Manual mono-pusher chronographs are something special. Apart from the beauty of the movement, that is partly imposed by the nature of the complication, mono-pushers are a one of those special true refinements in horology. Simply because once, a watch maker thought it more elegant to do without the two (upper and lower) pushers by integrating these in the crown. That very detail, even if subtle, embodies the very essence of horology. The effort to make something more discreet is one of the very important details that make the difference between mediocre and sublime.
Since the abandoning of the «Collection Privée» line in favor of a new concept called «Cartier Haute Horlogerie» there has been quite a push in favor of traditional horology in the house of Cartier. Personally I am still struggling with the change since I do think that the pedigree of the «Collection Privée» could hold its own against many in the league the new branding is meant to compete. The historic line «Collection Privée», even if only known by a knowledgeable few, commanded respect and exclusivity. Whereas the term «haute horlogerie» is open to debate and interpretation. A term/concept abused by so many that that it does not really mean much anymore. The question is; How can you put something like Greubel Forsey and Rolex, Hublot or Blancpain in the same bag? Remember apples and oranges in school? Well, putting these together amounts to the same conclusion; just because they are round it don’t mean they are the same thing. The industry is in dire need of new terms in the way they refer to or categorize watches but this I am afraid is a discussion for another day… Now back to our friend here. The «Rotonde» is together with the «Santos-Dumont» one of my favorite Cartier case versions. The «Santos 100» is but a caricature of the classic original piece and the «Calibre» despite being the best made watch case in the collection… well, it looks like a Roger Dubuis. The Rotonde is pleasant to wear and elegant in its design. It as a very sensual touch to it.
- Meticulous packaging. It feels VIP, almost like taking a piece of a Cartier Boutique at home
- Very pleasant to the touch like all Rotonde versions of the brand
- Great finishes. Looks like a APRP (Renaud & Papi) at a first glance
- Smooth, very smooooth operation
- The deployment buckle matches the platinum case. It’s all about the details…
- Very pleasant and comfortable to wear
- Not to fond of the traditional Cartier deployment/strap system
- Finishings: Beautiful architecture, really something special.
- Comfort: Could be a bit smaller but it is an extremely pleasant watch to hold, operate and wear.
- Details: A common mistake of «new comers» into the world of high-end watches is not matching the deployment or ardillon buckle with the metal of the case. Most cut corners by putting white gold buckles on platinum watches. Here they went all the way.
- Dial: The double layer of the dial and the depth of the Tourbillon will give you complexity but not one that you might tire from soon.
- Packaging: You get the VIP feeling all the way.
- No luminous material on the indexes: There is that silly «stigma» that elegant watches should not have Luminova on the hands and indexes. Why? This is a recurrent excuse by lazy designers to avoid making an effort ad use their imagination. Furthermore, if I just paid a lot of money for it I would love it to tell me the time in the middle of the night.
- Visibility: Not optimal. The hands can get confused with the dial and indices under certain light conditions.
- No inward angles: Regrettably this is NOT acceptable for a watch at this price range. Inward angles are an undisputed sign that a watch has been (at least in this case) finished by hand. If Cartier pretend to play in this new sandbox they better get that straight.
The «Cartier Haute Horlogerie» flag has been raised for only a few years and in general I have not seen to many bloopers. Most products are well presented, marketed and conceived. The prices are very attractive despite being above and away the traditional Cartier range considering the complications. Yet when it comes to customer service and making you feel like a million buck, Cartier is way in front of much more horologicaly prestigious brands. The treatment and presentation of their products are impeccable and the teams all over the world will always give you the sense that you are buying something special. That, as many might have lived first hand, is not always the case in other brands. Many more «re****ble» houses in horology don’t even come close to Cartier’s customer relations. Post-purchasing marketing is all to often forgotten but not here.
This is certainly a serious piece. There is no doubt in my mind that this architecture and design is from Renaud & Papi which are at the moment one of the most prestigious high-end manufacturers. The beauty of the movement is striking as are all manual mono-pushers although in this price range and with this pedigree I would expect at least one inward angle on a bridge or mainplate. Despite the large size this is a very sexy watch, whether it is due to its elegance, smoothness of the case or impeccable finish this Cartier is a very well rounded watch.