SIHH 2016: Hands-On with the Cartier Astromysterieux Central, Mystery Tourbillon

With an intriguing visual simplicity that belies its complex construction, the Astromysterieux is a mystery movement with a central carrousel tourbillon - a concept that had its genesis almost 20 years ago. Here's the low-down on the watch, including original photos and pricing.

Cartier has just taken the covers off the Rotonde de Cartier Astromysterieux, the flagship complication of its offerings at SIHH 2016. Constructed in an ingenious manner, the entire Astromysterieux movement – which the first of its kind, a central, mystery, flying tourbillon – floats in the centre of the case, seemingly unconnected to the dial around it. Though it tells only the time, the Astromysterieux is powered by an exceptionally complex movement, most of which is elegantly hidden.

20 years in the making

To understand this watch, a brief history lesson is necessary, explaining the two intertwining strands that produced the Astromysterieux. The first is well known: Cartier has a long history with the mystery timepiece, dating back to the 1920s when clockmaker Maurice Couët developed the first mystery clocks for the jeweller. These were lavish and elaborate constructions, made of precious metals, gemstones and other pricey materials. They were offered in a diverse array of styles, but all shared the same mystery time display – featuring hands that seemed to float in midair.

A Cartier Model A mystery clock in rock crystal from the 1920s

The intriguing time display was actually invented earlier, by Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, a clockmaker turned magician who later inspired Harry Houdini (who in turn named himself after Houdin). But it was Cartier that made the mystery clock its own, eventually developing mystery wristwatches, like the recent Clé de Cartier Mysterious Hour.

Cartier mystery pocket watches from the late 20th century

The other strand of history involves Carole Forestier, the head of movement development at Cartier. In 1998, Forestier won the Prix de la Fondation Abraham-Louis Breguet, an award given by the Breguet foundation to mark the 250th year of the Breguet’s birth. Not yet 30 years old, Forestier was then a watchmaker at Ulysse-Nardin. Her winning entry was an innovative carrousel central, in which the entire movement sat on a platform that rotated around the dial. Ulysse-Nardin was so impressed by her idea it purchased the concept, which was subsequently refined by Ludwig Oechslin, and introduced as the Freak in 2001.

Forestier’s latest creation is in essence the culmination of the 18-year quest to create the award-winning carrousel central.

The central, 60-minute tourbillon

True to Forestier’s original idea, most of the 9462 MC movement is suspended in the centre of the dial. Despite its simple appearance, it only has two hands after all, the movement is made up of 408 parts (of which 188 are ball bearings), four times the number of components for a conventional, time-only movement. Put simply, the Astromysterieux is a modest watch – highly complicated, but with most of its finesse hidden.

Think of it as the tourbillon reinvented: nearly all its moving parts, barrel, gear train and regulator, are contained inside a carriage that makes one revolution very hour. Made up of a visible upper bridge and a transparent sapphire disc below, the cage floats in midair, surrounded by the guilloche chapter ring with the hour numerals.

At one end of the cage is the barrel, topped with “Cartier”, and at the opposite end is the balance wheel. In-between the two lies the gear train. This entire mechanism, including the regulator, makes one rotation around the dial every 60 minutes, making it a 60-minute central tourbillon. And for that reason the minute hand is mounted on the bridge.

The barrel with “Cartier” engraved on its cover
The escape wheel at centre

Despite the unorthodox construction, the calibre 9462 MC is a tourbillon. In Abraham-Louis Breguet’s patent for the tourbillon, he specified a fixed wheel for the carriage, so stopping the carriage stops the movement. Likewise, if the carriage of the Astromysterieux is stopped, the movement halts.

The tourbillon cage, essentially the bridge and sapphire disc, weighs just 3.75 g. To balance the weight of the moving parts, an 18k gold weight is affixed to the end of the sapphire disc.

Mysterious motion

The secret to the floating movement are four clear sapphire discs, each superimposed on top of the other. The topmost carries the movement parts, while the second holds the hour hand. Another is the winding mechanism, being linked to the keyless works of the crown. And the final piece is a fixed sapphire disc that acts as the base plate.

All the discs have metal teeth on their rim, made via deep reactive-ion etching (DRIE), a high precision used to make memory and also watch components. All the teeth, as well as the gearing for winding and setting, are hidden beneath the chapter ring of the dial. Most of the teeth are extremely small, the hour sapphire disc, for instance, has 360 teeth on its rim.

The sapphire disc for the movement, with the bearings for pivots

Even securing the discs to the plate is a complex task. The discs are mounted on shock absorbing springs, while the hour disc is mounted on four runners, two of which are eccentric. Essentially screws to position the disc, the eccentric runners can be tweaked to align the disc dead centre as well as perfectly flat.

Pricing and availability 

The Astromysterieux is a limited edition of 100 piece in palladium with an estimated price of €145,000.

Additionally, there will be a 30-piece limited edition with a baguette diamond set bezel, priced at €220,000.  Another 20 pieces will be made with a diamond bezel and dial, with a price tag of €280,000. And the most elaborate is the 5-piece edition, with a matching diamond set bracelet (totalling 35 carats) and a price tag of €1 million.

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SIHH 2016: Hands-On with the Laurent Ferrier Galet Traveller Boreal in Stainless Steel

A functional travel watch with a top class movement, the Laurent Ferrier Galet Traveller is now available in stainless steel with a vintage-style “sector” dial. Here’s a look, complete with original photos and price.

In the brief six years since its founding Laurent Ferrier has deftly created a distinctive brand identity, focused on subtle and elegant design, as well as lavishly finished movements. Just unveiled at SIHH 2016, the new Galet Traveller Boreal is a striking departure from the usual Laurent Ferrier look, yet quickly recognisable as a product of the brand. The Galet Traveller Boreal is essentially a more affordable and casual looking iteration of the Galet Traveller that was available only in gold. In contrast, the Galet Traveller Boreal is in stainless steel. Material aside it’s the same 41 mm diameter as the gold versions and also equipped with the same calibre 230.01.

Detail of the fine finishing on the Laurent Ferrier calibre FBN 229.01 that is nearly identical to that found in the Galet Traveller

Impeccably finished and eminently functional, the calibre 230.01 displays twin time zones. The disc at nine o’clock shows home time (back where the traveller came from), while the central hands indicate local time (at where the traveller is). Inspired by a system originally found in 1950s Patek Philippe travel watches, a pair of pushers in the case set the hour hand in one hour intervals; the date disc moves forwards and backwards in sync with the local time.

The Galet Traveller Boreal is fitted with a vintage-inspired, but obviously contemporary dial. The hour markers are highlighted in Super-Luminova, either ivory or pale green, and sit on a circular track, a style that is usually referred to as a sector dial. 

Finished with a faint vertical brushing, the dial itself is dark grey, with the Laurent Ferrier logo and markings on the seconds sub-dial in a similar colour, rendering them almost invisible – a tasteful and appealing detail. Though vaguely similar in shape to the traditional Laurent Ferrier hands – known as assegai after the tribal spear that inspired them – the hands on the Galet Traveller Boreal are larger and filled with Super-Luminova, improving their legibility.

The Galet Traveller Boreal costs SFr54,000. That’s approximately US$54,000.

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SIHH 2016: An Overview of the Entire A. Lange & Söhne Line-Up (with Specs & Prices)

A. Lange & Söhne just introduced seven new models at SIHH 2016, including the flagship Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon. Here's an overview of all seven, including specs and prices.

The doors of SIHH 2016 have just opened and here’s a first look at what A. Lange & Söhne has lined up. Seven new wristwatches have been unveiled, including three equipped with new movements. Highlights are the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon and Richard Lange Jumping Seconds (with a constant force escapement too).

The Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is exactly what its name implies, the Datograph Perpetual plus a tourbillon regulator. Unusually the dial is entirely black, including the oversized date display. The dial layout is identical to that of the Datograph Perpetual, with two sub-dials for the chronograph and perpetual calendar. And at 41.5 mm in diameter, the case is also the same size as the Datograph Perpetual.

The movement inside builds on that of the Datograph, and is similarly impressive. The tourbillon is large, with the three-armed cage in the typical Lange design.

Limited to 100 pieces in platinum, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is priced at €295,000, including 19 percent tax.

More affordable but equally, or perhaps more, interesting is the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds. This has a regulator dial, with the hours, minutes and seconds separated into individual sub-dials for legibility – a layout first found on the Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour le Merite. Importantly, the seconds is a deadbeat seconds, moving in one second ticks.

But it’s not mere visual trickery, the seconds hand is driven by a constant force mechanism that jumps in one second intervals, explaining the motion of the seconds hand. But that’s not all. It is also equipped with a zero reset mechanism, meaning the seconds hand returns to 12 o’clock and freezes when the crown is pulled out for time-setting.

Its last notable feature is the power reserve display: ten hours before the 42 hour power reserve runs out, the triangular aperture at six o’clock turns red, indicating winding is needed.

Contrary to other models that bear the Richard Lange appellation, this is under 40 mm in diameter, 39.9 mm to be exact. It’s platinum and limited to 100 pieces, with a price of €78,000 including tax.

The third model with a new movement is the Saxonia Moon Phase. This is a self-winding, 40 mm wristwatch with an date display at 12 o’clock and moon phase at six. Available in rose or white gold, this is equipped with the L086.5 movement.

The calibre is based on the same movement originally designed for the Saxonia Dual Time, and is arguably Lange’s entry-level automatic movement. The Saxonia Moon Phase is €28,500 including tax.

The Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase “Lumen” is the third such edition from Lange, after the Zeitwerk Luminous “Phantom” and Grand Lange 1 “Lumen”. It shares the same features as its predecessors: a tinted sapphire dial that reveals the mechanics underneath, as well as Super-Luminova on the hands, markers and date.

Unusually, the moon phase disc is made of glass, with the stars and moon cut by laser. It sits on another disc covered with Super-Luminova which illuminates the celestial display from below. This is limited to 200 pieces in platinum, priced at €69,600 with taxes.

Slightly less luminous is the new Lange 1 in white gold, a variant of the second generation Lange 1 launched last year. It has the same dimensions and movement as the rest of the second generation watches; what makes it different is the Super-Luminova on the dial and hands for nighttime legibility. It’s priced at €31,700 with taxes.

The Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar is a variant of the original model first launched in 2012 with a silver dial. Now it’s in white gold with a dark grey dial, but everything else (size, movement and functions) remain the same. This is €315,900 including tax.

Last of the SIHH 2016 additions is another facelifted timepiece, the new Saxonia Thin. This is essentially the same as the original, a 40 mm watch that’s 5.9 mm high, with the key change being tweaks to the dial (longer hour markers and a cleaner dial). Available in white or pink gold, the Saxonia Thin costs €20,800.

Stay tuned for the rest of our SIHH 2016 coverage live from Geneva.


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