Cartier Masse Mystérieuse: Questioning Time

Image: Cartier

Perhaps no brand at Watches and Wonders Geneva had so triumphant a return as Cartier. After leading a small group of brands out of BaselWorld in 1991, it now gets to tell a bunch of Swiss watchmaking big boys “I told you so,” which must feel awesome. Nevertheless, it is the first watch show in a long time that Cartier could not dominate by sheer force of will, and an unassailable number of novelties, but the brand had no problem commanding attention. You will no doubt have heard and seen reports on the Tank Chinoise, and we will get there in our upcoming issue of WOW. For now, the temporal delights of the Cartier Masse Mystérieuse beckon because this is not a story about Cartier and watch shows in Geneva.

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I will admit to a bit of bias here because this watch piqued my interest the moment I saw it. Jack Forster of Hodinkee called it wonderfully strange, a fact I noted right after he posted it, in our own daily report from Geneva. By way of introduction, we will reproduce our initial summary, which we think is quite a good one: First of all, it is a mystery watch that shows all its tricks but conceals how it works. The entire movement is contained inside the oscillating mass, otherwise known as the rotor, and seems to be disconnected from the hands entirely. This explains not only the watch but also the name. I cannot tell you how much I love it when it is this easy to explain a watch, yet say absolutely nothing about it.

Now, we love seeing the horological experiments of the past deliver fresh results, which is what the Masse Mystérieuse is. When it works, we think it reminds manufactures that an investment in creating incredible watches today might just pay off decades into the future. We are also gratified that the work of Cartier fine watchmaking remains relevant. There is nothing more haute horlogerie than having to wait while the watchmakers create the future. Eleven years ago, when the Cartier Astroregulateur debuted, it no doubt caused all sorts of confusion — and it was not only about how to spell the name of the watch. Today, Cartier has pivoted from mounting the escapement on the winding rotor to making the rotor the entire movement. As it happens, it has also given us yet another name that we will struggle to spell! Seriously though, for those of us who love shaped movements, this is a real treat. Think about it for a moment: the movement provides the mass to power itself.

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Obviously, a watch like this raises questions, most of which we have not yet gotten answers to. In that way, the Masse Mystérieuse makes of time a big mechanical question mark. That is perfect for a mystery watch, which is limited to just 30 pieces.

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