Available in The Shop – Two Cartier Tortues You Should Definitely Get Into

To kickstart our special Revolution Curates series, we present two classic Cartier timepieces from the iconic Tortue line.

Every watch brand has an attribute for which they are most famed. Rolex does sports watches like no other brand, Patek takes the lead with grand complications and I’ll put my neck on the line and say that when it comes to integrated bracelets, Audemars Piguet takes pole position. When pondering Cartier, I reckon most of us would suggest that the high-end jeweler and watchmaker is most famed for its case shapes. Crash, Tank, Cintrée and Baignoire all have silhouettes that are identifiable from 100 paces. One perennial favorite is the Tortue and we are delighted to have two of these watches to offer as part of our special curated selection – a Monopoussoir with diamond-set case and a Perpetual Calendar from the Collection Privée Cartier Paris (CPCP).

Cartier Tortue Monopoussoir
Cartier Tortue Monopoussoir (Image: Revolution©)
Cartier CPCP Tortue Perpetual Calendar CPCP
Cartier Tortue Perpetual Calendar CPCP (Image: Revolution©)

A Signature Shape

The first two decades of the 1900s was when Louis, the eldest of the three Cartier brothers, was at his most prolific creatively. Hot on the heels of the Santos (1904), and the Tonneau (1906), the Tortue was introduced alongside the Baignoire 110 years ago this year, in 1912. It was a time-only watch in its infancy, that happily coexisted alongside the Santos-Dumont (1911) and Tank (1917) until Cartier began using it as a vehicle for complications in 1928. Both minute repeaters and monopusher chronographs (monopoussoirs) were available in Tortue form, albeit in extremely low numbers. Since then, the collection has been seen as the connoisseurs’ choice that subtly flies under the radar.

1929 Cartier Tortue Minute Repeater (image: Christie's)

The maison was in prime position to produce the cases and, in fact, early Cartier watches are as desirable as they are thanks to the incredibly beautiful cases in which the watches reside. Lovingly called the “Tortue à pattes” or “tortoise on legs”, the Tortue is inspired by the tortoise with its round body and short lugs like a tortoise’s legs.

In 1919, Cartier signed an exclusive contract with Edmond Jaeger, forming the European Watch & Clock Company (EWC), which would supply the maison with ultra-thin chronometer movements produced by Jaeger’s partner, LeCoultre & Cie. When vintage examples of the Tortue Monopoussoir appear on the market or at auction, they command hefty prices, such is the demand for rare vintage Cartier. The genius of the watch is that all its functions, including the chronograph, are controlled via the crown. This is obviously a neat feat of watchmaking but, arguably more importantly to Cartier, afforded a very clean looking case design without additional pushers with more moderately-sized proportions of 26 x 35mm. Très élégante.

1929 Cartier Tortue Monopoussoir (image: Haute Time)

Cartier Tortue Monopoussoir

For those looking for a little bling on the wrist, the Monopoussoir we are offering is a reference 2396G in white gold. This 34mm by 43mm Tortue has a case set with brilliant-cut diamonds; the multi-purpose crown is also set with a diamond. The dial has a guilloché finish and two subdials: one that indicates the running seconds while the other, a 30-minute chronograph counter, works in tandem with the center chronograph seconds hand. Classic Cartier black painted Roman hours are present, with the all-important hidden signature in the VII marker and blued Breguet style hands. The manual wind movement is the caliber 045 MC based on an ébauche from Techniques Horlogères Appliquées (THA). Modern independent watchmaking fans will sit up at this next part.

THA was the collaborative effort between three of the most important independent watchmakers of the 21st century, namely F.P. Journe, Vianney Halter and Denis Flageollet (the founder of De Bethune). The movement utilises an oscillating pinion mechanism to engage and disengage the chronograph seconds wheel, with the added benefit of eliminating the jump of the chronograph seconds hand upon activation, often seen in horizontal clutch chronographs. This was a detail that THA’s founders did not overlook, which adds to the overall refined quality of the design.

Cartier Tortue Perpetual Calendar CPCP

In 1998, Cartier delighted and shocked the watch collecting community in equal measure, when it unveiled Collection Privée Cartier Paris, a greatest hits collection of some of the most iconic pieces from the brand’s history. CPCP would run for a decade until 2008 and almost every model released has become highly collectible.

We are delighted to be offering the Tortue Perpetual Calendar reference 2646 in platinum from CPCP. Just like the Monopoussoir, the 34mm by 43mm platinum case is classic Tortue in execution with a display caseback, showing the caliber 9421 MC with an interlocked “C” motif on the rotor and the bridges. The perpetual calendar module is made by Dubois Dépraz, similar to the one found in the Audemars Piguet reference 5548, at one point the thinnest automatic perpetual calendar in existence. The calendar information is displayed in a classic four subdial layout that contrasts nicely with the guilloché finished dial. The moonphase at 6 o’clock has been replaced by a 24-hour indicator that can track a second timezone. The calendar is adjusted via a number of correctors built into the case that preserve the Tortue’s classic lines, but it would be a bit much to expect a single crown to adjust the entire complication! Classic blued Breguet hands and painted black Roman hours are house signatures, including the so-called hidden Cartier signature in the “X” numeral. The dials of the CPCP watches were signed “CARTIER PARIS” as a nod to their heritage, with the familiar “SWISS MADE” signature on the bottom edge. However you like your Tortue, we have something for you.

Both watches are fully inspected and authenticated, and come with a 24-month warranty from WatchBox.

Tech Specs

Cartier Tortue Monopoussoir

Movement: Manual winding caliber 045 MC; 40-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds and chronograph
Case: 34mm × 43mm; 18K white gold with diamonds; water resistant to 30m
Dial: Silver; black printed Roman numerals
Strap: Black alligator leather; white gold folding clasp
Price: USD 44,950

Cartier Tortue Perpetual Calendar CPCP

Movement: Self-winding caliber 9421 MC; 48-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, second timezone and perpetual calendar
Case: 34mm × 43mm; platinum; water resistant to 50m
Dial: Silver; black printed Roman numerals
Strap: Black alligator leather; white gold folding clasp
Price: USD 47,950