Cartier Brings the Tonneau Back

Distinct case shapes and Cartier have gone hand-in-hand since the iconic French brand started its work in watchmaking. For 2019, the Maison returns to the historic tonneau in four executions.

Dec 04, 2018 | By Sean Mossadeg

The pre-SIHH press releases have started to trickle in, signaling the start of a new year in the watch world and while some brands may choose to tease more uncomplicated pieces, saving prized ones for the fair, Cartier went straight to the main course – unveiling a new case shape to add to the collection.

Bringing the Barrel to Life

The first tonneau watch by Cartier was unveiled in 1906

It’s been a grand 112 years since Cartier launched the Tonneau watch back in 1906 and it seems the time is ripe to bring the shape back. Tonneau, a French term for barrel, was used to describe the striking shape that stood out amongst the simple, round cases of the time. Neither a rectangle nor an oval, the tonneau is an amalgamation of both rather, with the case curving ever so slightly. When it was presented, Cartier coated the watch in platinum, for emphasis on its “avant-garde aesthetics.”

Celebrating that legacy this year, Cartier will be showing two time-only versions, one limited to 100 pieces in platinum paying homage to the first Tonneau, and another in rose gold.

The 2019 version of the new Cartier Tonneau Watch

While the watches may be steeped in early 20th-century aesthetics, rest assured that Cartier has updated the pieces to be ready for the 22nd century. Besides the Roman numerals, a minute track further towards the middle of the dial, and a cabochon on the winding crown – the quintessential Cartier look – the pair of watches see the new handwound 1917 MC calibre powering them, with a 38 hour power reserve.

The platinum version of the Cartier Tonneau will be limited to 100 pieces and feature a ruby cabochon on the crown

Cutting Through the Unnecessary

If shapes were Cartier’s forte in casemaking, then skeletonisation was where Cartier made its mark in the art of movement-production. The Maison’s ability in paring movements down to its bare minimum has always been a skill it’s cherished and this year, the Tonneau is getting the skeleton treatment.

The Cartier Tonneau Extra-Large Skeleton Dual Time Model in platinum

In a different sizing, Cartier shows both form and function on the new Tonneau XL Dual Time, taking cues from a vintage Cartier Tonneau. While the older model that the watch is based on used two small and separate calibres to tell the time between the two zones, the modern day iteration sees a singular movement, the 9919 MC calibre.

Running the entire geartrain in a single line so as to forgo a messier movement architecture and retain the elongated form, the watch is reminiscent of other linear movements such as Corum’s Bridge calibres. With a case as complex to build as the Tonneau’s. given that there’s a slight curvature to fit the wrist better, the movement was modified to follow the same dimensions.

A close up of the pink gold variant, with the linear gear train

Limited to 100 pieces for both the platinum and pink gold versions, the Tonneau XL Dual Time Skeleton is just one of the many illustrious examples of Cartier’s Fine Watchmaking Department’s expertise over the years. It’s may be a simple question – what can be achieved aesthetically by pushing watchmaking – but Cartier’s answer is anything but.


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