Skeleton watches are the stars of Cartier’s latest exhibition
Modern openwork marvels are the stars of Cartier’s latest exhibition of watches,
Exposing the innermost secrets of the timepiece is what French watchmaker André- Charles Caron had in mind in the 1760s when he artfully cut away parts of the plates and bridges to reveal his creations’ wheels and gears. Considered the father of skeleton watches, Charon, a clockmaker to Louis XV, excited public interest with his meticulous trailblazing work. Since then, skeleton timepieces have been testaments to the watchmakers’ skill, demonstrating that the beauty of a watch lies not only in its design and functionality, but also in the conception of the movement.
In recent years, Cartier has asserted its expertise in skeleton movements by creating new styles of openwork. Unlike the skeleton calibres of old, in which the bridges of existing models were pared back as much as possible without compromising their structural integrity, Cartier’s modern-day models are designed from the ground up, with their own unique movements. In some of the newer watches, the Roman numeral hour markers function as the actual bridges, while in others, such as the Pasha de Cartier Skeleton Dragon, the motif of the timepiece forms the base of the movement. To illustrate the development of its skeleton watches, Cartier recently held an exhibition at IFC Mall in a booth constructed in the style of the open Roman numeral framework of the Santos 100 skeleton watch. Inside, four zones showcased the brand’s most famous openwork timepieces from the past and present. While the maison has designed mystery and skeleton clocks since the 19th century, it’s the company’s modern
executions that really show off Cartier’s watchmaking skill.
With the Tank LC Sapphire Skeleton, Cartier has taken one of its most recognisable shapes and transformed it into a miniaturised mystery clock. Entirely transparent, it shows off a streamlined in-house 9616 MC skeleton movement in the middle of the dial sandwiched between two sapphire plates. The watch, with dimensions of 39.2mm by 30mm, sits extremely well on the wrist. The manually wound movement has a patented sapphire mounting plate that makes it look as if it’s floating. The barrels, wheels and balance are structured around the central hands, and a large, circular bridge holds everything in place. The skeleton is extremely detailed, with bevelled edges on almost every component, and is visible from both sides of the watch. On the back, two barrels feature prominently and provide three days of power.
Cartier’s two concept watches, the ID One and ID Two, were also on display to highlight breakthroughs achieved in materials and energy management. One of the applications of the new developments is the Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton, which uses a lubrication-free escapement like that of the ID One. An intriguing feature of the timepiece is a central carousel tourbillon that circles the dial every minute, a visual effect enhanced by its skeletonisation. The dial is completely see-through, except for the base plate of the 9461 MC movement—an extreme example of openwork with just two oversized Roman numerals at six and 12 o’clock, and a thin bar at three o’clock anchoring the movement. Much of the 47mm case is empty, which gives the impression of the tourbillon carriage orbiting in space. The titanium bridges are visible from the back.
Cartier pushes the limits in aesthetics and takes its openwork style to another level with its recently issued skeletonised version of the unique, unevenly shaped Crash watch it created in 1967 after a collector took his watch, bent out of shape in an accident, to Jean-jacques Cartier for repair. Symbolising non-conformist, creative freedom, the Crash watch was Cartier’s way of overturning convention and introducing a touch of humour to watchmaking. The new Crash Skeleton, which features the hand-wound calibre 9618 MC in an openwork Roman numeral dial, is considered quite a feat, as it was a very challenging task to rework the movement to fit the asymmetrical case.
Cartier has achieved much on the jewellery side as well with the Pasha de Cartier watches, in which the movement bridges are formed in the shape of mythical creatures such as a dragon or the brand’s signature feline, the panther. The bridges and hollowed main plates are fully set with diamonds and coloured stones, and, like the rest of the highlighted timepieces, feature a delicate configuration that has yet to be replicated by any other watchmaker.
SYMBOLISING NON-CONFORMIST, CREATIVE FREEDOM, THE CRASH WATCH WAS CARTIER’S WAY OF OVERTURNING CONVENTION
face value The Crash Skeleton watch (below) was one of the exquisite timepieces highlighted at the Cartier exhibition
new ground Cartier has asserted its expertise in skeleton movements in recent years by creating new styles of openwork
The Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton has a revolutionary lubrication-free escapement