I’m always a bit ashamed when people ask me what movement is inside my own Cartier Santos Galbée XL from 2006. It houses a very reliable ETA 2893, which can be serviced by basically any watchmaker in the world. So it’s certainly not something to be ashamed of, especially because the watch looks so good. But ever since Cartier launched its Collection Privé, Cartier Paris (CPCP) in 1998, the brand has been trying to impress us not only with that beautiful skin, but also with very impressive movements underneath it. Today, those efforts result in the launch of Cartier’s most technical and complex piece to date. Behold, the Cartier Masse Mystérieuse.

Here at Fratello, we look at numerous press releases every day, especially when brands are preparing their new launches for Watches & Wonders. Some of those you just skim, as you basically already know what’s coming. Others you read a bit more in depth, and you can more or less picture in your mind what the watch will be like. But then there’s a third category of the watches you’d really like to get your hands on and see in real life. The all-new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse definitely falls into that last category. This a watch you need to see before you can believe it!

Cartier is ready to impress

But before we get to the impressive watch at hand, I’d like to assign you some pre-reading. You know, just to make sure that you won’t fall off your chair while reading the rest of the article! Because if you’re still convinced that you shouldn’t buy a Cartier watch because of its movement, please take a look at George’s article. In it, he explains why Cartier built its own manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds during the CPCP era. And he also highlights some of the watches that have been produced there since then. All of them house pretty impressive in-house-developed movements. After that, also make sure to check out Bert’s photo essay on his visit to the manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Done? All right, let’s get into it!

The Cartier Masse Mystérieuse hearkens back to the famous Mystery Clock collection introduced by Cartier in the 1910s. That collection was based on a fairly simple principle — floating hands on an open dial that doesn’t reveal any connection to the clock’s movement. Indeed, this was a simple principle, but certainly not one that was easy to execute. Since then, Cartier has also introduced this design into its wristwatches. The brand even introduced a floating tourbillon based on that very same principle. And now the floating hands are back (well, kind of), powered by the completely in-house-manufactured movement 9801MC. It’s a caliber with 42 hours of power reserve, running at a frequency of 4Hz (28,800vph). Sure, nothing special about that, right? Wrong. As you’ve probably already seen by now, the entire movement is built into the watch’s own skeletonized rotor!

A differentiating factor

Cartier says it has used an “ultra-sophisticated differential system — borrowed from the automotive industry”. The brand did so to ensure the oscillating movement of the rotor doesn’t interfere with the hands. To me, this all looks and sounds very much like a big mystery. Both the hands and the movement (or rotor) are held together by sapphire crystal on both sides. From the front and the back, you should be able to see all 43 jewels. And I really hope you can also take a glance at that very sophisticated differential system that Cartier developed. 

This nifty piece of engineering is surrounded by the characteristic Roman numerals. It’s very similar to the layout of the hand-wound Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux, which is already in the current collection. The Masse Mystérieuse’s Rotonde de Cartier case measures 43.5mm in diameter and is made out of platinum. The crown is set with a ruby cabochon, which matches the jewels used inside the movement very well. The watch comes on a semi-matte dark gray alligator leather strap, and it is limited to just 30 pieces. It’s also available in versions set with baguette-cut diamonds, either on a strap or a baguette-set platinum bracelet.

What do we think about the Cartier Masse Mystérieuse?

With its Ronde de Cartier collection, under which the Masse Mystérieuse will fall, Cartier is really trying to prove the world wrong. This might not be the collection with the most interesting or daring case shapes. But it’s certainly the collection with which Cartier repeatedly shows that it is very much on top of its movement game. If I had the opportunity, I would buy this watch just for that beautiful movement and the almost floating hands. They in themselves are already impressive and beautiful enough to fully enjoy this watch. I really like how Cartier turns the world upside-down with this piece. It’s not the external design that tries to impress you. Rather, it’s the movement that takes your breath away. Well done, Cartier. Chapeau!

What do you think of the Cartier Masse Mystérieuse? Did you fall for its beautiful inner workings, or would you rather have a Solarbeat Tank? Let us know in the comments!

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