A Closer Look at The Cartier Privé Tonneau

When Louis Cartier discovered his interest in creating watches with non-traditional round cases, he began with the Tonneau shape. The year was 1906, and the first of its kind was a beautiful yellow gold timepiece sold to the wife of Grand Duke Paul of Russia; Countess von Hohenfelsen. The innovative case shape was enhanced with one sapphire cabochon and the perfect leather strap. Its specifications included a round LeCoultre caliber 10HPVM movement, Swiss lever escapement, 18 jewels, a flat balance spring, bimetallic balance, and a 2.95 by 2.30 cm gold-plated case. It was an important watch sold to one of the most important clients Cartier had. It was also the first example of many more of what he called “Shaped Watches”, and he continued his quest for new and beautiful shapes throughout his career as the jeweler who established the modern watchmaking design codes.

The Cartier Prive’ Tonneau is part of this year’s capsule collection. Cartier has launched capsule collections in addition to its main collection in recent years. Each capsule collection features a famous Cartier silhouette reinterpreted with special treatments. Prior to the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) 2019, the Tonneau Large and the Tonneau XL Dual Time Skeleton are being revealed before their official debut takes place at the SIHH watch fair held in Geneva.

Cartier announced that the two versions of the Tonneau; the stylish but classic two-handed timekeeper and the skeletonized dual-time piece inspired by the 2006 evolution of its 1906 predecessor, will follow the design of the original 1906 version with a curved, wrist-following contour. Both timepiece versions will be available in platinum and rose gold.

The Tonneau Large, the two-hand model, has a bezel formed from a single block of either platinum or rose gold. Cartier states that the surface will have no breaks in the plane and no overhangs. A cabochon tops the winding crown. The dial on the platinum watch will be silvered, while the dial on the rose-gold watch will be Champagne-colored. Roman numerals in polished rhodium track time. Both Tonneau versions will be outfitted with leather straps in alligator. The platinum watch will have gray, while the rose-gold watch will have brown. Both have the new Caliber 1917; Cartier’s manual-winder boasting a 38-hour power reserve. The platinum version will be limited to just 100 pieces.

The Tonneau XH Dual Time Skeleton is horologically complex. Like the 2006 Tonneau XL, it has two separate time mechanisms. One for indicating home time and the other for indicating a second time zone. But this newer version, the Caliber 9919 MC incorporates both into a single movement. The movement features a gear train with a linear orientation. Its wheels are aligned to maintain the case shape integrity and are situated between 5 and 12 o’clock. This allows for the movement’s curved contours and the gear train’s angled cutting on its barrel and escapement wheel. Though the original 2006 version also had two movements, this new version is powered by the 60-hour power reserve of Cartier’s in-house 9919 MC.

The Tonneau XH’s two time zone displays are linked, but each has its own subdial and the distinctive Cartier blued sword hands sweeping over them. These are mounted on skeletonized bridges which allow for easy viewing of the aesthetically satisfying unconventional shapes of the subdials. The open work adds what Cartier describes as a “noble lightness” to its rather “traditional complication”. The second time zone display can be set using its additional crown. Wearers simply press it to arrive at the precise time zone in jumps of one hour each. The Caliber 9919 MC uses the initials to designate “Manufacture Cartier”. Using two different mechanisms for home time zone and a different time zone while using a single mechanism to drive both is a remarkable achievement. It was difficult to fit the timepiece’s components into the distinctive tonneau case shape while allowing the gear train to have its necessary wheel alignment between 12 and 6 o’clock.

The Privé Skeleton Dual Time Zone will be offered in platinum and rose gold versions in numbered, limited editions of 100 timepieces. A special additional 20 numbered timepieces will be offered in platinum set with baguette cut diamonds.

The Tonneau shaped watch is one of the most iconic made by the Cartier maison. The Tonneau XH is a new rendition of the Tonneau XL which celebrated the 1906 Tonneau’s 100th birthday in 2006. The barrel-shaped case is classic Cartier and collectors are eagerly looking forward to the debut of the new 21st century Tonneau limited edition timepieces.

With this year’s SIHH set for four days rather than the customary five, organizers have included longer hours for each day of the event, which will run from January 14 to 17. The event will be open daily from 8:30 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. The doors will open for the general public on Thursday and will offer easy access for visitors by staying open until 10:00 P.M. It’s expected that the event viewing will feel more intense due to the new schedule. The Cartier Maison, along with 17 other historic brands and 17 independents will open their exhibits a day early for invited guests to preview their newest collections.

When the SIHH watch salon opens in Geneva in January 2019, the new Cartier Privé Tonneau timepieces will follow Cartier’s tradition of highlighting the historic designs which have influenced watchmaking for decades. The high-end mechanical pieces are truly spectacular to view, and their mechanisms invite not only a closer look but intense contemplation.


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