Hands-On with the Cartier “Model A” Mystery clock

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Cartier’s Mystery clocks are lavish objects that marry art, mechanics and history. Created by clockmaker Maurice Couet for Louis Cartier, they are the quintessential Cartier clock. Despite their fame, the Mystery clocks are exceedingly rare, only a few dozen were made over the span of a century. I was fortunate to be able to examine a Model A Mystery clock, owned by Sir Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala no less. My photos of the clock are on the Cartier forum I moderate.

An impressive range of Mystery clocks will be on show at the Cartier Time Art exhibition that opens at Marina Bay Sands Art Science Museum in Singapore next week on December 14.

– SJX

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Cartier at SIHH 2011

Up close: Cartier Clock Prisme - prism clock with 8 day power reserve

A clock dial on the front, in the traditional Cartier aesthetic, but there's actually nothing there. From the back the clock is completely transparent, thanks to a nifty optical illusion. 

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Up Close With The New Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570

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The only new steel sports Rolex launched at Baselworld 2011 was the Explorer II ref. 216570, which by definition makes it one of the most desirable watches of the year. 

Between the black and white dial versions of the new Explorer 2, I very much prefer the black, though I own the discontinued white dial Explorer II 16570.

Two elements of the black dial appeal to me. The first is the charcoal, matte finish like that on the Deep Sea, rather than the glossy black on the other sports models. And I like the “phantom effect hands”.

The increased size of the watch makes it a bit more comical than its predecessor. I’ll be doing a comparison of the two soon.

Here are a few close-up photos of the new black dial Explorer II. Many of shots of the dial and hands – because for a modern Rolex there is little else to focus on!

– SJX

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Hands-on with the Speake-Marin Spirit Pioneer

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Peter Speake-Marin unveiled the Spirit Pioneer a few weeks ago at SalonQP. Housed in a 38 mm steel Piccadilly case, the Spirit Pioneer is Peter’s entry level timepiece with a retail price of CHF9800, making it a compelling proposition. Though the design elements are not unusual in themselves, the sum of the parts is a highly distinctive watch.

One notable feature of the dial is the thick luminous indices and markers that impart a good sense of depth to what is otherwise a flat dial. Everything on the dial is large enough to be striking but not so large as to look comical. They glow beautifully in the dark as well. 

But the thickness of the indices also means the hands have to sit fairly high above the dial, which results in a less precise look.

The case is a standard Piccadilly, which at 38 mm might seem small, but the length of the lugs and thickness give it presence on the wrist, especially when combined with the dial. Peter’s cases often look chunky because of the diameter to height ratio, but the proportions fit the design perfect in the Spirit Pioneer.

Inside sits an ETA based calibre modified by Speake-Marin, with a topping tool-shaped rotor. Not extraordinary mechanically but nicely executed; notice the anglage and polish of the rotor for example.

The Spirit Pioneer offers a unusually accessible entry into the world in independent watchmaking. That is even more attractive given that Peter’s watches are typically far more pricey, like the Thalassa for instance. Unsurprisingly all 68 pieces have been spoken for, according to Peter, but this is the first in a series with the next one to come in 2012. – SJX

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