Cartier. A Rare and Impressive 18k Gold, Silver-Gilt, Hematite, Diamond, Coral and Citrine Mystery Desk Clock. Estimate $100,000 – $200,000. Price Realized $305,000. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2014
Signed Cartier, Paris, No. 192’250 and 925, Manufactured in 1980
Mechanical jeweled lever movement, faceted citrine dial, pavé diamond-set hands, hematite surround with pavé diamond-set Roman numerals, coral border, the back with gold and gold and diamond-set buttons, surmounted by a stepped hematite base with sculpted coral florets to the front and back, all on a hematite rectangular base with cut corner, the top with sculpted coral florets, the front facing panel with sculpted coral florets and six diamond-set spacers, all on a vermeil rectangular base with cut corners on stylized rectangular feet, base signed by maker and numbered, with French assay marks – 220 mm. high, 145 mm. wide, 100 mm. deep
PROPERTY OF A TEXAS COLLECTOR
The name Cartier has long been associated with sophistication, luxury and design. The famed retailer is well-known for their diamonds, jewellery and jet-setting clientele, but perhaps less so for their dominance in the world of horology. Some of the most exquisite 20th-century timepieces have come from the house of Cartier; from the Santos wristwatch, to rock crystal and enamel repeating pocket watches, and the ingenuity and illusion of the Pendule Mystérieuse or mystery clock. Cartier married function with form to create wonderful and exquisite timepieces such as the present desk clock.
Louis Francois Cartier founded the firm bearing his name in 1847; however it was his grandsons Louis, Pierre and Jacques who established the firm’s world-wide reputation. Louis relocated the firm to Rue de la Paix in 1899 and with an interest in horology he helped mould some of the firm’s most celebrated designs, which are still sought after and mimicked today.
Mystery clocks are a feat of 19th-century technology with the hands appearing to float in air while time moves forward without a mechanism. The illusion of the mystery clock was introduced in the late 19th century by illusionist and magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, however it was Cartier’s Maurice Couet (1885-1963) who perfected the concept and brought it to fruition with the first Model A (a take on Henry Ford’s Model T) in 1913. The original clock sold to financier J. P. Morgan.
The mystery of the clock is an illusion where the crystal or citrine is split in half with two serrated discs inserted. The hands are attached to the discs which are further attached to the mechanism housed either in the base or a column hidden from sight. Cartier produced these timepieces from approximately the early 1910s to around 1936. Couet was directly involved in their production and created many different themes. The most popular and well-known have a Chinese or Neo-Classical motif.
Notes: Accompanied by a red leather Cartier presentation box and winding/setting key. Further accompanied by a photocopy of a Cartier Estimate for Insurance dated June 5, 1997 stating the citrine is approximately 1450 carats and at the time the approximate overall diamond weight was approximately 13 carats.
CHRISTIE’S. THE EXCEPTIONAL SALE, 11 December 2014, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.