Mastery of Form and Function – Throughout its long and rich history in the world of haute horlogerie, Cartier has carved its own path marked by innovation, exquisite craftsmanship and—most importantly, as any watch connoisseur can tell you—the iconic shapes of its most celebrated timepieces.
For some time now, the maison has released small, highly-curated collections under the Cartier Privé name. Each of these selections celebrate one of the unique silhouettes which has become the hallmarks of Cartier watchmaking. In 2015 the Crash was reinterpreted. For 2017, it was the Tank Cintrée’s turn. And today, in 2019, revisits one of its oldest wristwatches: the Tonneau.
Revisiting an Icon
Revealed in 1906, not too long after the Santos made its debut in 1904, the Tonneau was yet another challenge issued by Cartier against the conventions of traditional watchmaking which favored round pocket watches. If the Santos blazed a new trail with its square design, the Tonneau is neither square nor round. Perhaps it would be better described as having a dial that is on the cusp between a rectangle and an oval. Its name, by the way, literally means “barrel,” which might seem a tad whimsical. Yet, this is another creation by Cartier which would become a precursor for modern wristwatches.
The original Tonneau was, in a word, modern. besides its trailblazing shape, the case of the watch also curved slightly to better fit the wrist of its wearer. Material wise, it sported a platinum coating to highlight its avant-garde aesthetics which contrasted beautifully against gold—the standard color for watches of the era. Furthermore, the Tonneau also combined precious metal with leather—for the strap—to create an object of beauty like no other. Finally, little touches such as the “vis amurier” tube screws on the lugs showcase the attention to detail that Cartier has become known for.
Traveling to Today
The Tonneau is celebrated today through the introduction of two new models. First is a redesigned hours and minutes model in pink gold or platinum and a ruby cabochon. This limited edition model is powered by the new 1917 MC Manufacture calibre and only 100 pieces have been released. What really the Tonneau to a whole new level, however, is the skeleton dual time zone Tonneau watch.
Watch connoisseurs and fans of the brand would probably identify this new watch as a successor to the Tonneau XL dual time zone model. The skeleton dual time zone Tonneau boasts the same exacting characteristics as its predecessor, but takes a step forward to showcase Cartier’s mastery of technical watchmaking by having the watch’s two time displays run on a single movement—the 9919 MC calibre—and arraying the geartrain in a line. The older model solved the need to run two time zones by incorporating two mechanisms.
Naturally, a lot of intricate modifications were required to make this feat possible, from aligning the wheels of the geartrain between 12 and 6 o’clock (to maintain the elongated shape of the watch) to adjusting the very shape of the movement to fit into the curved contour of the case. The latter in particular ensures comfort and ergonomic qualities that truly follows the shape of the wrist.
As nice as it feels to wear, the skeleton dual time zone Tonneau is even nicer on the eyes. The two time zone displays moving in synchronous harmony are definitely impressive, but are also easy to read on top of the skeleton bridges. Setting the second time zone is made incredibly easy. All the wearer needs to do is push the crown at the 4 o’clock position to adjust it in one-hour increments.
The case, by the way comes in either pink gold or platinum. Both versions are released as limited editions of 100 pieces each. There is a third variant, however, sporting a platinum case set with baguette-cut diamonds and limited to just 20 numbered pieces.
Finally, to add a touch of lightness and nobility to what is essentially a traditional complication, Cartier has skeletonized the movement. In short, Cartier’s skeleton dual time zone Tonneau balances form and function, case and movement, in a way that only the storied maison knows how.
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