Every year in January, one of the world’s most exclusive watch exhibitions takes place in Geneva: Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, fondly known as SIHH. Here, more than a dozen brands owned by luxury conglomerate Richemont Group (A. Lange & Söhne, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Vacheron Constantin, among them), along with more than a dozen of the most elite independent watch brands, show their newest inventions. These are the watches that will set the trends for the coming year, many of which have been years in the making. The new Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon is one such example.
This extremely complicated watch blends several technical elements from the brand: the mystery watch (a signature of Cartier), minute repeater, and tourbillon escapement, all with an exposed movement to boot. The new limited-edition timepiece was several years in the making and may be one of the most complicated ever built by the brand. It is the first to bring together the mystery hour complication and minute repeater function under one hood, so to speak.
The mystery hour has long been one of Cartier’s specialties. The brand first dabbled in the movement with its famed Mystery clocks, in which only the hands are visible through a sapphire dial, with the movement parts hidden in the base of the clock. Cartier has since taken that concept to the wrist and has unveiled a host of watches with a mysterious hour hand that appears to float in space. Now, the brand takes the iconic movement to the next stage, replacing mysterious hands with a floating double tourbillon.
Making this particular double tourbillon escapement even more complex is the fact that it actually offers double axis rotation—a patented concept that’s mesmerizing to watch—with a rotation of the flying tourbillon cage every minute, and a second rotation of the tourbillon in five minutes around the sapphire disk.
Cartier has also added an all-new minute repeater mechanism, which takes into account all four dimensions of sound—intensity (sound level), tone, tonality, and deadening (or succinct stopping) of sound. To achieve the best possible combination of sound elements, the brand opted to forgo the dial, make the case of titanium, and use square section gongs, among a host of other innovative details. With hammers visible on the dial side of the watch, the repeater strikes the time on demand, activated using the push piece at 4:00.
As if all of this was not enough, the master watchmakers and artisans at Cartier worked tirelessly to also ensure a comfortable fit on the wrist. This required a slimming of the 448-part movement, 9407 MC caliber base, without risking any compromise to component strength. In the end, the 45mm watch measures a slim 11.15mm in thickness—making it the brand’s slimmest watch at this level of complication. The watch bears the coveted Poinçon de Genève certification, attesting to its high-quality craftsmanship, and each is individually numbered. Prices will not be released until the SIHH in January 2017.
For more high-tech luxury watches for men, see our reviews for the Manufacture Royal 1770 Micromegas Revolution, the Panerai Radiomir 1940 Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon GMT, and the A. Lange Sohne Lange 1 in Honey Gold.