According to the Archives of Cartier, the present watch was sold by Cartier in New York in 1941.
Based on the engraved presentation inscription on the back of the present watch, it was given by Ellis Laurimore Phillips, founder of the Long Island Lighting Company and the Ellis L. Phillips Foundation, and his wife Kathryn Sisson to their son Ellis Laurimore Junior for his 21st birthday in 1942.
Born and raised in New York state, Mr. Phillips won a county scholarship to attend Cornell University. He graduated in 1895 with a degree in the new field of electrical engineering and became a pioneer in electrical power generation and distribution.
He was a founder of the Long Island Lighting Company, and in 1912, the company's second year of operation, Mr. Phillips began a 25 year tenure as President. His vision and leadership developed the firm into a stable, profitable business by supplying reliable and affordable electrical service to the rapidly growing population of Long Island. By the late 1920s he had become a wealthy man with numerous business holdings.
At the age of 46 he married Kathryn Sisson McLean, daughter of an itinerant prairie minister, a widow and single mother who had become Dean of Women at Ohio Wesleyan University and President of the National Association of Deans of Women, which she had helped to organize.
In 1930, Mr. Phillips established the Ellis L. Phillips Foundation, the major grants during the founder's lifetime were to his alma mater, Cornell University, to build Phillips Hall, housing the department of electrical engineering, and to Ohio Wesleyan University, his wife's alma mater, to build Kathryn Sisson Phillips Hall, housing the departments of education and religion.
After Ellis Phillips died in 1959, the leadership of the Foundation was assumed by Ellis L. Phillips, Jr., the only child of Ellis and Kathryn Phillips. Under his leadership, the Foundation began to make grants of an entrepreneurial nature, most notably a Foundation-initiated program of internships in academic administration to prepare the future leaders of institutions of higher education.
The third generation of the Phillips family, the children of Ellis L. Phillips, Jr., and Marion Grumman Phillips, has continued to volunteer time, talent, and work to the Foundation.
The spiritual guiding light of the Foundation remains the simple question posed by Kathryn Phillips: "What needs to be done?"
The tonneau-shaped "tortue à pattes" or "turtle on legs" wristwatch was designed by Louis Cartier in 1912. The shape of the case was made to resemble a turtle, a very popular animal during this era and symbol of good fortune and longevity in many civilisations.
The first tortue model was the precursor of numerous watchmaking creations in the early 20the century. The initial watches were destined for ladies, the gentleman's version featuring a single button chronograph was available as of 1928.
The single button chronograph mechanism allows its wearer to operate all stop-watch functions via the crown - enabling the designers to achieve a most elegant and smooth line.
The combination of a state-of-the-art chronograph movement with the latest design of that period and the provenance render this watch a highly attractive collector's piece.
For a single button chronograph wristwatch illustrated in literature see The Cartier Museum at the Goldsmiths' Hall London, Exhibition 23rd May - 10th June 1988 catalogue, p. 50, pl. XXXVII. It is interesting to note that the watch exhibited during this event was formerly owned by Edsel Ford, showing the respect and esteem this model enjoyed amongst international high society.
The model is furthermore illustrated in Le Temps de Cartier by Jader Barracca, Giampiero Negretti and Franco Nencini, pp. 164-165 and in Armbanduhren - 100 Jahre Entwicklungsgeschichte by Kahlert, Mühe, Brunner, fifth edition, p. 337, pl. 1024.