The Tortue; not as famous as the Tank or the Santos, but certainly as important, historically. The sensual shape of the first Tortue case was created in 1912 and was in fact, after the Santos Dumont and the Tonneau, Cartier’s third watch model. 1912, To be exact, so that’s now 100 years ago and although Cartier did not celebrate the 100th. birthday of the Tortue, with an anniversary model, La Maison did release a few new Tortue models in 2012 and 2013.
The Tortue was from the beginning a successful ‘time only’ watch in it’s own way, that lived happily along side the Santos Dumont and the more famous Tank. In it’s own way, because it has always been a bit of a watch for connoisseurs. The importance of the Tortue increased when Cartier decided to add complications and released a Minute repeater and a Mono Poussoir, in 1928.
Calibers were supplied by the European Watch & Clock Company (EWC), which obtained its movements from LeCoultre. In the thirties Cartier worked very close with Jaeger (le Coultre) and Cartier also obtained more complicated movements from the European Watch & Clock Company, that supplied calibers for the different Cartier models like Tortue, Tortue Mono Poussoir, Tank Cintrée, Tank a Guichets and probably a few more. Not many of these (complication) Tortues have been produced and when a vintage Tortue Mono Poussoir or Minute Repeater, occasionally appears at auctions, it fetches a handsome price. Unique of a Mono Poussoir or Single Pusher movement, is of course the fact, that all functions of the chronograph are operated through that single crown. Not only a clever invention, but it also gives the whole look of the watch a less busy, less sporty and more dressy appearance, which makes it the first Chronograph watch that really fits under a Ralph Lauren French cuffed shirt.
When Cartier presented the ‘Collection Privée Cartier Paris’in April 1999, collectors were happily surprised to seeing a re-release of that famous Tortue Mono Poussoir, in yellow gold with a mechanical hand wound 045MC caliber.
The calibre 045MC also has the special feature of a clutch system with a swivel pin. Which in fact means, that the transmission of the movement of the second wheel of the base movement to the chronograph’s central wheel, is effected through a double swivel pin. The advantage of this clutch, is that it suppresses the skip of he hand at the beginning of a translation movement, which is found with the mechanisms of chronographs with a lateral clutch. The new Tortue was a bit larger and thicker than the original model, not in the first place to make it more masculine, also to fit the new Swiss movement. But with a case size of 45×35 mm, still not a really large watch.
This handwound movement is a THA ebauche. THA is a company that was formed by ‘Halter, Journe & Flageollet’, so this calibre is their work. To my knowledge the caliber 045MC was only used for the various Cartier Tortue Mono Poussoir models, the Tank Mono Poussoir and the Debethune Mono Poussoir. The dial of this first version CPCP yellow gold Tortue Mono Pusher, comes very close to the very early pieces. Around the same time, the watch was also released in white gold version, with a modern dial,
that had just the number 12 in romans and small 5 minute markers, which gave the watch a very different and contemporary look, from the yellow gold version. In this same period (1998-2008) There were also Tortue Perpetual calendars, a Tortue XL with Grande date and 8 day movement by JLC and various Tourbillon models with movements by Renaud & Papi or JLC and the Tortue XL Day & Night with two time zone and mechanical caliber by JLC.
All the above mentioned models are now retired and Cartier moved on with the current collection and added in 2012/2013 three stunning new pieces, two with an in house movement and one with an existing reworked JLC caliber.
The current Tortue line up looks as follows;
– TORTUE PERPETUAL CALENDAR –
A large strong Tortue case, housing Cartier’s first self-winding 9422MC movement with perpetual calendar. Day and date functions and the innovative, very good readable, calendar display. The days of the week are indicated by a retrograde hand, the date is shown in large numbers around the dial and the month and years counter is positioned at 12 o’clock. Pretty compact and very clear designed.
Personally I love the pointer date, it’s a feature we do not see that often anymore.
The Case dimensions are 45.6 x 51mm and the watch has a water resistance is 30m/100feet. Very interesting is the fact that theTortue Perpetual comes in white- or pink gold and is available with two dial options.
The more modern open worked layered dial, we know so well from the Fine Watchmaking Collection, or the more classic white (cream) guilloche dial.
– TORTUE XXL MULTIPLE TIMEZONE –
In the footsteps of the Tortue perpetual calendar watches, we saw this year the Tortue Multi Timezone watch added to the collection.
During the press presentation this watch almost got an applause, most journalists loved the specs, looks and possibilities of this time piece. The case is 51 mm X 45.6 mm wide, and is 17.2 mm high, which is certainly not small, but on the wrist, it seemed to fit most people well.
The new Tortue is a Worldtime watch and Cartier did very well by not making the dial busy with all the city names. The designers/watchmakers instead created a window in the side of the case, where a mobile disc, shows the city names.
The pink- or white gold case, holds the newly developed 9914MC automatic movement, which is based on the in la Chaud-de-Fonds developed 1904 MC caliber, that has a power reserve 48 hours.
– TORTUE XL –
Simple but very attractive, and available in white or rose gold. In my opinion a very sexy Tortue, that remembers the Tortue XL of the CPCP series.
The watch has an identical 38 x 48mm case, a petite seconde @ 6 and a Grande date. The Tortue XL is powered by the 9602 MC mechanical caliber. A movement that’s based on a JLC calibre. For someone looking for a different chic and classy daily watch, no need to look further.
I have always had a sweet spot for the Tortue models. They have the same elegance of a round watch, but to me a Tortue is more perky and less conventional.
More information about the various Tortue models can be found at the Tortue page of
Its great to see that Cartier is bringing the Tortue back with some simple models. I’ve always admired the Tortue Mono Poussoir and hope one day it will be brough back. I find the current perpetual calendar versions too busy looking. The new model with small seconds and grand date is very handsome (although I think I’d prefer it without the date).
Thanks again for another excellent article on a classic Cartier design.