These may be strong words, but we’re talking about a watch, that I have been searching for years. There are other models in the current collection that should be higher on my wish list, but these are far out of my reach. So for the next few minutes I will bore you about the Tortue, a watch that was designed by Louis Cartier in 1912 and has been in the collection, for over a century, in fairly small production runs.

Cartier Tortue

Cartier Tortue in platinum – my holy Grail

The Cartier Tortue is quite exclusive and has been produced in precious metals only. The version I was hunting for was the XL, a Cartier Tortue model that was released in 2006, in platinum and in pink gold, with the mechanical 9601MC caliber, made for Cartier by Jaeger-LeCoultre. This Cartier Tortue was produced in less than 100 pieces and sold out in a jiffy at that time. It was however not a Limited Edition. Let me explain why it had to be this particular one.

Cartier Tortue

Cartier Tortue on the wrist

Normally I tend to prefer small watches, it’s as simple at that, but in the case of the Cartier Tortue, the XL version struck me from the moment it appeared on the market, spring 2006. It seemed that all the proportions were just right and to my liking. On the wrist it feels like no other large watch, due to the shape of the case and the domed crystal. Now, don’t think that the Cartier Tortue XL is a really huge watch, like a Santos 100 for example, as it’s not and actually when it’s compared to the popular Tortue Mono Poussoir in the L version, it is not that much larger. For bigger watches, like this XL, I definitely prefer any white metal, to pink- or yellow gold. Just because I find it easier to wear, in this part of the world. The serene white metal case and the creamy guilloché dial, with the vintage flower rosette in the center, gives me goose bumps every time I look at it. The flower rosette is a beautiful style element that was used on various watches in the twenties and it was a great idea to bring it back for these historical watches. Together with the blarge blued Breguet style hands, it breathes a certain class and elegant masculinity:  a combination that’s not always easy to find when it comes to large watches. While I don’t qualify this watch as a dress watch, the Cartier Tortue may however desire a tenue de ville outfit, to really stand out.

Cartier Tortue XL

Cartier Tortue XL in pink gold

When Cartier announced a new version of the Tortue XL in 2011, my hopes were high. This new model came in pink- and in white gold, powered by the mechanical 9602MC caliber. This is an altered 9601MC movement, now featuring a big date at 12 o’clock;  a really smart looking mens watch.

Cartier Tortue

Cartier Tortue Montage

But…….I don’t do dates and I am sure that I am the only person in the world, that dislikes date windows so much. Pointer dates yes, I wish they were used more often, but I just can’t see square cut outs in a classic dial. So I had to start hunting for the older version, of which less than one hundred pieces were produced of. It was not a limited edition, just a numbered small production run. For most collectors and Cartier enthusiasts the good news is that the second difference – between the older and the new model –  besides the movement of course, is that sweet small seconds located at 6. This small complication looks absolutely stunning! It reminds me of the Tortue Minute repeater from around 2001.

Cartier Tortue XL White Gold

Cartier Tortue XL White Gold

The shape of the case and the case dimensions of both Cartier Tortue versions are identical, while the Breguet style hands of the new Tortue look slightly more prominent, or more fat so to say, which looks really good. Even the decoration of the movement, that can be seen through the sapphire glass backs of both models, look identical. I am convinced that for most men, this new version is probably the better and for sure, more useful model. The Grande Date, located at 12 o’clock, is very clear, looks powerful and gives this smooth Cartier Tortue a more masculine touch than the older version, while the small seconds makes the watch less static and it also looks way cooler than a central seconds hand, that we see on almost any watch these days.

The earlier model that I hunted down for years, will not be anyones choice. So it’s good to know, that you can seen and try the new Cartier Tortue XL yourself, as it is still available in the Cartier Boutiques. The Cartier Tortue is after all, one of those legendary classic shapes, designed by Louis Cartier him self, that feels as right as it looks and that you must have seen and felt, before you move on to something else.
More information via
  • srs144

    This is such a great looking and classic watch, WOW! Congrats

    • Geo

      Thank you!

  • ike

    Personal fav case shape for a dress watch (like the VC Malte which is my grail one). The Santos-Dumont XL thin in white gold (now discontinued) was the only Cartier on my wish list but that one probably takes 1st now. Timeless beauty.. Great buy.. well done!

  • RolleFC

    No, you’re not the only one that dislike date windows…

    • Geo

      Good to hear that, but most men prefer a date, or don’t mind a date window. Such a shame that most watches these days have a date window.

  • Geo

    Thank you gents!

  • uhrwerks

    Congrats on a VERY beautiful watch Mr. “I don’t do dates….” That is a timeless design! Hard to believe its about 100yrs old already, not to mention the tank variations. I have no doubt the pictures don’t do this fine piece the justice & respect t it deserves!

    In general, I’m not a “date guy” either. Most of the time, IMHO, it usually seems to “throw off” the dial… It tends to ruin the balance of the dial. Most of the time it seems the designer didn’t care, like it was an afterthought. Eg. Using the stock white date wheel with a uniquely (or even just black) colored dial.

    I’ve seen a few darker dialed watches which have/had the date somewhat hidden or designed well, where the date window was pushed back a bit, placed between two numerals or indicators in the 4:00 area (often between 3 & 4 or 4 & 5), they had the date disc the same color as the dial as well as having the dark wheel matching the dark matt dial, the font on the disc was also black, yet possibly a bit darker & glossy. Unless you knew it was there, it would take you a few mins to notice it. I believe Stowa had several models like I just described, it was done very well !

    A chronograph or two I have, both “bicompax”, so only 2 subdials at 3 & 9, had a date window at 6… It wasn’t too bad, didn’t seem to bother me like on some watches! Once again, the dial was “balanced.”

    Personally, a watch like your Cartier, as well as other similar “dress” type watches I believe most people would refer to them as (e.g. Vacheron, AP, Patek, Breguet, some of the simple almost original designs from IWC, etc.) which I wouldn’t be wearing every day I don’t think need or even SHOULD have a date function. Especially now that everyone has a phone in their pocket!

    Talking about pockets, how many pocket watches, other than a unique $250,000+ complication have you seen with a date window?

    There’s obviously a demand for “non-date” watches. After a long absence, Rolex reintroduced their “dateless” submariner not too long ago! I don’t believe the “SkyKing” has a date window, nor does the Explorer I. I don’t believe has difficulty selling those models. The new retro inspired Omega Seamaster (I.e. The new James Bond watch & non Bond version – same watch except for the bezel & the “lollipop” second hand) I do not believe has a date window either.

    What about all the “Unitas” 6497/8 based watches (Panerai? B-Uhr replicas or reissues… Stowa? How about Nomos’ new 6498 based watch, as well as it’s smaller siblings) which all seem to be more popular then ever, yet have no date… Except for the expensive “odd ball” vintage movement or recent commissioned “one off” highly modified unitas 6497/8 based movement where complications were added (I’ve seen chrono functions, moon, day, date, tourbillion…) that was uniquely modified, often one movement or a few at maximum, single digit production run, no pocket watch movement I’m aware of has a date indicator.

    Ever see a 50yr old Hamilton pocket watch that had the date? Elgin? Gruen? Waltham? And I’ve yet to mention any Euro manufacturers!

    Plenty of watches out there without a date function being sold, new. Several watches I own which do have a date window, if it was offered without one at the time, I would have purchased the non-date version.

    A “real complication” can be very cool & amazing (as well as $$$$$$). When it comes to chronographs I was never a huge fan of the ETA/Valjoux 7750, specifically because of the day-date display. Although it (the 7750, depending on the dial) has grown on me & I guess somewhat needs that day-date display on the right dial (95% of the time (+/-)?) Unless it’s a left handed watch, than just reverse everything I say) to balance the 6, 9, 12 dial configuration which is “hogging” up the entire left side, thus leaving big “gap” or a “large open area” on the dial? Which makes it “unbalanced. Unless a large logo & name were placed there (I’ve seen a few companies write their name in a circle, basically emulating a subdial somewhat) the day/date windows do help balance out the dial.

    If I was shopping for an auto chrono, I’d likely get a nice vintage Zenith “tricompax” (date window usually not on dial). possibly a 7753/7753 based chrono, which is the 7750’s somewhat rare & not well know cousin and 50/50 when it comes to having a date window, but in my experience, the date is usually nicely integrated or hidden well, 99% of the time I see it “hidden” nicely & often unnoticeable in the 4:00 area, positioned well between the 3 & 4 or 4 & 5.

    Last consideration is a stock 7750 powered & dial layout, yet one which “dropped” it’s 9:00 subdial, using what I guess you would or could call a “vertical bicompax layout”, with its subdials at just 6 & 12. Found in a couple of new Redesigns of IWC’s pilot’s chrono but they’re olive green in color. I believe it’s a PVD like coating, but I guess ceramic is possible? Forgive me for any mistakes, I’m going by memory! They had a color matching olive dial w/ a few colorful accents such as yellow & orange on the dial, possibly a colorful hour or min hand and a few other tasteful details, including unique colored lume. I don’t believe there’s a day or date window, yet I’m going by memory here!

    There are a few 7750 based Sinns (past & present) which use the same layout as IWC (two subdials only, 6 & 12, no day or date I BELIEVE). Compared to most other Sinn chronographs which use the stock or standard 7750 layout: 3 subdials + day & date, color wise they stick to the traditional “black & white” color scheme which most Sinn’s come in except the occasional limited edition (like a beautiful blue or a beige dial w/ black numerals). (you may have the opportunity to slightly individualize your watch if you’re lucky, such as a red tipped or red secondhand, maybe a red subdial hand? But Sinn is pretty traditional & usually “sticks to the book”) As previously stated, like the IWC, Sinn “does away” with the 9:00! Subdial, which in the case of a 7750 is seconds. You have the central seconds hand. So technically, not a big deal not to have an additional small seconds dial at 9. And getting rid of it, as I stated earlier IMHO leaves you w/ a “cleaner” design – less things on the dial & a more balanced design due to having just two subdials at the 6 & 12 position. Like the IWC, I do not believe day or date is displayed. I could be wrong, as I mentioned, I’m going off of memory.

    There’s technically a few other choices… A vintage chrono. If it must be new, I’ve also seen multiple designs which “greatly downplayed” the 9 subdial, which is redundant anyway. They basically had 4 very slim, somewhat hard to notice lines (3, 6, 9, 12 position) with a smaller or very thin chrome hand. The day/date possibly not displayed. Giving a very clean dial.

    In general I’m also not a “yellow gold guy” either. But it has it’s place & has grown on me, although I’m pretty particular about the design, type of watch or it’s supposed use & manufacturer. I’d happily take the Cartier above!

    A yellow gold “classic” or “ageless design”, such as your Cartier above (or a similar make/model… Breguet, Vacheron, etc) YES PLEASE. I’LL GLADLY TAKE IT.

    A large, heavy, solid gold submariner or GMT, even 2-tone, Umm, nah… I’m not feeling it, thanks but no thanks, keep it (unless you have a white gold or platinum submariner or sea dweller for the same price as stainless you want to give me? Since most will think it’s stainless, sure, I’ll take it!). But a yellow gold, large, bulky “sports watch” no thank you.

    It also occurred to me, most gold watches look their best on a nice strap. Rarely if ever have I seen a gold watch bracelet that doesn’t detract from the watch “head” itself & it’s an “overkill” of gold… It becomes “too much.”

    Simplicity = elegance.

    Wear it in good health! May you always enjoy it & I hope it always brings you pleasure/enjoyment! Thanks for the pic & story. If you want to post a few more pics, I’d be happy to look at them! 😉

    P.s. Last thing, is it me? Or the “big date” trend, for the most part, has seemed to have died off (thankfully)?

  • manivelle

    What’s your feeling about the smaller tortue that, in place of the 12, in place of the date, had the treize? I think of it as a case of uniqueness vs. unexceptional mechanics, but I’d be happy to be argued down.

    • Geo

      You must be referring to the chronograph, the Tortue Mono Poussoir with salmon dial with 13 on the dial instead of 12. Just 13 pieces were produced, that were sold in the 13 Rue de la Paix Boutique and created for the reopening of the store. The Tortue MP in the large size, is from an historical point of view an amazing re issue watch and this salmon dial version, is just very rare and great looking. Same movement as the regular version.

  • Nick

    In regard to other Tortue Cartier-was there any version of the 8 day Calendar xl Tortue with in house Cartier movement(non-JLC like 2006 version)? If so what years was it produced. I love that watch.

  • Nicholas Hyde

    not sure you got my last email George. Hoping you might have some details on my favorite Cartier Tortue XL 8 day Calendar . Just curious if other iterations were made after the initial (2005-2006) JLC movement? If so what year were they produced and was it an in-house movement? Thanks for any info?

  • Nicholas Hyde

    George would love some history on my favorite Tortue-XL 8 day calendar. Since 2006 have other versions come out with revisions to the watch or the original JLC movement?

  • Geo

    Sorry for my late reply Nicholas. As far as I know there were no iterations made after the version you have. In fact Collection Privée, Cartier Paris was stopped in 2008. Since that year there were no more watches with PARIS underneath the brand name and most new high end models that came out since 2008, have a caliber MADE by Cartier.