Cartier Fine Watchmaking is definitely one of a kind. After years of launching original, often unique and spectacular complications, the brand’s major technical new release for the year 2015 is a Grande Complication watch in the classic sense of the term – or almost so. According to Carole Forestier-Kasapi, the movement of the Rotonde Grande Complication is the most complex that the movement manufacturer has ever invented. The director of movement development for Cartier has succeeded in uniting the best of two worlds. The first is that of the Grande Complication, which combines a minute repeater with a flying tourbillon and a perpetual calendar. In terms of execution, this model reflects the care lavished on models bearing the Hallmark of Geneva as well as extensive skeleton-working, even though it must be said that, with no less than 578 parts, transparency is not the keynote of this model.
Cartier has added two standout features. The first is automatic winding, a rare feature at this level of complexity, especially when provided by a micro-rotor. In addition, the Rotonde Grande Complication is amazingly wearable: the movement measures just 5.49 mm thick, a record for such a complex calibre. The finished watch has a 45 mm diameter and is 12.5 mm thick, a far cry from the ‘frying pans’ (or even ‘pressure cookers’) one tends to find in this category.
Nonetheless, Cartier has not forgotten its first loves and offers fresh interpretations of three of its favourite complications. The first is the Astrotourbillon: its tourbillon is excentric and makes one complete revolution around the dial each minute – except there is no longer any dial! The watch and movement have been open-worked to the point where all that remains is a minimal periphery (case middle and inner bezel) and a dense centre (the movement). Rarely have transparency and the ‘suspended in mid-air’ effect been taken to such extremes.
Another newly evolved brand classic, the Rotonde Tourbillon Lové model, has been given a more distinctly horological interpretation than its previous version. Gone is the amphitheatre-shaped grid of Roman numerals. The flying tourbillon of Calibre 9458MC is still slightly off-centred, while the dial now appears in a non-rhodiumed white gold version adorned with a deep and extensive guilloché pattern.
The third modification to an existing calibre and watch relates to the Rotonde Annual Calendar model. The case is now 40 mm, reflecting Cartier’s ongoing tendency to reduce diameters, watch by watch, year after year. This downsizing is accompanied by a corresponding rethink of the movement and the display layout. The end result is a watch that is even smaller, more wearable and more legible.
Since its early days as an independent Manufacture, Cartier has proven its ability to play on volumes, off-centred constructions and skeleton work. Right from its beginnings as a watch brand, Cartier has constantly played on shapes, formats and geometrical effects. In 2015, the brand presents a combination of these two pillars of its watchmaking identity. Its Crash Skeleton introduces the Mechanical Legends programme: every two years, a major brand classic will be reinterpreted in a powerfully horological and extremely offbeat manner. The Crash Skeleton gives a foretaste of what is to come: its case is that of the 1967 Crash Watch. Its movement precisely follows the inexpressible, unclassifiable and iconoclastic shapes of this model. Better still, the shape is defined not by a simple, solid mainplate, but instead by distorted openwork Roman numerals forming the movement. Once again, just as with its complications, Cartier delivers the best of two worlds.