Enough Watches, Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre Bring the Wonders (ok, and Watches Too)

You’ve probably seen a lot of watches from Watches and Wonders, but what about the wonders! You were promised wonders! Well, they were there, let me tell you, and no two brands focused as much on them as Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Whether they were saving up their best releases for a few years, waiting for the pandemic to slow down to show off in person, or their watchmakers are just very well caffeinated, I don’t know, but both pulled out the stops this year for some of the most mind-blowing Haute-horology I got to witness. Here are a few watches that left a lasting impression.

Cartier Masse Mystérieuse

When you say a watch is “insane” while in the Cartier booth, you need some context. Nothing you see is simple, or plain. The most basic of their watches are, at the very least, at the height of taste and elegance, but they quickly move into a space of bewilderment. From diamond pillows to crafts and techniques that are truly lost on a jewelry-Luddite like myself, their presentation was a parade of decadence the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. So, for something to stand out even in that context is truly unbelievable.


The Cartier Masse Mystérieuse seems like a prank. A stunt made to amuse watch journalists or a non-working concept for an upcoming Willy Wonka film. But no, it’s real, which makes them far more clever even. You see, the movement of this automatic watch is the rotor, and the rotor is the movement. Attached at the axis of the hands, it spins freely, as a rotor should. The form and scale are miraculous on their own, as is the full motion, but that it is actually winding makes that all the more amazing.

But, the mind breaker is that the movement doesn’t seem to attach to the crown, and despite spinning around, the hands stay fixed. You almost forget when you are holding it in, spinning the rotor/movement around with a giddy smile, how watches work. Well, this is all part of the mystery in which sapphire crystals and hidden components are used to a magical effect. Perhaps what I love the most about this is that the excessive engineering challenge at play is all for some whimsy. This miraculous contraption doesn’t do anything better or more efficiently. It’s not a new escapement design or constant force mechanism. It’s delightfully absurd and decadent, and why not? Cartier

Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendezvous-Star

Jaeger-LeCoultre pulled no punches this year. Their most subdued watch was a steel perpetual calendar, which should tell you something, but it went all the way to a wrist-mounted super-complication that shows the constellations over Geneva via a “Cosmotourbillon” that rotates about the full dial on sidereal time, and sports a minute repeater for good measure. Subtle. But the watch that I felt the need to keep talking about, like the Cartier above, was more poetic than that.

The Rendezvous-Star might appear as just an incredibly elegant fine jewelry watch. It’s small, decked out in diamonds, and features a simply beautiful, hand-painted nightscape with fluffy clouds to set the mood. But inside is a complication that is as charmingly useless as it is unexpected. Periodically, randomly, a shooting star flies across the dial. After all of the precision found in their other timepieces, JLC set out to do something the opposite. Something unexpected that simply brings joy, much like spotting a shooting star.

Of course, nothing in watchmaking is actually simple, so pulling this off requires a neat new complication. The shooting star is triggered by fully winding a spring that while independent of the main barrel, is wound by the rotor. Thus, the star is essentially powered by the wearer’s motion. More motion, more stars. That said, you have to be looking to see it, bringing some luck into the mix as well. A remontoir is then utilized in order to create a smooth and constant motion. For the impatient, a few cranks of the crown will fire it too, but that’s cheating. Jaeger-LeCoultre

Like I said, Cartier and JLC brought the wonder component to this year’s Watches & Wonders. While there were plenty of other, more technically-minded watches out there from Grand Seiko’s Kodo to Moser’s Cylindrical Tourbillon, few watches brought this jaded watch enthusiast as much joy in the (precious) metal as the two above.

Related Posts
Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
wornandwound zsw