This extremely attractive Cartier “tortue or” (gold turtle) wristwatch is doubtlessly one of the rarest if not the rarest model of Cartier’s 1920s watch production. As a matter of fact it is believed to be the only known minute repeating wristwatch made by the celebrated house during the Art Deco era.
The “tortue” or tonneau-shaped case of, for the time, large size with an overall length of nearly 39 mm. is preserved in excellent overall condition, fully numbered by Cartier and with clear hallmarks.
In common with the house’s most sophisticated vintage watch dials, the beautiful and clear matte silvered dial has been professionally restored to its original design: inlaid black champlevé hard enamel Roman numerals and scales, the for the period typical CARTIER signature in uppercase letters is printed.
Collectors and connoisseurs will appreciate the high quality minute repeating movement: bearing the serial number 40’736 it can be assumed that it was made by European Watch & Clock Co. Inc., formed in the early 1920s with Edward Jaeger (of Jaeger-LeCoultre) to produce movements specifically for Cartier. At a time when sales of pocket watches still outnumbered the upcoming wristwatch, less than a handful of distinguished Swiss watch manufacturers started making extremely small series of complicated wristwatches. Examples fitted with a minute repeating mechanism, the most coveted and difficult complication, are considered holy grails of horology.
The property of the same important European Private Collector for many years, this masterpiece of fine watchmaking and understated elegance can be considered one of the most important vintage wristwatches ever made by the celebrated house of Cartier.
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 model was the precursor of numerous watchmaking creations in the early 20th century. The first watches were destined for ladies, the gentleman's version featuring a single button chronograph was available as of 1928.