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Cartiers fame in high jewelry is unquestioned, but in the parallel universe of haute horology, the brand has often been overlooked. Its not that the watches arent admired; the elaborate jewelry timepieces for ladies are dazzling works of art, and the replica cartier santos Tank may be the most sought after watch in the world. Recently, though, the www.attrinity.com French jeweler has entered the upper echelons of high watchmaking with a range of ultra-luxury mechanical watches, debuting its Fine Watchmaking Collection in 2008. Today that collection has grown to include 47 complicated watches. Cartier, in some ways, is a bit the victim of its own success or, at least, of the Tanks success. First sold replica breitling transocean in 1919 and identified as the Cartier watch ever since, the universality of its appeal has been phenomenal. (The Tank will make a splash yet again, when its latest model, the Tank Anglaise, debuts next month; see Cartier Tank Watch Timeline, below.) But the glare of the Tanks fame has also obscured Cartiers long history as a maker of some of the most complicated and beautiful watches and clocks ever produced. Cartiers rare mystery clocks not only show the pinnacle of its watchmaking skills but also set the foundation for todays Fine Watchmaking Collection, which the company launched with the Ballon Bleu model. The mystery clocks are an almost unsettling illusion, in which the replica omega Seamaster hands are suspended between two planes of rock crystal and seem to move, suspended in space, with no visible connection to the rest of the clock. Theyre literally magic tricks, invented in 1912 by French magician Jean-Eugne Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic, whose work inspired the film The Illusionist. Its this mechanical ingenuity that Cartier has carried over to its fine watchmaking designs. At the helm is Cartiers master watchmaker, a soft-spoken Parisian named Carole Forestier, whos traded the City of Light for the small Swiss town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, hidden in a mountain valley almost two hours outside Geneva. Here Cartiers state-of-the-art manufacturing center for the Fine Watchmaking Collection rises from the snowy hillsides like a visiting alien starship. Inside the 355,210-square-foot facility, a team of 30 occupy an entire floor, crafting timepieces. The painstaking task of hand-assembling and hand-finishing movements (which adds hundreds of hours to the creation of a watch and demands both an artists eye and a neurosurgeons dexterity) is combined with a battery of exhaustive tests that examine everything from the ability of a steel bracelet to resist corrosion to the precise amount of pressure necessary to activate a particular functiontests that are applied to all Cartier watches. In the arcane, closed-door world of watch enthusiasts, Forestier is a celebrity. Her specialty is the tourbillona mechanism originally designed to improve accuracy by putting the most critical of a watchs innards inside a miniature rotating cage to neutralize the disruptive effects of gravitys tug, thus making it more accurate. The difficulty involved in making one, plus their mesmerizing spinning motion (tourbillon means whirlwind in French), has made it a favorite addition to fine watchmaking, especially in the past decade. With Forestiers experience, its no surprise that two of the most fascinating pieces from Cartiers collection, the Astrotourbillon and the Astrorgulateur, have a tourbillon and a tourbillon-inspired movement, respectively. The Astrotourbillon pleases and puzzles the eye; the pulsating wheel and spiral spring are exposed below the dial, mounted on the tip of the second hand. Once per minute, it travels around the dial like the hands of Cartiers classic mystery clocks, with no apparent mechanical linkage to the rest of the watch. At first glance, the Astrorgulateur seems to be a tourbillon, but its not. The self-winding Astrorgulateurs spiral spring and wheel are mounted on the swinging weight that uses the wearers movements to wind the mainspring, and the second hand is mounted on the swinging weight as well, visible through the dial. As with the Astrotourbillon, this all takes place with no visible connection to the rest of the mechanism. Cartiers portfolio includes masterful renditions of some of the most sophisticated complications. This years Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon combines a tourbillon with a mechanism for chiming the time on tiny gongs. Its as stunning a piece of classical watchmaking as any traditionalist could desirebut Cartier is also on the bleeding edge of research into solving problems that have plagued watchmakers since the Renaissance. Take the concept watch ID One. Its case is made of a shock-resistant niobium titanium alloy; inside, its carbon crystal and spiral spring are made from a glass-ceramic hybrid. Immune to magnetism and temperature changesand no need for conventional watch oilsit would have made a watchmaker of yesteryear weep for joy. Yet despite its ultrahigh performance, it still has a magical transparency and eerie beauty that mark it as a descendant of the mystery clocks.

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