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    Sale 1348

    Important Pocket Watches and Wristwatches

    12 November 2007, Geneva

  • Lot 272

    Cartier. An exceptional and unique 18K white and yellow gold, silver, diamond, rock crystal, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, marble and chalcedony 8-day Mystery clock


    Price Realised  


    Cartier. An exceptional and unique 18K white and yellow gold, silver, diamond, rock crystal, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, marble and chalcedony 8-day Mystery clock
    Signed Cartier, Paris, No. 201206 and H.P.S.R., No. 279, manufactured in 1981
    With three quarter plate 8-day lever movement, 15 jewels, Glucydur balance, the faceted octagonal rock crystal dial with rose-cut diamond hands, in gold, polished lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl case, the bezel with twelve hour markers set with round-cut diamonds in sizes, the reverse with four circular gold and diamond-set quarter hour and tapered white gold five minute divisions, gold and diamond-set base, supported by a lapis lazuli baluster vase, carved with phoenix amongst scrolling flower heads and foliage, flanked by three horned dragon heads and loop and ring handles, the mottled stone of rich blue, grey and buff colour, on a circular stepped light blue marble, blue chalcedony, gold and diamond-set base, on four rectangular-shaped feet, the movement wound and hands set through the base, case signed and numbered
    380 mm. high

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    Accompanied by Cartier original fitted presentation box and gilt metal key.

    The present "Mystery Clock" was made in 1981 and is set with 298 diamonds, weight approx. 12 carats. The lapis lazuli vase can be dated from the 19th century.

    The legendary relationship between Maurice Couët 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 Mystérieuses" 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, Couët'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 'orfèvre-boîtier', 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."

    The amalgamation of Monsieur Couët's genius with the stylistic influences of Asian art is brilliantly realized in this Mystery clock. Of obvious Chinese inspiration, it represents the epitome of such a clock, its incorporation of a 19th century Chinese decorative object made of lapis-lazuli blended with the modern technology of its "mystery" movement.

    Exclusively produced in Cartier's workshops in Paris, the production time of modern examples, such as the present clock, was approximately 7 months. Due to the enormous cost and expenditure of time involved, Cartier has momentarily ceased their manufacture, rendering the few examples of these marvels appearing in public exceedingly rare.

    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.