Full but Empty Spaces: The Magic of Cartier’s New Skeleton Watches

Maison de Cartier’s emblematic skeleton watches have expanded this year through the Santos-Dumont collection, a Pasha de Cartier model, a bejeweled Santos de Cartier and even a grand complication pocket watch

Skeleton watches—where the dial is stripped bare so that the movement appears as if suspended in mid-air amid a structural frame—has long been an emblem of Maison de Cartier’s watchmaking repertoire. A major turning point in this story came in 2009 with the introduction of the Santos 100 Skeleton watch, which was driven by the 9611 MC calibre, the first skeleton movement to be entirely designed and produced by the Cartier Manufacture.

Fast forward to 2023 and this unique aesthetic is once again at the forefront of Cartier’s annual showcase. Leading the way is a new Santos-Dumont watch powered by the latest 9629 MC automatic calibre. There’s also a skeletonized Pasha de Cartier, a diamond-encrusted Santos de Cartier and a special Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication Skeleton pocket watch.

The Santos-Dumont Skeleton Watch

At the heart of this new Santos-Dumont is the 9629 MC automatic skeleton calibre, which was specially-designed for this iconic shape. Naturally, the watch follows the elegant lines that has been set for the collection since 1904. A particularly interesting new touch is the inclusion of a miniaturized functional oscillating weight in the shape of a replica of the Demoiselle, a trailblazing plane designed by Alberto Santos-Dumont himself in 1907.

This 2023 edition of the skeletonized Santos-Dumont comes in three variations. The first comes in a yellow gold case with blue lacquer and a blue and dark blue alligator leather strap. Then there’s a version in stainless-steel complemented by a blue and gray alligator leather strap. Finally, there’s a version in rose gold with a burgundy and brown alligator leather strap.

The Pasha Skeleton Watch

Through the Pasha Skeleton, the trademark shapes of the collection is highlighted like never before: The filigree rail track and case surrounding it truly brought forward the concept of “a square inside a circle.” This Pasha de Cartier model comes in a 41mm rose gold case, which houses the Calibre 9624 MC mechanical automatic winding movement.

Finally, the Pasha Skeleton is fastened to the wrist with an alligator leather strap. The strap, of course, comes with the “QuickSwitch” interchangeable system, allowing the wearer to easily switch between the black and dark gray variants.

The Santos de Cartier Skeleton Watch

The unique architecture of skeletonized watches allows for dramatic applications of gem-setting. On that note, the new skeletonized Santos de Cartier definitely makes the most of its delicate framework and then elevates it with diamonds. The case is crafted in rhodium-finished white gold and set with 126 baguette-cut diamonds. A single brilliant-cut diamond, meanwhile, sits on the crown.

No less interesting, of course, are the skeletonized bridges of the movement forming the Roman numerals III, VI, IX and XII. As a final touch, the watch comes with an alligator leather strap—both in black and gray—punctuated by a folding buckle in white gold set with 28 diamonds.

The Grande Complication Skeleton Pocket Watch

As its name suggests, the movement of this pocket watch—the 9506 MC automatic calibre—features multiple horological complications, namely a minute repeater, a flying tourbillon and a perpetual calendar. And naturally, with its skeletonized architecture, many of the usually hidden elements of these complications are shown in all their glory: From the counters of the perpetual calendar to the gongs and hammers of the minute repeater.

The Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication Skeleton pocket watch further comes in two variations. The first comes in a white gold case and has a beaded crown set with a cabochon-cut sapphire. The second has a white gold case which is set with 263 baguette-cut diamonds, a white gold dial set with 111 baguette-cut diamonds and a diamond-topped crown.

These limited-edition pocket watches—only five of each version have been made—are then presented inside a frame cut from rock crystal and white gold set on an obsidian base.

With its exquisite combination of mechanical complexity and superior craftsmanship, the Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication Skeleton pocket watch beautifully sums up our collective attraction towards skeletonized timepieces: The eye-catching interplay of empty and filled spaces, with the intricacies of the mechanical movement on full display to be admired.