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Richard S. Cunanan
July 23, 2016     |    

The Sky Has Fallen

Cartier’s second time zone moon display is cut from another world.

It seems worth a revisit to take a second look at Cartier’s Rotonde de Cartier Earth and Moon Calibre 9440 MC. If you’re familiar with Cartier’s work in fine watchmaking, there are certain hallmarks that you can look for, signature stylistic choices that combine to form the look of the watchmaking house. And the interesting thing about this rock-centered timepiece is that it carries some of those touches, but not others. In a way, it’s a reinterpretation of what it means to look like Cartier. And for me, the look is compelling enough to warrant a second glance.

Cartier has some elements that they have integrated into their central look. Concentric circles in metal, for one. A blue stone-topped winding crown. And the use of Roman numerals, often used architecturally to anchor the dial to the watch case and so serve as both hour index and structural pillar.

The Earth and Moon 9440 MC has none of the concentric circles, and the blue-tipped crown is definitely there. But the Roman numerals are even more prominently displayed, occupying the top two-thirds arc of the dial and anchoring the central display. It also serves as a frame for the tourbillon cage at 6 o’clock. The Roman numerals that Cartier uses are always somewhat outsized, and even distorted to present the timepieces more distinctly. Here they seem to have gained mass, as if grown by the terrible gravity of the watch’s central stone display. The Roman numerals have become the support arches for the carven stone at the heart of the dial.

That stone, of course, is the central piece in this assembly. The Rotonde de Cartier Earth and Moon is, perhaps ironically, inhabited by a piece of material that is neither. The dial center is sliced from a meteorite, and affixed in the center like a graven image at the heart of a temple.

It’s beautiful, of course, and I suppose it would be even if we didn’t know it’s origin. The stone is cut in a way that reveals the inner pattern of the material itself; not like diamonds are cut, but like shale calves off. The rectangular shapes within the stone remind you of the buildings of a city as seen in memory.

That central stone dial is meant to be the Earth. The Moon of the piece is a beautiful on-demand moon-phase display that, at the push of a button, engages to slide across the lower third arc of the watch face to partially occlude the tourbillon cage below. In the language of the watch, I suppose the tourbillon is the Moon, and the sliding stone plays the part of the shadow of the Earth, which is really how Moon phases come to be. The shadow stone, too, is cut of that same meteorite stone, ringed in metal and forming an absence of the light.. There is an echo here, as the meteorite makes up both the Earth (as seen at the center of the dial) and its shadow (as seen as it blocks the tourbillon, forming an accurate moon phase representation).

Cartier made this watch in rose gold and meteorite; an earlier model done in 2014 was encased in platinum, and the stone used there was lapis lazuli. Although comparisons between the two are natural enough (and one can imagine a truly lovely piece with the striking blue of the lapis) it is perhaps more interesting to contemplate the current Earth and Moon 9440 MC on its own. I love lapis lazuli and the blue it carries, so often representational of spirits and serenity. But the meteorite here has such a strong character that in truth, I feel compelled to give it its own space (and indeed, as stated previously, a second look.) The cut stone of the meteorite, and the hidden city within it, are part and parcel of the watch as a whole, but it also seems to carry its own secrets. Like a companion who doesn’t quite share everything that he knows or thinks.

In addition to the hours and minutes, the tourbillon cage, and the moon-phase display, there is a second time-zone indication on the ring around the main dial. The watch tracks the local time on the central hands, and the indicator gives you the hours of another selected place. The moon-phase display can be activated at will by a button at 4 o’clock on the case, causing the stone to glide in and give an accurate moon-phase representation. That display is accurate enough to drift out of accuracy only by one day in every 126 years.

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