Firstly, this watch is nothing to do with telling the time. Which comes as no surprise from Cartier, which has consciously taken its foot off the gas in terms of haute horology of late. If you’re interested, the watchy element is powered by the in-house hand-wound Calibre 430 MC so it’s beautifully made, thin and accurate.
Secondly, it takes a fair amount to make a room full of seasoned watch journalists gawp and stare in amazement. This watch, objet, is mesmerisingly good, a sort of cross between a 1980s executive toy, an egg timer and a magic trick.
So what happens? Well, tilt your wrist forwards and around 9,000 gold balls track their way slowly, evenly down the dial before settling in place to gradually reveal the face of Cartier’s ultimate icon, the panther.
Only briefly does the image hold, before the gold balls fall away like grains of sand to the bottom of the dial. The effect is fleeting and fascinating, like a golden apparition; in fact I’ve never seen a watch that elicits such blatant study.
And how does it work? Well, here it gets a little fuzzy – the official press release that accompanies this watch is spectacularly scant. What we do know is that the mechanics of it are multi-patented and that the technique took five years of development.
Two elements are also subject to patent requests: the glass, comprised of a sandwich inside which sit the balls, and secondly the viscous liquid in which they float.
Somehow the balls or beads “find their way through channels in the glass” – a quote from Marie-Laure Cerede, Director of Horologic Creation – although I held the watch up to my face for close inspection and could see no visible channels, and was left none the wiser.
Maybe magnets are involved, or maybe witchcraft, but no-one from Cartier would divulge any more – which makes the whole thing a bit of a mystery; perfect from a maison that has crafted that other horological wonder, the mystery clock, since 1912.
Revelation d’une Panthere comes with a black, red or green lacquered dial (the green is particularly impactful with the gold beads), a diamond bezel and alligator strap.
At just shy of £100,000 it’s hardly an everyday watch, but imagine its impact as a conversation starter, aside from the enormous pleasure it would give you to own something that demonstrates Cartier working at the top of its game.
This watch may be called a ‘revelation’, yet it leaves so many questions unanswered; you’ll just have to pretend you know how it works.