January 24, 2021
by Ariel Adams
One of the reasons I admire Cartier timepieces so much is that the company was integral in the creation of the wristwatch industry, to begin with. It was actually around 1904 that Cartier started making men’s wristwatches (probably the first company to commercialize them) with the Santos, as a pilot’s watch. For the next two decades, or so, Cartier experimented with a lot of different timepiece case and dial designs, many of which the brand continues to produce today. That is the case with the tonneau-shaped watch that Cartier first introduced in 1906. Today, we look at the Cartier Prive Tonneau Skeleton XL Dual Time reference WHTN0006 in platinum, which very much combines the Cartier of yesterday and today.
While much less common today, dual time watches that have two twelve-hour dials on the main watch face are an invention from long ago. For a long time, people who needed to know the local time and some other time used dual-time display watches like this. GMT watches that offer one time display in 12-hour format and one in a 24-hour format disrupted the market for traditional dual-time watches that inherently offered a bit less information. That hat said, people always tend to be interested in wristwatches that tell the time in multiple time zones, with dual 12-hour time dials like this being one particular flavor of this product type.
Introduced at SIHH 2019 and part of the larger Prive timepiece collection, this elongated Tonneau XL Skeleton watch also happens to be among the most distinctive-looking Cartier watches out there. The tonneau (barrel-shaped) case design is still very popular, but these longer, narrower types are rare today. The 950 platinum case is 29.8mm-thick at its widest point and 52.4mm-long (lug-to-lug distance). The case is also 11.9mm-thick with a sapphire crystal over the front and rear of the watch. Very important in the elegance of this case design is how the case is not only curved on the sides but the case itself also curved. This helps it fit better on the wrist but is also crucial in making the case look handsome on the wrist. (It would not be nearly as nice if “flat.”)
Affixed to each of the crowns is a blue sapphire crystal (not spinel, as in the less expensive Cartier models) cabochon, and attached to the case is a blue alligator strap. What helps give this otherwise retro timepiece a more modern look is the use of a skeletonized movement. Inside the Cartier Prive Tonneau XL Skeleton Dual Time is the in-house-made Cartier 9919 MC mechanical movement.
The 9919 MC is manually wound with 60 hours of power reserve, and it runs at 4Hz (28,800 bph). The movement is comprised of 197 parts and features two dials for the time, which share the same gear running train. The movement is highly skeletonized, with a lot of hand-finishing, and a clever design that integrates dials for the time as well as elegantly accommodates the uncommon tonneau shape of the movement itself. (Many tonneau-shaped watches, nevertheless, have round movements in them, which often forces those watches to be wider in size.)
Functionally speaking, this type of dual-time movement is very different from your standard GMT watch. The dials for the time are entirely independent of one another — meaning that they can be set to whatever time you like using their respective crowns. Why does this matter? Consider that, for a GMT watch, you can really only set the second time zone in one-hour increments. You can’t even take into consideration a 30-minute time zone difference. This system does help you make sure that your timing does not become synchronized, but it does have limits. A system like this allows you to set either time to whatever you like — to the minute. And reading time is pretty nice on Cartier’s signature blued-steel sword-shaped hands.
The Cartier Prive Tonneau XL is most certainly a dress or elegant watch, and not sporty (though Cartier has plenty available in that area). For me, it does a good job of offering the simple satisfaction of an easy-to-understand movement as well as the pleasant luxury of a heavy platinum case. It also manages to satisfy vintage watch enthusiasts, as well as those who enjoy the look of a modern skeletonized watch dial. Thus, despite the limited nature of this particular timepiece, Cartier was able to satisfy a series of consumer interests in one product. Just another reason why Cartier is important to be taken seriously as among the most impressive mainstream (to niche) luxury watchmakers around today. Price for the reference WHTN0006 Cartier Prive Tonneau XL Skeleton Dual Time watch is $78,500 USD. Learn more at the Cartier website here.