• Important Watches  auction at Christies

    Sale 2212

    Important Watches

    15 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 54

    CARTIER. AN IMPRESSIVE AND RARE 18K GOLD, DIAMOND, ROCK CRYSTAL AND ONYX EIGHT DAY MYSTERY CLOCK

    SIGNED CARTIER, NO. 220932 AND HP5R 0289, CIRCA 1986

    Price Realised  

    CARTIER. AN IMPRESSIVE AND RARE 18K GOLD, DIAMOND, ROCK CRYSTAL AND ONYX EIGHT DAY MYSTERY CLOCK
    SIGNED CARTIER, NO. 220932 AND HP5R 0289, CIRCA 1986
    Nickel-finished lever movement manufactured by Imhof, octagonal rock crystal dial, diamond-set hands, enhanced with onyx chapter ring, gilt and diamond-set Roman numerals, the reverse with onyx panels and gilt disc adornments, suspended between two fluted rectangular smoked rock crystal columns, gold, onyx and diamond-set capitals each topped with a Fu Lion carved from smoked rock crystal, the columns each supported by a stepped onyx base with gold and diamond-set enhancements, the pedestal composed of two onyx plinths with smoked rock crystal central zone sitting on a gold base, case signed and numbered
    approximate height 12 3/4 inches


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    Accompanied by a numbered Cartier fitted presentation box.

    The legendary relationship between Maurice Cout and the Cartier brothers at the beginning of the 20th century completed Cartier's reign as the leading firm for jewelled objects. Blending exquisite craftsmanship with elegant design and the most technologically advanced mechanisms provided works that continue to fascinate the observer, captivating us with their beauty.

    Best-known for his "Pendules Mystrieuses" or "Mystery Clocks", the twenty-eight year old clockmaker astonished the industry by exploiting the use of illusion. In the Mystery clocks, first seen with the "Model A" in 1913, the hands appear to "float" across the face, with no apparent anchor. In reality, they are held in place by transparent disks, usually of rock crystal, citrine or in one instance, aquamarine, and driven by gears that are ingeniously hidden in the frame of the case. Captivated by the research of 16th, 17th and early 19th century technicians, Cout's workshop produced several variations of the original Mystery clock, each produced over the course of one year and passing through the hands of no less than seven or eight specialists, employing not only the clockmaker but also the designer, the 'orfvre-botier', the enameler, the lapidary, the setter, the engraver and the polisher.

    Cartier perpetuated the illusion by guarding the secret behind these masterpieces, even at the expense of their own sales staff. As Hans Nadelhoffer states in his book Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary, "It was not simply a matter of the name; the 'mystery clock' contained a secret that was supposed to never be revealed. Over-inquisitive salesmen at the rue de la Paix, who tried to force explanations from the craftsmen, were rebuffed. The wonder clocks guarded their secret like the Sphinx, and Cartier's protected them from the eyes of prying admirers."

    Mystery clocks are described and illustrated in Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary by Hans Nadelhoffer, pp. 250 - 254 and in The Cartier Collection - Timepieces, Editions Flammarion, pp. 196 - 221.