Cartier is rarely the first name that comes to mind when it comes to the annals of fine watchmaking, but the French maison has quietly and consistently been bolstering its catalog of super-interesting, high-end models. Case in point: the recently announced Rotonde De Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon – an ambitious, Geneva Seal-certified creation, characterized by its tourbillon complication at 10:00, seemingly floating in space.
The rhythmic illusion of this special Cartier is made possible by its round “rotonde” series case – a lithe, curvaceous new stage for Cartier to showcase its best complications. In this case, we get two in the Calibre 9407 MC: a minute repeater with hardened steel gongs, and the "floating" tourbillon, held in place by a rotating sapphire disc that rotates every five minutes, with the tourbillon itself completing a rotation each 60 seconds. The floating effect is inspired by Cartier’s "mystery" clocks first created in 1912. Perhaps most impressive about the whole package, though, isn’t just the finely tuned auditory notes or visual spectacle, but the sheer technical feat of fitting 448 individually finished components into a case measuring only 11.15mm thick, by 45mm wide.
Minute repeaters and tourbillons represent two of watchmaking’s most challenging feats, so getting them together on a shared and surprisingly wearable stage is a feat in and of itself. But what really just works with the Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon (try saying that five times fast) is how damned cohesive it all looks – no small task, especially given the levels of complication we’re dealing with. Here, we have black rhodium-finished movement bridges employing contrasting circular graining and Geneva stripes – all collective hallmarks of the Geneva Seal – an ultra-exclusive certification of exemplary quality that fewer than 0.01% of all Swiss watch exports see (you can read all about the Geneva Seal in our in-depth report here). Even in all its complexity and lack of symmetry (notice the de-centered hour and minute hands), however, the dial still finds surprising balance in the negative space occupied by the floating tourbillon.
Activated by a push-piece trigger at 4:00, the minute repeater has been designed around optimizing the four principles of sound to deliver the most pleasing acoustic experience possible. Those considerations start with volume and richness – engineering the Rotonde de Cartier case from ultralight titanium while building the square striking gongs out of hardened steel and maximizing the surface area for the transmission of powerful sound vibrations. The timbre, or clarity, of each note was also considered; with the hourly gongs tuned to a B (the 5th octave), and the minutes to a D (6th octave). Lastly, the duration or resonance of the sound itself is preserved through a silent inertia flywheel (visible at 7:00), which regulates the striking speed of the hammers to ensure every strike is as consistent as the last.
If it weren’t for the wordmark on the dial at 12:00 or the signature sapphire cabochon set into the crown, there’s nothing about this watch that screams "Cartier" – which is probably a good thing, particularly for those not yet convinced that the watchmaker is becoming increasingly capable of going toe-to-toe with the likes of the haute horology elite. At the time of writing, the price of the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon watch is $449,400. cartier.com