The Clé de Cartier collection welcomes two fascinating complications.

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The Clé de Cartier collection welcomes two fascinating complications.

When it comes to watch case shapes, it’s not easy to deviate from the standard round, square, oval or rectangular forms without looking like a science fiction gadget or a piece of jewellery. But Cartier has managed to do it, and unveiled its new collection, the Clé de Cartier, at last year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie.

It looks like a simple ovoid at first glance, but we know full well that nothing Cartier does is simple, and the same goes for its new case. After years of research and development and countless prototypes, the final result shows off a circular face that seems to melt into its ovoid frame and horn-shaped lugs. Fresh yet familiar, the case also introduces a completely new type of time-setting mechanism, which uses a “key” for adjustments with a simple and pleasingly audible twist and click.

While the collection started strong with a new in-house 1847 MC movement – which will probably soon replace the ETA ebauches used in current production models – it returned to the headlines just months later with two impressive complications: the Clé de Cartier Mysterious Hours and Clé de Cartier Flying Tourbillon.

Cartier’s intriguing Mysterious Hours first showed up in the brand’s vintage mystery clocks, the first of which was created in 1912, and were so named because of how the clock’s hands appeared to be suspended within a transparent dial, seemingly requiring nothing more than magic and imagination to make them move. There is of course a clever illusion applied here, one which involves hands mounted on toothed sapphire discs that are driven in the edges of the case.

Such a unique display also calls for a uniquely shaped movement, and you can see that the 158-part 9981 MC movement in the Clé de Cartier is (or rather, has to be) shaped like a crescent. It runs at a respectable 28,800 vibrations/hour and has a power reserve of 48 hours. With so little room to work in so much genius, this particular reference is just a touch larger than others in the collection, coming in at 41mm instead of the standard 40mm.

It’s also reasonably thin at 4.61mm, making the entire watch just 11.25mm thick. The last time the Mysterious Hours was introduced in a wristwatch was in 2013, and it was in a Rotonde de Cartier case. But the beautiful complication also works remarkably well with the Clé de Cartier’s aesthetic.

The dial design remains largely unchanged with its rail-track minute circle, sword shaped hands and stylised Roman numerals. However, the numerals in this version are now blue and beautifully complement the sapphire cabochon on the key-style crown. It will be available in 18K pink gold or palladium.

Cartier’s second release is a sight to behold not just for the delicate, spinning complication, but also for its glittering case. Because in keeping with the increasingly unsurprising but welcome trend of women wanting serious horology on their wrists, the Clé de Cartier Flying Tourbillon is in fact targeted at the ladies.

The refined, understated elegance of a regular Clé de Cartier gets ramped up to unabashed glamour with the inclusion of 478 brilliant-cut diamonds totalling 3.5 carats on a 35mm case of white gold. The sun ray flinque dial, blue hands and Cartier-style Roman numeral hour markers all work towards a memorable dial.

It is certainly a worthy case for an equally impressive complication. The oneminute tourbillon doubles as a seconds display via the signature C-shaped carriage, and it will continue making its mesmerising rotation for 50 hours before it requires a winding. The manually wound in-house Calibre 9452 MC that powers it is no less striking.

It is in fact the first Cartier movement to bear the prestigious Poincon de Geneve, a seal awarded to movements with outstanding finish and decoration. We have no doubt that future iterations of the Clé de Cartier will continue to thrill.

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Cartier has introduced an elegant new shape for watches, featuring a circular frame embedded in an oval one. The novelty of the Mysterious Hours (left) is hands floating on a transparent dial. Meanwhile, female watch connoisseurs will appreciate the Flying Tourbillon (right), which combines glamour with serious watchmaking prowess.