It may be several years since the brand made public its intention to take a lead at the sharpest edge of movement development. But there is still a residual surprise that Cartier is active in this sector at all – this being a pursuit normally the preserve of independent ateliers driven by youth and impetuosity.
In the search for ever-more reliable movements, there are numerous avenues to explore, from examining the fine interaction of pallets and teeth in the escapement to experimenting with new balance-spring materials. While good work is being done in these areas (see Patek Philippe’s new GyromaxSi balance) watchmakers are constantly drawn back to the tourbillon and what they can do to improve it.
While its central idea – that of compensating for the constantly changing gravitational environment a watch exists in – is beguiling, there is little evidence that tourbillons really make a difference in themselves.
Carole Forestier’s approach (she is Cartier Haute Horlogerie’s head of department) is fabulously different. Instead of compensating for positional errors over time, the concept for the Astrorégulator is to remove the possibility of positional error. By integrating the escapement with the winding mass, the balance is always in the same position. As the watch moves, the escapement and balance are fixed to the rotor and, disconcertingly, the second also moves with mass or more precisely in relation to the mass and the time shown. This is the first watch that can actually make you feel seasick.
Where being Cartier – rather than an independent atelier – helps is not just in the resources available to crunch through the mechanical problems of making this work, but also in the vast reserves of design expertise and the global reach of the company.
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