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Review: Rotatory Mystery – Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon

by Frank Chuo on February 3, 2020
Overview
Brand

Cartier

Complication / Type of Watch

Mysterious Tourbillon, Skeleton

Recommended Retail Price

EUR180,000

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Double Tourbillon

It’s not that hard to build, and it comes with a heavy premium – but the tourbillon still commands awe like no other thing in watchmaking today. As the tourbillon becomes increasingly common, high-end brands need to innovate to distinguish themselves. Some stick to what they know best and produce stunningly well-finished tourbillon cages; some construct tourbillons with multiple cages; some go for size and have the technical complication cover the entire dial! Cartier have got a trick up its sleeves as well and it’s what they call the ‘mysterious double tourbillon’. First introduced back in 2013, hardly any other tourbillon display is as hypnotic and bamboozling as it.

Cartier’s first venture into ‘mysterious’ displays began in 1912 with the creation of the first mystery clocks with hands that seemed to float in rock crystal, as if totally unrelated to the movement. In 2013, Cartier’s Rotonde watch was presented with a tourbillon escapement that appeared to be suspended in space. Finally, in 2018, a new iteration of the mysterious double tourbillon was presented, and this latest variant looks even more contemporary and “airy” than its predecessor. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The case of the Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon is aptly rendered in the most noble of metals: platinum. While the case band is satin-finished, the bezel and the top of the lugs are polished to a sheen. The crown at 3 o’clock is a Cartier signature beaded crown with a sapphire cabochon. At 45 mm in diameter and 12.4 mm in thickness, the watch is anything but discreet, and that’s because it isn’t intended to be demure and shy. Why would anyone hide a dial like that under a sleeve anyway?

The watch is also available platinum with bezel paved with baguette diamonds.

To be accurate, there isn’t exactly much of a dial – not in this variant of the Rotonde de Cartier. The only thing that can be considered part of the dial is the minute track along the perimeter of the casing. The rest of the visage – apart from the heat-blued, sword-style, hour and minute hands – is essentially part of the movement. To mark the hours, the plate of the movement has been – rather cleverly – skeletonised to form Roman numerals on the left and right sides of the “dial”.

The main dish of the banquet that is the distinctive face of the Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon remains the tourbillon display at 6 o’clock. Within the fluted edged aperture dances a flying tourbillon that appears to float in thin air. As its cage makes a full rotation every minute, it too revolves within said aperture, albeit at a slower rate of one revolution every 5 minutes. Even 7 years after its debut, the mysterious double tourbillon display doesn’t fail to mesmerise. And even if you knew the trick behind the mechanism, you still can’t help but be impressed by how the tourbillon is spinning, seemingly disconnected from the movement.

Thanks to the short hands, the lack of a dial proper, and a skeletonised movement, reading the time is a little challenging. Thankfully, we live in the era of smartphones.

The Movement

Driving the Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon is the manufacture Calibre 9465 MC. The 286-part, 26-jewel movement has a minimum power reserve of 52 hours and operates at a 3 Hz beat rate – not bad for a calibre with a tourbillon that not just rotates but also revolves. As you may have guessed as well, a sapphire crystal disk (with an extra slather of anti-reflective coating) is involved in ‘levitating’ and revolving the tourbillon; this disk is toothed (hidden) and acts like a gear. Unsurprisingly, the entire mechanism is power-hungry and plenty of research was required to determine the optimum movement speed of all the moving parts – Cartier settled for the standard one minute rotation along with the one revolution per five minutes around the aperture. The weight of the tourbillon cage was naturally a key factor in the equation, which is why it is made in lightweight titanium, weighing only 0.28 g.

The mysterious tourbillon in its domain.

When it comes to movement finishing, the finisseurs behind the Calibre 9465 MC can be proud of themselves. The Hallmark of Geneva stamp is evidence that the movement has been finished to superlative standards. What caught our eyes were the miles upon miles of edges on the skeletonised movement that had to be beveled and then polished. The top surface of the skeletonised bridges features a brushed aesthetic instead of the more classic Geneva waves (which wouldn’t be that appropriate in the setting anyway). The tourbillon cage has also been given the same treatment: brushed on top, beveled and polished on the edges. All in all, the finissage is contemporary, attractive, and apt. If we had to nitpick on something, it’s the glaringly obvious lack of inward or outward angles, despite a hundred opportunities to include even one. These are the most difficult and time-consuming types of anglage to execute (all angles in the Calibre 9465 MC are of the rounded type) and will almost certainly lead to increased cost, so perhaps Cartier’s just being cognisant of the bookkeeping.

The Calibre 9465 MC as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.

The Competitive Landscape

Tourbillon watches have truly become a dime a dozen in recent years. No longer is the tourbillon restricted to high end manufacturers and master watchmakers. That said, tourbillon watches by haute horlogerie brands are still cherished and respected by collectors because they tend to be executed with substance. The Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon is an excellent example. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, no other manufacturer has achieved the mysterious tourbillon display as cleanly and impressively as Cartier. Perhaps this is why the watch has become somewhat of an icon in modern watchmaking. The Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon is limited to 30 pieces only and was priced at a hefty EUR180,000.

The Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon is captivating on the wrist.

Now, just because no one does the mystery tourbillon as well as Cartier, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any examples that have come close. One timepiece from high watchmaking that we’ve managed to uncover after some thorough searching is the Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumière from 2015. A much under-appreciated watch, the U10 was designed to resemble a vintage TV set. Its odd shape means that it will not be for everyone, but our hands-on experience with the watch was positive. The U10 is beautiful, very well-crafted, and excellently finished. The star of the show is indubitably the flying tourbillon on the right side of the case. It almost looks like it is suspended in thin air, though upon closer inspection, you’d find it barely connected to the movement. There are three sapphire crystal windows (one shaped) overlooking the tourbillon for maximal visibility. The watch was priced EUR108,600 when it was first introduced.

The Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumière is an oddball but a lovable one.

The next candidate for likeness is a bit of a stretch, but hear us out. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time is equipped with an orbital flying tourbillon that – similar to the Cartier – revolves around a centre. It is, however, not nearly as ‘visible’ as the one in the U10 or the Rotonde de Cartier – even the back is entirely covered by a movement plate. The Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time has a world time function, which does make the dial look busy but will be great for anyone looking for a world timer with the added bonus of an orbital tourbillon. In fact, upon its debut, the watch was the first to combine the two distinctively different mechanisms. Retailing for around USD145,000, the watch sits between the Cartier and the Angelus in pricing but offers the biggest bang for buck if you don’t mind the busy dial.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time.

Final Thoughts

It takes plenty of ingenuity to create an iconic watch these days. Safe to say, the iconic Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon is pretty ingenious. Even 7 years after its debut, the mysterious tourbillon display virtually remains exclusive to Cartier. While the mysterious tourbillon isn’t going to change any paradigms in watchmaking, it is bloody splendid to look at. Even you know the trick behind it, it hypnotises you all the same every time you look at it.

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