Cartier has man­aged to cre­ate the eas­i­est time and cal­en­dar change in a mere in­stant.

Esquire Malaysia Watch Guide - - Watch Innovasion­s of 2014 - Words by Ivan Lim

im­me­di­ately stands out. The sub-di­als and win­dows through which it is of­ten pre­sented oc­cupy most of the watch face, mark­ing the time­piece as a work of tech­ni­cal mas­tery. To bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate this com­pli­ca­tion, we need to un­der­stand its pur­pose. An astro­nom­i­cal year is the time taken for the earth to com­plete one or­bit around the sun, and takes 365.24 days. How­ever, for daily us­age, there is a re­quire­ment to have round num­bers and this prompted the Ro­man em­peror Julius Cae­sar to in­sti­tute the leap year in 46BC. Thus, the Per­pet­ual Cal­en­dar chal­lenges watch­mak­ers to follow the stride of time across day, week, month and year through the decades with no adjustment needed, while ac­count­ing for leap years.

How have tra­di­tional watch­mak­ers ac­com­plished this feat? It helps to un­der­stand that the prin­ci­pal com­po­nent of a per­pet­ual cal­en­dar watch is the month cam. Think of this as a disc that has been fixed to the un­der­side of a larger ro­tat­ing wheel. It has seven ridges (for months with 31 days), four dents (for months with 30 days), and a larger dent with an ad­di­tional ro­tat­ing piece for Fe­bru­ary. This is es­sen­tially the me­chan­i­cal mem­ory for the per­pet­ual cal­en­dar, and is joined to the day, date, year and other mech­a­nisms via a se­ries of wheels, discs, levers and pawls (fin­gers which en­gage the wheels) which are set at dif­fer­ent heights so as to ro­tate the var­i­ous discs at their re­spec­tive times. A full ex­pla­na­tion is out of the scope of this ar­ti­cle but the reader can imag­ine that with mul­ti­ple mech­a­nisms in­volved, any adjustment would have to be made via mul­ti­ple push­ers on the watch case.

The Ro­tonde de Cartier Astro­cal­endaire watch departs from this. The Per­pet­ual Cal­en­dar dis­plays are ar­ranged three-di­men­sion­ally in con­cen­tric lev­els; day is in­di­cated on the first, month on the sec­ond, with the out­er­most cir­cle show­ing the date. Each tier has a mov­ing blue win­dow which di­rects the wearer’s eye to the ap­pli­ca­ble marker at the time. Fi­nally, a hand on the back of the watch in­forms whether it is a nor­mal or leap year. Par­tially patented, the gear train sys­tem of the Astro­cal­endaire’s 9459 MC move­ment re­places the tra­di­tional lever and spring mech­a­nisms with a gear train mech­a­nism that sig­nif­i­cantly re­duces the risk of dam­age should the watch ever be over-wound.

Cased in plat­inum and wound au­to­mat­i­cally from its large ro­tor (with a 50 hours power re­serve), the Astro­cal­endaire’s de­sign rep­re­sents great tech­ni­cal in­ge­nu­ity. The de­sign of a tra­di­tion per­pet­ual cal­en­dar pro­hibits any man­ual cor­rec­tion sev­eral hours be­fore and after mid­night at the risk of break­ing the mech­a­nism. In ad­di­tion, when mak­ing ad­just­ments to the watch, the usual four push-pieces on the side of the case are hard to nav­i­gate and never clearly iden­ti­fied. The Astro­cal­endaire elim­i­nates this prob­lem by in­cor­po­rat­ing a set­ting sys­tem which uti­lizes the crown to con­trol the date and month in­di­ca­tors along with the usual hour and minute hands. Adjustment of the watch is made even eas­ier with the pos­si­bil­ity of cor­rect­ing the var­i­ous mech­a­nisms for­wards and back­wards. This has hith­erto been a strict no-no for most me­chan­i­cal watches.

In­cor­po­rat­ing the tour­bil­lon com­pli­ca­tion which off­sets the ef­fects of grav­ity on the watch’s move­ment and cer­ti­fied Poin­con de Gen­eve, the Ro­tonde de Cartier Astro­cal­endaire eas­ily dis­tin­guishes it­self from the other watches with the Per­pet­ual Cal­en­dar com­pli­ca­tion. While it flaw­lessly mea­sures time through fu­ture decades, it is most cer­tainly an in­no­va­tion for the present.

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