The Tonneau Watch by Cartier always had a special place amongst collectors. Certainly less famous than other shaped watches designed by the Parisian Maison (Tortue, Crash, Tank, Santos, Drive, Ballon Bleu, and many more), it remains one of the most original and certainly one of the most elegant creations ever executed by Cartier. Thanks to the Revival of the “Privé” branding, with the reinterpretation of the Crash in 2015 and the Tank Cintrée in 2017, we see the return of those beautiful shapes watches in the brand’s portfolio. For the SIHH 2019, the Tonneau Watch is staging a comeback.
The Cartier Tonneau, An Icon born in 1906
The Cartier Tonneau is one of the earliest wristwatches created by Cartier. Only two years after the introduction of the Santos (created by Louis Cartier in 1904 for his friend Santos-Dumont), Cartier again challenged the concept of the round pocket watch with yet another shaped wristwatch. The name itself, “Tonneau”, refers to the shape of the watch, as this funny French word means “barrel” – at that time, marketing meetings were probably simpler than today…
Interestingly, the barrel or tonneau shape became relatively en vogue in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, when most watches were designed after the principles of Art Deco. Yet, Cartier was somehow a precursor with the Tonneau Watch. Elongated, thin, curved (the case isn’t flat but truly follows the curvature of the wrist), it was the proper definition of the dandy’s watch. The history of Cartier shows that the Tonneau is the second oldest wristwatch model – but that doesn’t mean the second most elegant.
With its elongated and sleek profile, as well as its surprisingly thin strap, this watch could have been seen as a lady’s piece by some. However, when Cartier decided to bring it back, no doubts were possible anymore. Benefiting from the aura of the CPCP collection, which revived most of Cartier’s iconic shaped watches during the 1990s and 2000s, the Tonneau would be relaunched for its 100th anniversary in 2006, with limited edition pieces in contemporary sizes.
Above: in 2006, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the model, Cartier launched two versions of this watch under the CPCP collection (Collection Privée Cartier Paris). One of these watches was the hand-wound time-only Cartier Tonneau XL and the other was the Cartier Tonneau XL Two Time Zone.
Both 2006 watches were extremely faithful to the original 1906 concept, however showing the usual traits of the CPCP collection – black Roman numerals, blued hands (sword hands or ‘Breguet’ hands) and, of course, the silvery-white guilloché “Rose Motif” dial and “Paris” inscription. While the time-only model remains extremely simple in terms of mechanics, the Tonneau XL Two Time Zone was slightly more complex and integrated not one but two small hand-wound Piguet movements (meaning that each time zone is entirely independent of the other).
These two watches have somehow inspired what is the 2019 Tonneau Watch collection you’re about to discover, however, Cartier has decided to keep just the iconic features and to bring a slight dose of modernity for the SIHH 2019 watches, launched under the exclusive Cartier Privé sub-brand.
The 2019 Cartier Tonneau Watch Large Hand-Wound
Among the two “Cartier Privé” watches launched for 2019, the first one is the most faithful reinterpretation of the original 1906 model. Named the Cartier Tonneau Watch Large Model, it is, just like its ancestor, a time-only, hand-wound piece with an undisputable elegance.
Most of the iconic features of the 1906 and 2006 models are still present in the 2019 model, in particular, the original barrel-shape. This watch is a demonstration of savoir-faire from Cartier, which masters the use of convex and concave shapes here. The case is barrel-shaped not only in a horizontal way but also on the side. Both the dial side (bezel and crystal) and the caseback are curved – but not with the same radial (that would be too simple). The case measures now 46.1mm x 26.2mm, which remains relatively small considering current standards for men’s watches.
The proportions are still the same: a thin case, an elongated profile (and thin too, at 8.8mm) and still this outdated, slightly baroque but oh-so-elegant slim leather strap – which gives all its charm to this watch. The lugs are still adorned with screws and the crown features a sapphire or ruby cabochon. Two versions are presented, one in rose gold and one in platinum.
The dial is certainly the main update on this 2019 Cartier Privé Tonneau. Gone is the silvery-white dial with guilloché pattern and instead the watch features a grey or champagne-coloured, sunburst dial with applied and polished Roman numerals (in the same vein a last year’s Tank Cintrée). The style is more modern yet entirely Cartier.
Powering this watch is a hand-wound manufacture movement (Calibre 1917 MC), a shaped movement (16mm x 12.9mm, with a thin 2.9mm profile) that boasts a 38h power reserve and displays the hours and minutes.
While the Platinum model is a limited production of 100 pieces, the other pink gold edition will be offered as a standard watch. Prices (subject to change) will be USD 22,400 (rose gold) and USD 26,200 (platinum).
The 2019 Cartier Tonneau Watch Extra-Large Skeleton Dual-Time
The second watch to be introduced as part of this SIHH 2019 Cartier Privé collection is a modern and technical take on the emblematic Daum-Time model launched in 2006. However, no more dual-movement here, no more plain guilloché dial and no more traditional design. The new 2019 Cartier Tonneau Watch Extra-Large Skeleton Dual-Time is high-end watchmaking and 21st century-infused.
Before we look at what really is the pièce de résistance of this watch (spoiler: its movement), we must look at what hasn’t changed, and what actually makes it superb; its case and shape. Just like the time-only model above, the case is double-curved and reinterprets the classic barrel-shape of the Tonneau Watch. However, we have a slightly more angular case here, with more masculine dimensions – measuring 52.4mm x 29.8mm and 11.9mm in height (expect a rather long watch on the wrist).
Other iconic features, such as the double crown with cabochons with sapphire stones, the screws on the lugs or the extra-slim leather strap are still present. One of the specificities of the original Dual-Time model was to feature two independent movements – and that was clearly an easy solution considering the lack of space and the curvature of the case, in order to obtain two different time-zones in such a watch.
The 2019 Cartier Tonneau Watch Extra-Large Skeleton Dual-Time doesn’t take shortcuts when it comes to the mechanics. While the watch still displays two time zones, it now comes from one single movement. However, considering the shape of the Tonneau Watch, this wasn’t easy. In order to retain the case’s elongated form, all the wheels of the gear train had to be aligned between 12 and 6 o’clock. Then the shape of the movement underwent modification, being made to curve so it fits within the curved profile of the Tonneau Watch. The gear train features angled cutting on its barrel and escapement wheel. The entire movement thus follows the curvature of the watch.
Finally, to make it even more Cartier, the skeletonized touch has been applied in this Tonneau Watch Extra-Large Skeleton Dual-Time. All the bridges follow the shape of the case and also play a role in the display creating two separate sub-dials to distinguish the home time from the local time. This movement, hand-wound by the crown at 2 o’clock, boasts a 60h power reserve and beats at 4Hz. The second time zone is adjusted by pressing on the crown at 4 o’clock and by one-hour jumps.
Two editions of the 2019 Cartier Tonneau Watch Extra-Large Skeleton Dual-Time will be officially introduced at the SIHH, one in rose gold (USD 68,500) and one in platinum (USD 78,500). Both are limited to 100 pieces. More details at www.cartier.com.