CLOCK STRIKES HISTORY.
THE JOB of the artist is always to deepen the mystery, stated poet Francis Bacon. Cartier seems to have taken these words seriously.
When Cartier presented the 'Mystery' timepiece --the Rotonde de Cartier Mystery watch --at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in January 2013, the world sat up and took notice. It was indeed a mystery how the sword- shaped hour and minutes hands of the watch remained suspended in air and appeared floating in a void. Furthering the tradition of the Maison, at this year's SIHH, Cartier presented a new watchmaking complication --the Rotonde de Cartier Double Tourbillon Mystery watch --pushing the frontiers of the 'Mystery' watch further.
This time round, Cartier has designed mystery watches equipped with a mystery tourbillon that too seems to be suspended in space. Its new movement is the 9454 MC Mysterious Double Tourbillon certified by the Geneva Seal.
The flying tourbillon, which turns once on its own axis every 60 seconds, appears to be floating free in space, with no visible connection to any gear train. The illusion is complete when the same tourbillon cage starts to perform a second rotation of the transparent space at a rate of one turn every five minutes.
Connoisseurs of watchmaking know that the tourbillon, in a vertical position, uses the rotation of the cage in a given time to shield the balance from the influence of the gravitational attraction of the Earth. It achieves this by smoothing out regularity errors. This fascinating device, set in the heart of the Rotonde Mysterious Double Tourbillon, seems to defy the universal laws of gravity, giving the impression that it is floating unsupported in a void.
The watchmakers of Cartier Manufacture have drawn inspiration from the tricks of Houdin to create the illusion of levitation and have employed a disc of sapphire crystal with an anti- reflective finish containing an aperture, the size of the tourbillion. This gives the best possible illusion of a cage in a state of levitation. To do this, they set the sapphire crystal disc to support the cage in rotation.
The mystery wristwatches of modern time are in continuation with the Maison's historic past, as creators of the first- ever 'Mystery' clocks. The creation was a result of the collaboration between Louis Cartier and a young clockmaker, Maurice CoE-et, who was influenced by the work of Jean- Eugene Robert- Houdin, the inventor of modern magic. Robert- Houdin was also an accomplished clockmaker and had already used invisible mechanisms to create clocks. The mystery clock principle was simple and brilliant: the hands were not directly linked to the movement but were attached to two glass discs, each fitted into a metal border edged with gear teeth. The movement, generally housed in the clock base, turned the two discs --one at the speed of the minute hand and the other at the speed of the hour hand. To complete this illusion, the metal borders of the discs were hidden in the hour circle.
The Belle Eepoque period in French and Belgian history, starting in 1871 and ending with the beginning of World War I in 1914, is regarded as a golden era and is defined by peace and prosperity vis- a- vis the violence of the World Wars that followed thereafter. The era flourished not only in scientific advancements but also proved to be a fertile ground for a creative talent like Cartier who led the artistic revolution with his jewellery.
The brand was founded in 1847. However, it was Louis- Francois Cartier's grandsons, the three brothers, Jacques, Louis and Pierre Cartier who were responsible for establishing the brand name worldwide. While Louis managed the historic 13, Rue de la Paix address that opened in 1898, Jacques travelled to London to open the New Bond Street boutique, in 1902. Shortly thereafter, the French jewellery house went on to be hailed as "the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers" by King Edward VII, forging a strong bond between Cartier and the royal court of England.
The first mystery clocks were created in 1912. When they were launched at 13, Rue de la Paix, curious sales people wanted to know the secret behind these enigmatic timepieces, but in vain. Many personalities including the Maharaja of Patiala and Queen Mary, wife of King George V of England, succumbed to their charm.
Cartier's expertise in creating the mystery movement via rock crystal dials and wheels was something that cemented the luxury Maison's skills as a clockmaker as well as a jeweller. Its clocks, watches and jewellery have seduced famous personalities from the world over and its charm is not just limited to the West. The brand has received royal patronage from the East too and had royalties like Sir Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, and the Maharaja of Nawanagar, among its esteemed clients. Cartier's tryst with mystery watches continues the magical saga.
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