory regulating the movement better than a ‘standard’ version. At the very least, it looks magnificent.
Case: 45mm diameter x 11.5mm thickness, 18k pink gold | Water resistance: 30m (3 bar) | Movement: Calibre 9407 MC, certified “Poinçon de Genève”, 21,600 vph (3 Hz), minute repeater, mysterious double tourbillon | Power reserve: 84h (3.5 days)
Of the three though, my personal favourite is the first mystery watch. I tend to feel skeleton perpetual calendars are an assault on the eyes and the lovely charm of having floating hands for me beats out the over-the-top double tourbillon. Plus those skeletonised, asymmetrical Roman numerals are gorgeous.
Not that I’d turn down any of the three of course; price is on request, but you can be sure that would be one expensive present.
More details at Cartier’s Fine Watchmaking Encounters’ website.