While Cartier has rightly earned its place as an icon in watchmaking, its contributions to haute horlogerie are often far less discussed than designs like the Tank or Santos. While they may fly relatively under the radar, these offerings rarely lack for spectacle, and the brand’s first haute horlogerie collection of 2021 is no exception. This exclusive box set trio of designs all aim to push the aesthetic limits of skeletonization, inspired by both the brand’s own design traditions and the dramatic look of floating mystery dials. The new limited edition Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Precious Icons Set includes the Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux, Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon, and the Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon, all three of which push the intricate and complex tourbillon escapement to new visual frontiers.
The flagship model in this new set is undoubtedly the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon. The Mysterious Skeleton Double Tourbillon begins with the clean, minimal Rotonde de Cartier case, with its short straight lugs, narrow bezel, and elegant profile. Measuring in at 45mm-wide and 11.9mm-thick, this platinum case features the brand’s signature beaded cabochon crown at 3 o’clock set with green jade. The skeleton dial of the Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon takes an elegantly architectural approach to displaying its movement. Strictly speaking, every visible element under the sapphire crystal is structural, with the brushed and chamfered anthracite gray bridges hollowed out into lithe Roman numerals. While a set of elegantly small Breguet hands near 12 o’clock handle actual timekeeping, the entire bridge structure forms a frame directing the eye downward toward the flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock. This flying tourbillon makes for a spectacular visual centerpiece, appearing to float entirely unsupported thanks to a mystery dial style sapphire disk. The “double” in the watches does not refer to a second tourbillon, instead focusing on the fact that the flying tourbillon both rotates and revolves. This element spins on its axis once every 60 seconds, while completing a circuit of its skeleton subdial every 5 minutes. Inside the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon beats the manufacture 9565 MC hand-wound tourbillon movement. Beyond the intricate architectural skeletonization and the mystery dial flying tourbillon, the 9565 MC offers a power reserve of 52 hours at a 21,600 bph beat rate. Cartier finishes the piece with a jade green alligator leather strap, subtly matching the cabochon for a cohesive look.
Second in the lineup is the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon, which takes similar concepts but reinterprets with dramatically different geometry. The platinum case design follows the same pattern as its stablemate, but measures in slightly larger at an imposing 47mm. Here Cartier opts for a cabochon in deep blue aventurine, adding a sparkling touch to the crown. While the dial of the Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon continues the architectural skeleton concepts of the previous design, here the execution is far airier and centralized with two massive Roman numeral bridges at 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock. The entire gear train is centralized as much as possible, leaving the entire movement to seemingly float in space between the front and rear crystals. To add to this hovering effect, Cartier places this model’s tourbillon escapement on top of the rest of the movement rather than integrating it into the rest of the design, allowing the oversized tourbillon to visually float above the rest of the assembly at the very center of the dial. With this centralized layout comes a greater emphasis on legibility, courtesy of larger Breguet hands and an etched outer minutes track. Taking five years to develop, the 9641 MC hand-wound tourbillon movement inside the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon is designed for maximum aesthetic impact with its top-mounted central tourbillon and extremely long bridges supporting the gear train. Power reserve stands at 48 hours at a 21,600 bph beat rate. Cartier once again matches the Astrotourbillon’s alligator leather strap to its cabochon crown, here with a deep midnight blue.
The final member of the trilogy, the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux, appears almost magical in its execution. Fittingly, the mystery dial concept that anchors the watch was debuted by Cartier back in 1912, based on a concept by famed French illusionist and horologist Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin. The elemental platinum Rotonde de Cartier case measures in at 43.5mm, with this model paired with a cabochon crown in aquamarine. For the Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux, Cartier combines the classical mystery dial concept with an orbital tourbillon assembly, thanks to a sapphire disk connecting the movement to the case. The outer ring in anthracite gray offers both a classical visual anchor for the design and an added layer of visual depth, as the inner chemin de fer minutes track sits on a slightly higher level than the radially brushed outer ring with its applied Roman numerals. The tourbillon carriage is extended to carry the entire gear train of the watch, including the mainspring barrel and balance wheel, and mounts to the bottom of the Breguet style minutes hand. This allows the assembly to serve as both a minutes and running seconds indicator, as the tourbillon rotates on its axis once per minute while the cage itself rounds the dial each hour. The effect is undeniably stunning, with a suitably magical quality that feels at once both classical and highly advanced in initial images. Cartier powers the Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux with the manufacture 9462 MC handwound tourbillon movement. Measuring in at only 5.9mm thick, the 9462 MC offers a 55-hour power reserve at a 21,600 bph beat rate. The pale sea-green alligator leather strap of the Astromystérieux, like the other members of the set, is chosen to match the cabochon for a subtly unified effect.
All three watches in the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Precious Icons Set are presented in a lavishly decorated lacquered wood presentation box, topped with hand-fitted and airbrushed wood marquetry in a linked ring mosaic pattern, and fitted with palladium hardware.
As a showcase of Cartier’s ultra-high-end haute horlogerie capabilities, the limited edition Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Precious Icons Set offers both world-class movement making and a refined aesthetic sensibility that still recognizably carries Cartier DNA. Only five examples of the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Precious Icons Set will be made, with each model in the set appearing exclusively in this boxed edition, available now through authorized dealers.