If you were to ask somebody when the first Rotonde de Cartier piece was introduced, most people would probably say somewhere around the 1930s. Although a rather classical proposition, the Rotonde is the embodiment of modern Cartier. With its market introduction in 2006, the Rotonde is surprisingly less than a decade old, yet it seems like it has been a pillar in Cartier’s timeless collection forever.
The Rotonde de Cartier is unique, in that it is almost unlike any other Cartier. Known in particular for its form- shaped case, the Rotonde is rather plain, for a Cartier— that is. With its smooth bezel and lugs, it could be like any other high-end dress watch. The screwed-in bars that hold the strap, especially paired with the beaded crown with its rather tall sapphire Cabochon, infuse Cartier-DNA into the watch, but seem barely enough to make it a Cartier in its purest form. And, that was exactly the goal.
Development of the Rotonde de Cartier offered something that the brand needed; a blank canvas. The case design offers the flexibility to handle a lot of different dial designs, and supports a wide variety of different movements, allowing those elements to give the watch its soul, while still representing the Cartier pedigree. Yet, when the first watch was introduced with the Rotonde case, only Cartier designers, themselves, knew the true destiny of the Rotonde.
With its 42-millimeter rose gold or white gold case, big date and sub-seconds, the Rotonde Grande Date was Cartier’s stylish choice for men who preferred a round case. With its hand-wound caliber 9602, it resembles a modern interpretation of the most classical of watches; the quintessential dress watch. Due to the Roman numerals and guilloche dial, no one could mistake it for anything less than a Cartier, yet the watch seems more introvert in character than what the brand typically showcases.
So different was the second offering that Cartier introduced in the Rotonde case; the Rotonde Jour et Nuit. Here, the top-half of the watch features a beautiful engraved scene, where the sun and the moon indicate day or night, in addition to the hour. A retrograde Breguet hand dominates the lower section of the dial, indicating the minutes. Also offered in a 42-millimeter rose gold or white gold case, this watch represents the other side of the Rotonde Collection: extroverted, exotic, avant-garde; and the case design pulls all elements into the universe of Cartier.
These two watches not only marked the beginning of the Rotonde de Cartier, they also marked the beginning of a new era within Cartier; an era that would bring us Haute Horlogerie masterpieces from Cartier’s manufacture in La Chaux- de-Fonds, like the world had never seen before; some rather introverted, like the perfect everyday dress watch, some extroverted, exotic and tantalizing to the senses through their design, their complications and their motions on the dial.
Cartier’s plans for the Rotonde Collection were further revealed in 2007, when the brand introduced the Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication; a behemoth of a watch that combined a tourbillon, perpetual calendar and monopusher chronograph with a seven-day power reserve. Cartier was clearly flexing its muscles, yet watch enthusiasts had no idea that the Grand Complication was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
In 2008, Cartier introduced the Fine Watchmaking Collection. In this collection, the nec plus ultra of Cartier found its home—watches that went above and beyond what one expected of a complicated Haute Horlogerie piece, that defy current propositions and introduced new trains of thought. One of the main forces behind this was Carole Forestier-Kasapi, master watchmaker extraordinaire, Cartier’s head of movement creation, and winner of the 2012 Best Watchmaker Prize of the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. Her secret: “question everything!”
This literally opened up new worlds, not only for Cartier, but also for the watchmaking community, as a whole. It allowed for the realization of complications that we could only dream of, while others were even far beyond our dreams. By questioning the tourbillon, one of the landmark pieces of the Rotonde de Cartier Collection, the Rotonde Astrorégulateur was birthed. Five years of development went into this watch, which defies the negative influence of gravity and the accuracy of a movement by placing the entire escapement, oscillator and small-seconds assembly onto the watch rotor, introducing a new way of thinking that pushes the borders of mechanical watchmaking even further.
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