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A major theme for Cartier watches at the SIHH 2015 watch and jewelry trade show was skeletonization. Actually, over the last few years, Cartier has been showing off more and more skeletonized versions of their in-house-made timepieces that exist among the upper echelon of their horological products. For 2015, we get yet another interesting skeletonized evolution of an existing product – the Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton.

It was back in 2010 that Cartier initially presented the Rotonde Astrotourbillon watch, and aBlogtoWatch debuted it here. It was a time when Cartier was only beginning to really show off its cred as a in-house watchmaker in attempts to woo an audience of higher-end collectors who mostly saw the company as a maker of fine jewelry, women’s watches, and men’s status pieces with great designs but simple movements. Cartier wanted to offer the best of both worlds in terms of having excellent mainstream luxury watch products for men and women, as well as a “haute horology” level of products for more serious enthusiasts.

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Most agree that Cartier more or less succeeded in doing that. Today in 2015, Cartier has captured the attention of serious watch lovers, even if their mainstay is still more simple luxury watch products. At the least, they have thoroughly succeeded in impressing high-end mechanical watch lovers with a series of designs and complications that show a lot of true innovation and creativity.

The Cartier Astrotourbillon was just that – a new type of whimsical complication that offered a stellar viewing experience. What is an astrotourbillon? It is essentially a balance wheel mounted to a seconds hand. It isn’t a true tourbillon in the sense that the balance wheel does not spin in a cage on its own axis. With that said, the motion of the balance wheel in a circular manner is at least… tourbillonesque. I mean, let’s face it, tourbillons simply add complexity and artistry to a watch movement. You should dispel any notions you have about them making watches more accurate. So when a company decides to change up how a tourbillon works and how it operates, there isn’t a functional loss, they are simply offering an alternative to a complication people know, understand, and are perhaps a bit bored of at this point.

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The Cartier Calibre de Cartier Astrotourbillon from 2011.
In 2011, Cartier followed up the original Rotonde Astrotourbillon by putting the same movement inside of a Calibre case. aBlogtoWatch debuted the Calibre de Cartier Astrotourbillon here. Because I liked the Calibre case a bit more than the Rotonde case – given my predilection for sports watches – that was a very strong offering, in my opinion, and I was happy to see Cartier extending the Astrotourbillon concept into more watches. With that said, I have yet to see a Cartier Astrotourbillon in the wild, and I look forward to seeing one soon, given the simple pleasure of seeing the astrotourbillon seconds hand in action.

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The Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon Carbon Crystal from 2012.
Another year later, in 2012, Cartier released a very interesting limited edition version of the Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon with the Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon Carbon Crystal. This saw the implementation of some unique materials born from Cartier’s ID projects into the Astrotourbillon. Moreover, this is the first time Cartier began to experiment with some skeletonization on an Astrotourbillon-based timepiece. The Rotonde Astrotourbillon Carbon Crystal was an amazing watch, and it led to the 2015 Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton that we have here.

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The Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton for 2015.
One of the biggest issues with fully skeletonized watches is that some people really don’t like to see their wrist right through the dial of the watch. The idea of a skeletonized watch is to fully “cut away” the unnecessary metal in a movement leaving just the essential pieces behind. I don’t find “the full view” to be a bad thing, even though I don’t always want to stare at a hairy wrist when trying to appreciate the beauty of hand-engraving.

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The Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton’s movement is very much minimalized, showing just how simple even something this complicated-looking can be. Cartier offers a very modern version of skeletonization and movement decoration focusing on the contrast between brushed surfaces and polished beveled edges. Even the 12 and 6 hour indicator markers are carved out of what holds the movement in place.

Inside the Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton is the in-house-made caliber 9461 MC manually wound movement made from 233 parts, operating at 3Hz (21,600 bph). It has 49 hours of power reserve – and appreciate that the Astrotourbillon hand requires a lot of power given its weight. The watch itself is for sure on the larger side, being 47mm wide in 18k white gold, and 15.8mm thick.

The sober “tuxedo” tones of the watch add to its mystique, and I think it looks better in white gold than it might in, say, rose gold. Watching the movement in action and seeing the balance wheel on the seconds hand constantly moving around is a real pleasure and a highlight of what Cartier has accomplished here. Then again, a watch like this should offer all of that, given the price.

The size of the Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton says “bold and sporty” but the design says “classy and elegant.” Together, they make for a watch series with a unique personality, but that is okay given the rarity of these watches and their built-in level of exclusivity. While many people don’t think twice about getting a more basic luxury watch from Cartier, collectors still take a lot of time before making decisions about very high-end models such as this – especially because it is still new for Cartier and there is, frankly, a lot of competition (even though Cartier certainly stands out and holds its own with ease).

The Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton comes on a black alligator strap and combines that core Cartier French luxury wearing experience with the pleasure of having a finely made mechanical Swiss movement. For those who have the means and appreciation, this skeletonized version of the Rotonde Astrotourbillon isn’t a bad choice. Price is $186,000.

Cartier Rotonde De Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton Watch Hands-On
4.8Overall Score

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