By Rebecca Doulton
Just two weeks before the SIHH gets underway, Cartier watches are showing the world how far they have come in the high horology game. Simplifying complications, pushing the boundaries on conventional aesthetic parameters and making time beautiful are the ongoing legacies of this extraordinarily creative maison.
The trend for simplifying information on watch dials is to be celebrated because, as we all know, getting something to look simple is in fact extremely hard. The new Rotonde de Cartier Annual Calendar watch is an ode to legibility and functionality, requiring just one setting a year. Most annual calendars need to be adjusted at the end of every month; this Cartier watch only needs to be changed from the 28 or 29 February - depending on whether it is a leap year or not - to 1 March. The large date window at 12 o'clock, the time and the month can all be adjusted at the crown, which is decorated with Cartier's hallmark blue cabochon sapphire.
The days of the week on Cartier's new Annual Calendar watch are indicated by a red hammer-shaped hand while the months sit in a semi-circular smile at 6'clock. In pride of place, the large Roman numerals, which give this watch its handsome, classical identity, are read off by blued-steel hands that emanate from the centre of the sunray guillochéd dial. Inside the watch beats Cartier's self-winding calibre 9908MC movement. The Rotonde de Cartier Annual Calendar watch will be presented in a 40mm pink gold case with a white dial or in a white gold case with a more contemporary grey dial.
The next preview Cartier is sharing with watch lovers is the Rotonde de Cartier Reversed Tourbillon watch. Artistic, unconventional and extremely beautiful, this massive 46mm white gold Cartier watch is a spectacle to behold. The sunray guilloché pleats of white gold that draw the eye in to the action are almost like the pleats on a stiffly starched tuxedo shirt. Defying convention, the asymmetric off-centred hour and minute hands, positioned on the right side of the dial, move around the exposed and reversed flying tourbillon, the true protagonist of the dial. The small seconds subdial also defies convention with a 20 to 45 second display, rather than the characteristic 0 to 60.
Nobody can do the time warp with more elegance than Cartier. Inspired by the shape of a Cartier watch that had been mangled almost beyond recognition in a car crash, Cartier of London released its Crash watch in 1967 and created a collector's trophy in the process. Having reappeared as a high jewellery ladies' watch in 2013, Cartier embraces a bold, sculptural approach with the latest edition of the Crash Skeleton watch. The asymmetrical case in platinum is impressive but poses a very real problem for watchmakers: how on earth do you make all the bits and pieces of a movement fit inside such an odd-shaped case? Well, the answer was to "crash" the movement itself and conceive a whole new engine that would follow the lines of the case. But as always with Cartier, there is more. Instead of hiding the movement under a caseback, Cartier decided to put the whole works - calibre 9618 MC - on display thanks to the skeletonised dial, which doubles up as Roman numerals, and the sapphire crystal caseback
This trio of watches makes a very tasty appetiser to the main course of Cartier watches that will be serving up at the SIHH in just two weeks' time.