There was one watch in Cartier’s Watches & Wonders reveal that stood in stark contrast to its 2022 contemporaries and served as a reminder of just how clever and complicated the brand’s watchmaking once was.
While most of this year’s watches focused on simple, elegant decoration the Masse Mystérieuse very clearly originated from a different era.
Before Cartier’s current CEO Cyrille Vigneron took over the reins in 2016, the brand’s watchmaking looked very different thanks to the prolific output of its haute horlogerie division run by resident genius Carole Forestier-Kasapi, who had previously conceived the idea of the now iconic Freak while overseeing Ulysse Nardin’s watchmaking operation.
The watches created during this era – such as the crystal-cased ID Two concept watch and the Astrotourbillon - were amazingly complicated, astronomically expensive and almost always sat inside oversized Rotonde de Cartier cases. Amazing watchmaking but, Vigneron felt, not what Cartier was renowned for.
Instead Vigneron directed the jeweler’s watchmaking efforts towards less complicated pieces inside elegantly decorated cases, a strategy which has seen a number of its historic collections including Tank and Panthère subtly tweaked.
By Cartier’s own admission the Masse Mystérieuse has been in development for eight years, placing it firmly in Forestier-Kasapi’s tenure, and suggesting that even Vigneron was impressed enough by the concept to persevere with its undoubtedly expensive development. Forestier-Kasapi’s work at Cartier was also heavily inspired by the brand’s historic Mystérieuse clocks, that created the illusion of hands moving independently of any mechanism through transparency, a theme all too apparent here.
What Cartier has done is build an entire automatic movement – the 9801 MC – inside its own winding rotor. The rotor – and the movement inside – still spins, allowing it to wind the mainspring inside by decoupling itself from the hour and minute hands by means of a differential gearing.
The rotor has been skeletonized too, revealing its mainspring and balance and the train of wheels between. The constant rotation of the movement and its escapement also makes for the prospect of better timekeeping, with the rotor essentially performing the same role as a tourbillon.
The 43.5mm platinum Masse Mystérieuse is out now with just 30 individually numbered pieces available only via Cartier boutiques, priced EUR 250,000 (approximately $263,000 USD). Two diamond-set versions will also be produced in runs of just 10-pieces each, with the baguette-set watch priced EUR 565,000 ($594,000 USD) and full-set piece priced EUR 1,200,000 ($1,260,000 USD).
Elsewhere in watches, HYPEBEAST looks at the watches spotted on the Met Gala 2022 red carpet.