BEAU­TI­FULLY COM­PLI­CATED

Cartier’s R&D de­part­ment should be re­named the Min­istry of Horo­log­i­cal Magic. Time­pieces from the Haute Hor­logerie are sim­ply that, mag­i­cal. They have made the im­pos­si­ble pos­si­ble.

Esquire Singapore Watch Guide - - CON­TENTS - Words by Leong Wong

Ro­tonde de Cartier Grand Com­pli­ca­tion may be ul­tra com­pli­cated but it is sim­ply prac­ti­cal.

THERE ARE NOT MANY out there who would protest Cartier’s Ro­tonde De Cartier Grande Com­pli­ca­tion be­ing on the list of 10 Finest Watches of 2015. Judg­ing looks might well be sub­jec­tive, but ev­ery­one would have to agree that this beau­ti­ful watch is packed with in­ge­nu­ity. The watch is housed in the clas­sic Ro­tonde de Cartier cas­ing, which sub­tly veils its ex­tra­or­di­nary hid­den tal­ents.

There had been whis­pers in 2015 that some­thing re­ally fan­tas­tic would be com­ing from Cartier’s Haute Horologerie. Guesses and pre­dic­tions were made, but even if the world’s watch jour­nal­ists did not know what it would be, we knew it would be spec­tac­u­lar. When the time­piece was un­veiled we were all sim­ply blown away. There’s not just one or two but three grand com­pli­ca­tions, which are all ac­tu­ally very prac­ti­cal and yet play­ful: tour­bil­lon, per­pet­ual cal­en­dar and minute re­peater. It is as if Cartier’s mar­vels have been put on a strict diet in or­der to be lean, toned and pow­er­ful and they have all been thinned, sliced, diced and then shoe­horned into a slim case of 12.6mm. The high­est praise must be given to the R&D team who must have em­ployed ev­ery pos­si­ble skills and tech­nol­ogy avail­able to pro­duce a mir­a­cle with a thick­ness of a mere 5.49mm.

The minute re­peater is a grand com­pli­ca­tion that is the most en­joy­able to have. It plays a short seg­ment of mu­sic on three tones, with the low­est tone be­ing the hour, the medium tone be­ing the quar­ter and the high­est tone be­ing the one to fourteen min­utes. It is the one grand com­pli­ca­tion that is the hard­est to craft as the mech­a­nism is the most com­plex to de­sign and pro­duce. A play­ful lit­tle de­vice and if you are into all things ‘old-school’ then this is it.

There are two thing that makes the Ro­tonde de Cartier Grand Com­pli­ca­tion spe­cial. First of all, the en­tire minute re­peater can be viewed un­der the sap­phire crys­tal. The gong el­e­gantly cir­cles around the outer flange of the move­ment and the striker or the ham­mer is at six o’clock. An­other point to add is that its fly-wheel re­ally flies be­cause it is free from the bridges where by tra­di­tion it is nor­mally at­tached to. This way it can lit­er­ally ‘fly’ in­de­pen­dently.

And then, con­sider the ac­ti­va­tion mech­a­nism. Tra­di­tion­ally minute re­peaters use a slider as an ac­ti­va­tor; but there is al­ways the dan­ger of it be­ing ac­ti­vated only half­way or not all the way and then it will be left with too lit­tle power to play the en­tire time. In­stead, Cartier have clev­erly in­tro­duced a mech­a­nism that they call ‘all or noth­ing”. Now when you ac­ti­vate the pusher, it cre­ates enough en­ergy to chime the com­plete time (hour and min­utes). This is es­pe­cially use­ful when you need to know the time but can­not see the dial if, for in­stance, it is dark.

The Tour­bil­lon is an­other gem, and just as in­cred­i­bly com­pli­cated to make and as­sem­ble. It must be en­trusted to master watch­mak­ers to hand craft this grand com­pli­ca­tion and it can get ex­tremely dicey dur­ing as­sem­bling be­cause it is nec­es­sary to have hands that are even stead­ier than a ma­chine. Cartier uses ti­ta­nium for its car­riage be­cause it is the op­ti­mal ma­te­rial for ac­cu­racy and pre­ci­sion. It too is ‘fly­ing’ as it is also not at­tached to a bridge.

The fi­nal grand com­pli­ca­tions is also one of the most prac­ti­cal to ev­ery­one, it is the per­pet­ual cal­en­dar. In ef­fect, a lit­tle com­put­erised cal­en­dar de­vice. It is able to take into ac­count the dif­fer­ent num­ber of days in a month and Fe­bru­ary’s 28 days as well as the leap year. It takes all that in its stride and changes the en­tire date ac­cord­ingly. Re­mark­ably, you only have to ad­just it ev­ery 100 years, which should take care of things. You don’t need to change it in your life­time and can leave it to later gen­er­a­tions to han­dle that lit­tle mat­ter.

And now the last but not the least: the move­ment in its en­tirety is cre­ated all at once along with all the com­pli­ca­tions. There are no mod­ules be­ing added to a base move­ment. This is a very com­plex piece of en­gi­neer­ing con­sist­ing of 578 parts with 47 jew­els al­to­gether, and it is housed in a near naked plat­inum case with a large sap­phire crys­tal and a large sap­phire case­back.

Above: Ro­tonde de Cartier Grand Com­pli­ca­tion.

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