The SIHH fair each year tends to be a glamorous, celeb-packed affair, what with brands that take part trying to impress clients, retailers and the press. But it’s also a thermometer, taking the temperature of the industry and the consumer environment while gauging critics’ opinion of their creations. The 2016 edition will be particularly significant, as the fair has a complete facelift and 9 new brands coming on board, all independent haute de gamme watchmakers.
Cartier organises a small gathering of journalists centered around the luxury watch trade each year, just prior to the fair, where they unveil their upcoming timepieces and announce special creations such as the ID One and ID Two.
This year, they’ve presented a number of new timepieces (the key piece is still under embargo, but we have to say that we’re very psyched about it). Two are brand new, and three more are evolutionary editions of past timepieces.
The Clé de Cartier Automatic Skeleton in palladium
Clé de Cartier Automatic Skeleton 9621 MC
You might be wondering why we’re kicking up such a big fuss over a version of a watch that’s skeletonised. After all, Cartier has long been a master of skeletonisation, using its indices as bridges to support the movement, and styling the indices in the Art Deco influence. That’s because the calibre 9621 is the brand’s first automatic skeletonised movement.
The Roman numerals form the four bridges that support the entire movement
The biggest challenge, of course, in making one of these is ensuring that the winding rotor delivers sufficient power to the movement. Since mass and volume are two key factors in the automatic winding operation, that’s something they had to work on. The movement is based on the 1904 MC calibre, that’s essentially hollowed out, and it also demonstrates how a workhorse movement from Cartier can look so elegant when turned into a fine watchmaking product. The twin-barrelled, 3-day power reserve movement delivers plenty of torque, and while the original movement used a tungsten rotor, Cartier swopped it out for a white gold one, with a slightly heavier mass and volume (gold is denser). They’ve managed to keep the winding efficiency between 2.5 and 3, the optimum window.
The oscillating rotor, when stationary, is hidden behind the 3 and 9 o’clock, virtually invisible. It’s a brilliant design
In order to maintain good shock resistance and sturdiness in the movement, the brand used German silver instead of standard brass. Of course, since it’s a fine watchmaking movement, it’s only available in palladium and that’s gonna set you back 49,000 euros or so (estimated).
Automaton Movements – The Pantheres & Colibri 9915 MC
The Panther actually started as a Cartier emblem in its timepieces, and eventually spread to its jewellery range. It’s become an important part of the Cartier watch collection, but it’s attuned mostly to women’s timepieces. And although the new Pantheres & Colibri watch is diamond-stacked on the bezel as well, it’s such a cool movement and watch that we’re really hoping we can convince Carole Forestier-Kasapi and Thomas Crye, Cartier’s head of movement creation and director of watchmaking marketing to make one that’s without diamonds. Not that there’s anything wrong with men wearing diamonds (different subject for a different day).
The hummingbird on the dial (colibri in French) is the power reserve indicator, that rises to 12 o’clock when it’s full and 2 o’clock when its flat. The power reserve is an on demand function that is operated by pushing in the crown, and that is a patented design that Cartier is registering. At the same time, a baby panther automaton that’s hidden on the dial emerges from behind its diamond-studded mother on the dial and leaps towards the bird. The two systems are coordinated, but separate and both are regulated using a Maltese cross system, just like in a minute repeater. We aren’t going to go into the details of the movement’s operation, but it’s certainly original.
The Crash Skeleton in pink gold
The Crash – Now in Pink Gold
Finally, our third favourite this year is the Crash Skeleton timepiece. It was first presented this year at the fair in a platinum edition, and sold out practically instantly. The cachet of the timepiece clearly makes it a legend of the brand, so this year it introduced it in pink gold. Pricing isn’t fixed as yet, but we’re sure it’s gonna sell out as well.
While pink gold doesn’t quite suit my skin tone, I did find it to be rather attractive. The skeleton design of the movement that’s carefully fitted around the twisted form of the watch is impressive to admire from the back, and what’s particularly challenging about the watch is its curvature on two axes, which makes it impossible to cover it using a sapphire crystal. Instead, a manually shaped mineral glass is used.
There’s plenty more to see, but if we give it all away now, that would be unexciting. We’ll update this with additional pieces as we get closer to the fair.