Cartier established its prominent position in the world of watches, primarily with watches like the Santos and the Tank. Legendary models that also sold very well at the boutiques and retailers that carried the brand. But in Cartier’s history, we also find quite a few models that are an essential and intricate part of their legacy, yet never sold in large numbers, yet that throughout time did prove its staying power.
Such a model is the Tortue. What most people don’t realize is that this was the third model that Cartier introduced and that it actually predates the Tank, as it was launched in 1912. It was inspired by the shape of a tortoiseshell, which is also how it got its name. While it was initially introduced as a time-only watch, it soon became also the model of choice for Cartier to venture into more complicated watches. La Maison fitted it with a minute repeater and in 1928, also introduced it as Mono Poussoir, a chronograph that is operated by a single button.
For decades the Tortue would be an insiders secret, often being made on request only. However, the temptation of the unique case shape proved to powerfull, and when Cartier made the transition from family firm to a global luxury brand, so did the Tortue. It was available as a ladies watch in a smaller size, but watch connoisseurs were especially enticed by the return of the Mono Poussoir. The new version was more substantial and thicker in size, to appeal to modern tastes, yet it breathed the same design as the original model. The movement is also something else, as manual wind caliber 045MC was developed by three legendary watchmakers through their company THA. Vianney Halter and François-Paul Journe would turn their name into well-respected brands, while Denis Flageollet is one of the driving forces behind De Bethune.
Another Tortue that Cartier introduced that has slipped under the radar with many, yet deserves full attention is the Tortue XL. This time-only watch was released in 2006 and fitted with a movement made for Cartier by Jaeger-LeCoultre. It was offered in pink gold, but especially the platinum version is to die for! It honors the time-only version from the 1910s, yet its larger size and the heft of the platinum make it to a watch with a lot of character. It is also a true rarity as Cartier only made 100 of them.
In a non-limited edition is the Tortue XL still part of today’s Cartier collection, combining a large date with small seconds, available in white or rose gold. Stunning is also the large and medium model in these same colors gold, as a time only, with just two sword hands. They show the power of the case design, that one-hundred years old, is still so charismatic and captivating!
So while many other watches which might at the time sold in much larger volume have come and gone, the Tortue is still here — proving once more that there is truth to the story of the tortoise and the hare.