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Is The Phantasmagorical New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse From Watches & Wonders 2022 THE Definition Of A Quintessential Mechanical Automatic Watch? 

Using multiple transparent sapphire discs with peripheral toothed gears (hidden under the case-band), automotive industry’s gear differential system, and a mind-bending wizardry of featuring the entire movement inside the oscillating mass, the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse is as enchanting as mechanical watches can get. Let’s find out more…

Editor’s note: Like you, we are also excited for the Watches & Wonders 2022 novelties. Before we get to dive deep into them, here’s our preview & Gut Reaction Review (Grr…) of the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse. For our detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here. This is NOT a sponsored post.

New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

The New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse In A Nutshell

To lay it out in layman terms, mechanical watches are of two types: manual-wind and automatic. The former needs to be hand-wound manually, with the movement being wound using the crown every day or two, depending upon how long the movement gets powered up for in one full wind. The latter traditionally make use of a rotor or an oscillating weight or mass, and the movement of the wrist helps it keeping charged by powering up the mainspring. So by the simplest of definitions, a watch with a rotor that is going on about merrily rotating, is an automatic watch. 

New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

But you have to remember that the rotor works in cahoots with the movement, and turns on a pivot. The rotor is not the entire movement. The movement remains still, its cogs and gears working but is motionless in rotation around the watch, while the rotor rotates at the whim and fancy of your wrist’s movement. 

It is on this principle, one that I am oversimplifying here, that mechanical automatic watches are generally made.

New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

Then in steps Cartier. Flips the script.

They take the rotor, turn it into an entire movement. Or they take the movement, turn it into one rotor. The Cartier Masse Mystérieuse takes inspiration from its mystery clocks that the brand has been experimenting with since 1912 and miniaturises them to feature a semi-circular skeletonised movement that fits inside a bi-directional rotor. Eight years in the making, mo matter how you look at it, it’s simply mysterious. And not just content with this mechanical wizardry, the brand in the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse also features an open-worked dial.

New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

With almost nothing to hide, and everything to be proud of, it’s all on display. 

And as my brain was still processing the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse, my heart decided to join in too; this dreamlike new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse from Watches & Wonders 2022 is perhaps the THE definition of a quintessential mechanical automatic watch.

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How It Works (We Think) 

My understanding is that unlike most watches that mount their discs (for the hands) in the center, the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse makes use of separate transparent sapphire discs fitted with peripheral thin metallic layer of toothed gears that connect with the crown. This can’t be seen as its hidden inside the case band. And voila, no winding stem. The hour and minutes hands simply appear to rotate mysteriously, enchanting one and all. My calculated guess says that the crown has to be pulled out in two separate positions to adjust the hour and minutes hands, and you cannot wind the movement with the crown that makes the floating oscillating mass’s presence even more impressive. 

New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse
New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

Very smart, and very ingenious. Similarly I would say that the movement itself is on another disc or discs, and giving the impression of floating. 

We haven’t gone hands-on with this so it’s hard to even begin to comprehend how this truly works, but like I said Cartier must have used ‘invisible’ in 2D press pictures transparent sapphire discs and components to connect everything together. Both hands would be mounted separately on transparent sapphire disc connected to the crown on the periphery and ‘invisible’ because the case band hides that. Extremely clever. And praiseworthy.

Now to make sure that the hands discs and the movements discs are kept separate so as to avoid damage to the hands or to alter their position, the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse’s movement would work on a system used in cars, referred to as the ‘differential’ in automotive parlance. Essentially there are two aspects at play here – the hour and minutes hands, and the rest of the movement. The way Cartier gets around this is by replicating the ‘differential’ concept whereby a system of gears driving separate components that of the hands and the rotor is mounted on the same axle but rotate at different speeds.

Regardless, this is what mesmerizing horological art is all about. 

New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

Basic Specs of The new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

The new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse features a 43.5mm diameter and 12.64mm thick platinum case with with a ruby cabochon crown. Inside ticks the 9801 MC calibre which is an automatic mechanical movement — completely contained within the oscillating weight — measuring 39.6mm (along the longest edge) by 7.3mm thick. The movement contains 43 jewels, beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h), and provides a 42-hour power reserve.

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Parting Thoughts 

I have already said how much I adore this both as a watch and a wonder. But I also like the simpler details.

The peripheral chapter ring on the dial with the trademark railroad track is good on its own too, classic Cartier with brushed surfaces and appliqué Roman numerals. What I love about the design of the Cartier Masse Mystérieuse is that ignore the mysterious oscillating mass in the middle, and what you get is a stereotypical Cartier timepiece (a lot like my Cartier Ronde Croisière). It is this ability of the brand to present something novel yet maintain its design codes that something very impressive too.

My first reaction to the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse was surreal… it left me in a sort of phantasmagorical trance, giving my brain an extra workout simply marvelling at this accomplishment. Truth be told I expected this from the likes of MB&F, but for a mainstream commercial Richemont brand doing it not only makes it extra special but also leaves me with hope for a future where not just independents are at the forefront of pioneering mechanical watchmaking art. 

New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

At the end of the day, the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse is not only a step in the right direction for the brand, but super impressive and worthy of any praise showered on it. It is because of watches like this that the world of horology is such a delightful place to be.

Retailing for €250,000 and available as a limited edition of 30-pieces, the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse is announced at Watches & Wonders 2022 March 30 to April 5 (both online and at the Salon).

New Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

To find out more about the new Cartier Masse Mystérieuse and their other watches, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated are courtesy are COPYRIGHT © 2022 CARTIER. Make sure to check out our reviews of other Watches & Wonders 2022 novelties here.

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