At Troisanneaux, we not only have a passion for watches but also for clocks in general and desk clocks in particular. The beauty of a clock can be found in the fact that it becomes part of its environment. While many of us change watches on a daily basis, a clock often becomes a staple, an inseparable daily companion in one’s interior. Next to being a pioneer in watches, is Cartier also one in clocks. While most brands favored the classic style, the Cartier brothers innovated fiercely, developing clocks that pushed technical and aesthetic boundaries.
Where Edmond Jaeger became their partner to make (mainly) their (wrist)watch visions a reality, for their clocks, the Cartier brothers teamed up with Maurice Couët. He had quite big shoes to fill as both his father and grandfather were watchmakers at Breguet. Couët had a distinct passion for clocks and became in 1911 the exclusive supplier of Cartier. In 1912 he already wrote history together with ‘La Maison’ with the introduction of their first mystery clock, also known as the ‘Model A.’ To me, these clocks are together with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos, as good as it gets.
While these clocks are extremely impressive, they have also always been very precious. While the Cartier brothers had a keen eye for beauty, they also had a commercial mind, and in that spirit, they also developed a collection of less complicated yet equally enticing desk clocks. For their upcoming action in November, Antiquorum has a few exquisite examples in their catalog.
Lot 438 Cartier ‘Triptyque’ Clock
There are two major things that set Cartier desk clocks apart from the competition, besides their design. The first thing is the choice of materials. Cartier excelled as this, which also become evident from this exquisite desk clock, also known as a ‘Triptyque’ clock. This name comes from the art world where it is used to describe paintings that consist out of three pieces of which the outer ones can fold over the middle one, closing them very much like a closet. Especially altarpieces were created like that. Later on, this word would also be used as a customs permit serving as a passport for a motor vehicle, which is quite appropriate as this Cartier is actually a travel clock.
As it is from around 1925, it was made for a different era, when traveling was still a privilege for the rich and famous, and custom-made steamer trunks were the standard for luggage. While it has two doors to protect the dial, a clock like this would also be packed into its own box during traveling. This is for a good reason because it is made of very precious materials. The base and top are cut from a solid piece of onyx, while the door handles are set with diamonds. Black enamel is used to give the clock some stunning Art Deco details.
The dial stands out not only by its guilloche pattern but also by its very bold, blued hands. What is particularly rare about this ‘Triptyque’ clock is that it is wound in the back and has two doors to gain access to the winding and setting crown. Also, look at the beautiful details there, such as the hand engraving, as well as the blued screws in the corners.
Lot 439 Cartier Rose Quartz Clock
Of a different category is this desk clock, of which Cartier cut the base out of a solid block of rose quartz. It is very refined and elegant, with once again exquisite details. The movement is manual wind, most likely made by European Watch & Clock Co., the joint-venture of Cartier with Edmond Jaeger. Note how the arrow-shaped hands are set with diamonds, and also the four corners of the clock are decorated with gemstones. As you can see, is there also room for a pen to the placed, making this desk clock even more practical. The only fun challenge will be to find a matching vintage fountain pen or pencil to match. Estimate CHF 15,000 – 25,000
Lot 440 Cartier Prism Clock
In 1937 Cartier filed the patent on their prism clock. What makes this watch unique is that at certain angles, you don’t see the dial (which is placed in the base of the clock, and it seems that you can look straight through the case. This made the prism clocks particularly fun. It is interesting to note that these type of clocks have a far more restrained appearance. This might be a sign of the times, as Cartier sold them especially well in the 1950s, yet never in vast numbers. This particular prism clock features a case made from sterling silver with a refined barleycorn motif. Estimate CHF 12,000 – 18,000
Lot 205 Cartier Salmon Pink Desk Clock
This lot shows how nice a vintage clock can age under the right conditions. The silver dial, with guilloche center, has discolored somewhat so that it comes closer in tone to the salmon pink enamel. The hands are set with diamonds, yet the overall tone of this desk clock is rich, yet at the same time with a certain restrain. It was made in 1915, yet although it is over a century old, it can still easily take on active duty in a study, on a nightstand, or on a bookshelf in a living room, and to me, that is what makes these clocks even more desirable. Estimate CHF 13,000 – 19,000
Antiquorum‘s upcoming auction will take place on November 8th in Geneva. They not only have these stunning Cartier desk and travel clocks available, but also some stunning wristwatches which we will highlight in the upcoming days.