With Cartier original fitted red presentation box, original unsigned winding key numbered 2055 and 3489 and later outer travelling box. Furthermore delivered with Cartier Certificate of Authenticity numbered GE2011-139 and dated 26 September 2011 confirming that this "Model A" was retailed by Cartier New York in 1927.
The art of illusion fascinates adults and children alike. We are all spellbound when magicians deceive the eye with a slight movement of the hand and deft trickery, believing they achieve the impossible while knowing perfectly well that it is just magic. No-one perfected the art of illusion better than the talented French clockmaker Maurice Couët in the mystery clocks offered by Cartier, beginning in 1913 with the mythical Model A.
The legendary relationship between Maurice Couët and the Cartier brothers in the early 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 Maurice Couët astonished the industry by exploiting the use of illusion. In the Mystery clocks 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 made 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 enameller, 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 first issue of the Model A was sold by Cartier in their New York store to J.P. Morgan, Jr. in 1913. These elegant clocks with their clean, sleek surfaces and bejewelled hands have been favourite gifts to notables including Queen Mary, who received one in 1924, and Joseph Stalin, who was presented with one by General Charles de Gaulle in 1945.
For illustrations and descriptions of mystery clocks see Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary by Hans Nadelhoffer, pp. 250 - 254, in The Cartier Collection - Timepieces, Editions Flammarion, pp. 196 - 221, Cartier - Time Art by Jack Forster, pp. 110-125, The Art of Cartier, Musée du Petit Palais, 1989-1900, p. 149, Le Temps de Cartier by Jader Barracca, Giampiero Negretti and Franco Nencini, p. 99, The Cartier Museum at the Goldsmiths' Hall, London, 1988, pl. 18, Retrospective Louis Cartier Masterworks of Art Deco, Los Angeles County Museum, 1982-1983, pl. 15, and Retrospective Louis Cartier - 101 Years of the Jeweler's Art, Cartier, New York, 1976, pl. 99.