Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astrocalendaire Perpetual Calendar Rose Gold
Not your ordinary Perpetual Calendar
The very first post I wrote last year was about a Cartier, namely the Cartier Drive de Cartier Moon Phase, and 2019 is no different. After having discovered pros and cons of the new Santos de Cartier Chronograph, let's jump back to SIHH 2017 for a while and discuss one of the greatest masterpieces ever crafted by the French brand in recent years, a timepiece that perfectly blends technical prowess with an original design. The end result was a timepiece geared towards true watch connoisseurs. You might like its design or not, but you can't deny the Rotonde de Cartier Astrocalendaire Perpetual Calendar is one of the most technically refined perpetual calendar watches ever made.
As mentioned above, this is not any new watch but has, in our opinion, never been under the spotlight as it deserved. Cartier actually crafted two versions of this super-complicated watch, one in platinum with Roman numerals and a too elaborate design in my opinion, and a sleeker variant made in rose gold with no indexes at all, on the dial. They were launched at SIHH 2014 and SIHH 2017 respectively, the latter being the one we got our hands-on.
The Rotonde de Cartier Astrocalendaire Perpetual Calendar
The Astrocalendaire belongs to the Rotonde de Cartier collection, and its case comes in at 45mm across and is 15.1mm thick, to accommodate the caliber 9459 MC, an entirely manufactured movement that complies with the Hallmark of Geneva certification criteria. The overall size of the watch looks all but familiar on a Cartier watch but is needed given this caliber includes two great complications, a flying tourbillon, and a perpetual calendar. This combination is not so rare in "haute-Horlogerie" (A.Lange & Söhne, for example, crafts the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar), what is unique instead is the perpetual calendar display, offered by Cartier.
Not your ordinary Perpetual Calendar
The central element of the design is the flying tourbillon, surrounded by a multi-tier circular display for the perpetual calendar. It looks like the tourbillon is sitting amidst a Roman amphitheater, a clear nod to ancient culture. The tourbillon and perpetual calendar mechanism and display assembly take most of the dial's space: on the three-tiered rings are displayed, from the outermost to the innermost respectively, date, month and day of the week. It is the smartest way to show the functions of a perpetual calendar I have ever seen.
The leap year indication is placed on the case back side, instead, and is partially hidden by the winding rotor. This choice has to do in my opinion with avoiding the multi-tier display be too hard to read, along with leaving enough space to the time display. Three rotating blue brackets, connected to the caliber's gearings and placed on the three rings, allow you to read the date, the month and the day at a glance, thus making the Astrocalendaire the easiest-to-read perpetual calendar ever made. The tourbillon is a one-minute flying tourbillon sporting the signature C-shaped rotating cage.
Caliber 9459 MC is different from the competition in the way designers have replaced springs and levers traditionally used in perpetual calendars, with gears, a choice that, according to Cartier, further increases reliability in the long term.
All the main functions are set via the winding crown: date and month can be set forward and backward, whereas a small corrector placed on the case helps you adjust the day.
Apart from the perpetual calendar display, the Astrocalendaire's dial features the time display at 12 o' clock by mean of two tiny gladiator-shaped blue hands and a pink gold plate engraved with the Cartier logo, plus an additional gold ring for the minutes' display. The dial has a sunray decoration whose dark silver lines origin from the hour and minute rotating axis.
A sapphire cut cabochon is set into the winding crown, which has been lightly knurled, to probably increase grip, as well as give aesthetic appeal.
The Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astrocalendaire Perpetual Calendar in rose gold was produced in a limited edition of just 100 pieces, and priced, at the time, at around € 200.000. We are talking fine watchmaking here; therefore price is not accessible, but neither are technical prowess or design. In the benchmark, the Astrocalendaire boasts a unique approach to designing a perpetual calendar and combining these two complications. Finally, I also think an Astrocalendaire still is the most easy-to-read perpetual calendar on the market.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)