Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

I've always had a major soft spot for Cartier watches, especially high-end ones. The particular blend of technique, design, and a traditionally Parisian take on luxury makes them feel both conservative and full of personality. The Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton (debuted here) is a good example of what to look for when you want a Cartier that is much fancier than the ones most people have, but not so exotic as to make it challenging to wear on a regular basis.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On
All images by David Bredan

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Cartier recently announced that their Haute Horlogerie division would significantly slow down production – as I understand it will focus instead on more practical, accessible (i.e. simple and less complicated) high-end watches. Exotic tourbillons and highly technical and original movements which the brand has received many accolades for will be increasingly uncommon as the brand transitions to mostly service existing watches and producing a smaller number of very exclusive watches that I believe will focus more on decoration than a novel movement or mechanism.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

That leads me to believe that for the most part, outside of "piece unique" creations for special customers, watches like the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton might very well represent the top-of-the-line products Cartier makes for men. The watch is actually a combination of three existing items at Cartier, and that includes the Rotonde-style case, "mysterious" movement which has the hour and minute hands on a transparent plane, and on top of that, skeletonization of the in-house made caliber 9981 (which then becomes the caliber 9983) manually wound movement.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

We've substantially seen all this before, and this watch more or less represents Cartier wanting to make the most out of its movements by offering them in a variety of cases. For instance, if you love the Mysterious Hour Skeleton but prefer the Cartier Cle case, they have a watch for you in the Cle de Cartier Mysterious Hour watch (hands-on here). The "non-Skeleton" version of the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton watch was actually the first model to debut this style of "mystery dial movement" in 2013 (hands-on with the Rotonde de Cartier Mystery Hour here).

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Such designs have a long history going back to early 20th century table clocks produced by Cartier. At the time, it was en vogue for some brands (Cartier included) to produce mystery dial clocks. Many of these Art Deco style creations celebrated the intriguing optical illusion created when the hands were not mounted to the dial via a stem as is the case in a traditional watch, but rather mounted on a transparent plate, which itself features hidden gearing used to move it around the dial.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

A skeletonized mystery watch is ironic since the skeletonization part sort of "ruins" the mystery. I've not seen anyone comment on this, but it wouldn't stop me from having an otherwise enjoyable experience with a product such as this. In fact, if you liked the original Mystery Hour watch but wanted to "see even more," then this Skeleton version might be right for you. Note that the privilege of having a skeletonized version of the Mystery complication watch will cost about $15,000 USD more than the non-skeleton model.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

At 42mm wide in palladium (exclusively for now I believe) the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton is just as wearable and comfortable as any Rotonde model. Why palladium? Good question; Cartier likely wants to know if you find the exotic and of-questionable-utility rare material exclusive. The round-case has a bit of French flair (even though it is Swiss Made) with its signature Cartier-style crown with blue sapphire crystal stone cabochon (note while in the past Cartier used mainly blue sapphire crystal for the cabochon, only its higher-end models these days get sapphire while more mainstream-intention models have blue spinel), and attractive, rounded bezel matched to the lugs.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Compared to the Cartier Cle version of the Mystery Hour Skeleton, the Rotonde models' caliber MC 9983 is more... well skeletonized. Cartier really wanted to make sure that the "open" look of the movement matched the theme of the open look of the dial. In essence, the goal seemed to be that the user can see through as much of the watch as possible. I think the result is lovely, save for those people who aren't interested in checking out their own arm hair and skin on a regular basis when glancing at this otherwise beautiful watch.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The movement uses two sapphire crystal plates upon which the hands are set. There is a traditional mounting system in the middle where the central axis point of the two sapphire crystal discs connect. Gears to the right of the hour and minute dial move these discs, which in turn move the hands. Framing all of this, and part of the movement, is the hand-finished plate which includes "structural" Roman numeral motifs. The overall look is great, though it isn't the common decorative style one might consider when imagining a hand-finished mechanical watch movement. Cartier opts for a more modern, arguably masculine look for its particular aesthetic when it comes to skeletonized watch dials and movements.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The entire watch is 11.9mm thick (again, 42mm wide) making it both bold but also wearable under sleeves. If there was ever a luxury statement watch for guys who love mechanical movements – something like the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton watch is it. You get the power of a well-known name, lots of authentic horological technique, and refined design along with a enviable mechanical movement on your wrist.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Cartier is thus wise to "mix and match" its movements and cases in order to offer the widest spectrum of looks and styles for its customers. Compared to many more niche luxury watch brands, Cartier arguably is better positioned to ask for luxury car prices for a watch. It is well-established that the popularity of a luxury product's brand name is directly related to the price a brand can command. Thus, being one of the few watch brands out there with a relatively well-conceived approach to marketing and overall brand awareness, Cartier is perhaps more legitimately able to ask for the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour watch's retail price of $75,000 USD. cartier.com

What do you think?
  • I want it! (10)
  • I love it! (5)
  • Interesting (2)
  • Thumbs up (1)
  • Classy (1)
  • Radium head

    Iconic cool and not for me
    Pass

  • IanE

    Now there’s a Cartier I would like to own: shame there’s no chance! For me, their ‘structural’ numerals really work in this skeletonised watch.

    • egznyc

      I also like how they’ve incorporated the Roman numerals into the design/bridgework. But given this is likely to be worn with long sleeves I’d think putting the circle with the hands on the right would work better than as it is, on the left.

  • Dénes Albert

    I’ve said it before but I must say it again: David has mastered the art of watch photography to a degree very few people can or ever will.

  • Marius

    According to this article: “At 42mm wide in 18k white gold (exclusively for now I believe) the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious..”

    Acrually, that`s not correct. This watch uses a Palladium case. In fact, you can see that on the caseback there are two unscriptions: one for Pt 950, and another one for PALLADIUM.

  • SuperStrapper

    Peek-a-boo! I see your melanoma!

    Love you Cartier, but if I wanted to see that spot on my wrist, i wouldnt wear a watch.

    • How about a 10X magnification lens on the bottom of the opening? That way you could keep a close eye on the growth.

  • Mark1884

    Like Cartier, but this watch does absolutely nothing for me. Never a fan of skeleton or mystery dials. Both seem to ruin a nice watch. The case shape and profile are nice though.
    A respectful pass.

  • Yan Fin

    Interesting object, hardly can imagine an adult men wearing it.

  • BNABOD

    The part that is the star of the show is the part I like the least. Transparent dial means “hair-show” and I don’t like that . An actual dial w the rest around it skeletonized would be so much better and could reduce cost. 75k is a lot to swallow here but that is just me. Suspect they are not selling these like pancakes

  • Ramakrishnan Ravindran

    Looks semi interesting, not for 75k though. I do wish Cartier updates their basic tank line with an in house handwind movement with all their push to manufacture

    • Geo

      That has just been done. The watch was announced this September.

  • DanW94

    I love everything about this watch except the handset. It’s uninteresting and just plain boring, like it was an afterthought. It belies the technical wizardry and superb finishing of the rest of the watch.

    • egznyc

      So you’re also a sucker for a well-executed skeletonized watch?! Now if you want technical wizardry, wait until they come out with the mystery hour – chrono version – I dare them! 😉

  • Spangles

    For a skeletonized, $75,000 watch, I’d like to see more commentary on the movement finishing. It looks machine finished from pictures, what was it like first-hand?

  • Marius

    The Cartier Mysterious Hour is one of my favourite complicated Cartiers. It combines a very interesting complication (as well as quite seldomly-encountered) with a very attractive case and dial design. Nevertheless, there are a few aspects that I don’t like about this watch.

    Let’s start with the price. As I was looking at the pictures, I thought that this timepiece would be priced at around $25,000 – $35,000. At $75,000 I find the price extremely exaggerated. Sure, the mysterious hour is a very intriguing complication; however, the reality is that the movement is not terribly complicated, and judging from the photos, the finish & decoration is not exactly world-class either. The finishing is “correct”, but at this price I would have expected much more considering that a Lange Datograph costs around $65,000, and that even Kari Voutilainens can be had for about the same price.

    Secondly, the watch looks great when photographed independently, but the wrist shots are a bit strange. On the wrist, the watch looks a bit too “transparent” and the case size looks much bigger than 42mm.

    Lastly, while I’m a fan of Cartier watches, I would never spend $75,000 on one. Granted, Carole Forestier-Kasapi, the head watchmaker of Cartier, is one of the brightest watchmakers in the industry, and the complicated calibers are quite good. However, for me, Cartier is the cash-cow of Richemont, and their “ideal” price range is the $4,000-$14,000 segment. With almost $80,000 to spend, I would be looking at more exclusive brands such as FP Journe, Voutilainen, Lange, Grönefeld, or DeBethune.

    • Dinkee, H. O.

      Only those with truly beautiful arm hair such as myself should wear this watch. I believe that privilege outweighs your otherwise prescient points.
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/55da3589fb60c7f816ec8500073142eb3e1e26a07f4373a373b10c35eb64c837.jpg

      • Berndt Norten

        You have mis-used the word prescient

        • Dinkee, H. O.

          He predicted what I would say about the watch before I did except for one thing, tork.

    • cluedog12

      It’s a beautiful watch that costs a bit more than it should. Nothing surprising there. Only the (way too) “serious collectors” care so much about value proposition at $75,000.

      The Piaget Altiplano 900P delivers most of what this Cartier does, perhaps more, at 1/3rd the price. It’s also quite exclusive and under appreciated. Perfectly suited for the Academy Awards or the local watch club. I could go on.

      That being said, if you have funny money and you want a Cartier that says “sophisticated taste”, this is a great option. Way better than a diamond encrusted Tank or a Rainbow Leopard Rolex Daytona.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    One of my favourite ” high street ” brands, but the frame of this piece looks like spaghetti junction. this is so transparent in places that skin tone plays a big part in the look of the watch on different individuals. Stupid wee hands on a silly wee ” magic ” dial. Love the brand, hate this piece.

    • IG

      It has black hands so it’s designed for light skin tones.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        I was hinting towards that. Bizarre.

        • IG

          At 75 Gs it’s too cheap for Mayweather anyway.

  • Kuroji

    I’m a sucker for mystery dials, but as usual it looks less good when worn.

  • Norbs K

    This looks amazing until you see the price.
    Somehow I don’t see it being worth $75K.

    Do agree on the skeleton movement defeating the purpose of being a mystery watch.
    And looking at your skin and arm hair is the new in.
    At least they don’t have to put in an expensive dial.

  • Dinkee, H. O.

    I hereby approve of this watch as it would give a great view of my beautiful arm hair when strapped to my full 5 1/4 inch wrist. Which is my only complaint about the latest Apple watch.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/55da3589fb60c7f816ec8500073142eb3e1e26a07f4373a373b10c35eb64c837.jpg

    • Framlucasse

      Do we need to see this ugly thing, two times? Or even one?

      • Dinkee, H. O.

        Of course you need to see it. Again and again and again! It is the future of horology. Ariel Adams has devoted enormous space on this blog to this horological beauty! It has stolen his heart. Look at that case! THE DESIGN! Masterful. The design of it all ,,, gasp. The fit and finish and craftsmanship. There is real beauty and soul in an Apple Smartwatch. Mechanical Swiss watches are finished because this magical romantic box gives us everything we could ever want from a timepiece! The only fault with it is that it obscures too much of my beautiful arm hair. This Cartier will likely be the only Swiss mechanical watch that survives because of that!

        • Radium head

          Your boy right???

          • Dinkee, H. O.

            Sure, I’m a man. What are you getting at?

    • IG

      Poor photoshopping attempt.

  • Framlucasse

    A fantastic piece, but clearly overpriced.

  • Ulysses31

    It’s a mystery… why anyone would want this. OK, it’s not as bad as that, but still… there’s a big hole in the watch. If I were to “fix” this design by adding a tasteful dial, it would defeat the whole raison d’etre of this thing. Oh well.