CPCP was an incredible undertaking and era of Cartier but, for me, two stand above the rest. Cartier’s Tank and Tortue Monopoussoirs represented the best of then-contemporary independent watchmaking, unrepresented. Let me explain. Think of the Monopoussoirs as a hipster’s 90s independent, with some of the greatest modern names contributing to its THA-ébauche calibre before it was cool to do your own thing. Journe, Flageollet (now De Bethune), and Vianney Halter all had a hand in constructing this truly impressive calibre that was unlike anything else. The monolithic Cartier then shrouded their work in classical elegance. Real scholarship has only formed in the last decade or so around Cartier’s CPCP neo-era and the significant strides independent watchmakers were making on behalf of the marque name.
Cartier is about design first and foremost, and exterior is thoroughly considered. The single oversized roman twelve stands against a delicate rosette guilloché and breguet handset. I quite like the stylized shapes which help ease the dead space created between the seconds track and more-square Tortue case. The 43x35mm Tortue case runs deep in Cartier’s past, as only the tortoise-inspired proportion was released after only the first Santos Dumont and Tonneau. What’s so special about this monopusher chronograph? In the words of Mr. Flagellet, ‘We were young, we had no doubts and we created incredible objects together that would be difficult to make today.’
The calibre 045 used a clutch system and swivel pin to engage the chronograph wheel. These extra components remove the jolt that the central chronograph hand will experience with a lateral clutch. This was a lot of engineering, a ground-up chronograph redesign for a mono. All for the sake of an elegant chronograph engagement. That’s commitment to the brand ethos, a round of applause please. Bridges and plates were decorated with the Cartier logo and finished to a high standard by hand. Around 200 of these calibres could be built yearly, which means there is a total production of just under 2000 pieces (CPCP ran from 1998 to 2008), but many estimate just 200 to 500 examples of this reference.
This example sports a moderate level of surface wear consistently across its case, but no hard bashes. Its dial and movement are perfect, as one would expect. It comes with a full set from a well-regarded Japanese retailer.
Find this CPCP Tortue Monopoussoir here from Shellman Co for 62200 USD.