What a wonderful time of year, when many brands start to slowly show what they have been working on for SIHH 2015. Cartier is kicking off the new watch season with their announcement of the Rotonde De Cartier Annual Calendar, a nicely balanced and innovative (yet decidedly Cartier) expression of the complication that only needs to be set once a year. A complication of this sort manages to sit between Cartier’s more standard high-end watch production and its haute horology department. Though with an in-house movement and precious metal case, it certainly leans a bit toward the latter.

Available in 18k white or pink gold, the Rotonde De Cartier Annual Calendar measures 40mm wide and 13.26mm thick. While the dial may pack a great deal of information, the case is minimal, with a polished finish and short lugs. The crown, in true Cartier fashion, is adorned with a blue cabochon sapphire that matches nicely with the blued steel hour and minute hands. While annual calendar complications aren’t inherently new, it is the layout of the calendar information which is the most interesting here. For a few years now, Cartier has been cleverly asking watch lovers to “rethink” some classic complications by executing them in new ways. Here, for example, you see a “persistent” visible ring of each day of the week spelled out (something which we haven’t seen before), with a red indicator that jumps under the current day of the week.

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An annual calendar complication requires a date, day, and month display, and the Rotonde De Cartier Annual Calendar manages these via Cartier’s calibre 9908 MC. With automatic winding, 32 jewels, and a power reserve of 48 hours, this 4Hz movement offers a two digit big-date display at 12, a month display at six, and a day display along the outer circumference of the dial. There is a small hammer-shaped hand (only the flat tip can be seen, in red) that indicates the day. The movement appears to be very nicely finished and can be seen through a sapphire display case back. This is a movement whose complications have been designed for daily use, versus a once-in-a-while exotic complication-style watch.

Setting the Rotonde De Cartier Annual Calendar is done exclusively via the crown, and Cartier has designed the system to be as simple as possible. So, much like a standard date function, the crown on the Rotonde De Cartier Annual Calendar offers winding, time setting, and then date setting – all without relying on correctors.

That simplicity is also expressed in the dial layout. While the dial is busy, each element is easily discernible, and overall legibility appears to be good, though the time display on the grey dial model appears to offer less contrast than the silver/white dial version.

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The dial design will feel right at home in a Cartier display case, with large roman numerals and central sunray guilloche finishing. I like that the symmetry of the watch has been preserved by placing the big date at 12 and the month display at six o’clock. Some additional visual interest is added by having the day display presented though apertures cut into the upper dial layer. This also allows all but the tip of the day hand to be hidden beneath the main dial, a clever way of managing some of the clutter possible with an annual calendar display.

The white gold model will be paired with a black alligator strap for $34,000 USD, while the pink gold version will come on a brown leather strap and carry a $31,000 price tag.

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