Cartier’s Cloche de Cartier Sounds The Bell of the Modern Times

Cartier sticks to creating fine timepieces by revisiting its statement models and giving them the 21st century treatment. Cloche de Cartier is exactly that.

Sep 01, 2021 | By Darren Ho
Cloche de Cartier watch

In 1903, when Cartier first began to develop wristwatches, it found itself in a unique space. Few jewellers had ventured into watchmaking — the two fields, while related, were rather distinct. Jewellery was ornamental and stylistic in nature, and while the brand had created mantel clocks and mystery clocks, watches to be worn on the wrist were an entirely new segment. Over the next few decades, the brand would introduce a plethora of unusual watch designs, including two highly memorable pieces — the Asymétrique and the Cloche.

I say they were memorable because they literally turned heads. To look at the dial properly, you had to tilt your head. The Asymétrique was designed for drivers: if your hand was at 2 o’clock, the dial would appear straight. But the Cloche was meant to be read in a resting position. The bell-shaped design of the watch case recalled traditional mantel clocks, except this was meant to be worn on a wrist. Presumably, the idea was this: if you were at work, you took off your watch, and thus the Cloche de Cartier could be read as if it were a desk clock.

This certainly made sense in the early 20th century, when the idea of a 9-to-5 job existed. But with our work and personal lives increasingly entangled these days, does the Cloche de Cartier still hold its appeal? Turns out, it does.

I’ve often wondered how a modern interpretation of the Cloche de Cartier would look, and more than once in the past, brought it up with Pierre Rainero, the head of heritage and style for Cartier. He held firm to its perpendicularly-turned form and case design; I imagined a vertical, slimmed-down Cloche with a stepped case design, almost like a bell jar. Mr Rainero’s foresight is far more accurate, but the Cloche de Cartier Skeleton brings forth a very modern-looking wristwatch.

The pink gold model bears a modern slate-grey sunburst dial; the yellow-gold edition has a champagne dial and the platinum an eggshell one. The two latter options have a distinctly vintage feel, and will definitely find interest in Cartier aficionados.

Image: Cartier

It is the Cloche de Cartier Skeleton models — in pink gold, platinum and diamond-set platinum — bearing the calibre 9626 MC that truly stand out. The Art Deco Roman numerals, joined at their base in a ring under which the gears are positioned, rendering them nearly unnoticeable, makes this the most stylish skeleton movement from Cartier (and there are plenty from the watchmaker, believe us, or else, believe Google). Because of the design of the 9626 MC, the movement is framed in a smaller “cloche” set into the case and secured with screws, which gives it a clear association with another famed Cartier model: the Santos.

These models are all limited: the classic Cloche de Cartier at 100 each, the pink gold and platinum Cloche de Cartier Skeletons at 50 pieces and the diamond-set version with just 10 watches. We’re certain they will be sold out, if they aren’t already.

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