Lot 45
  • 45


300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • coral, enamel, diamond, turquoise, mother-of-pearl, gold, lapis lazuli, onyx, ruby cabochon
  • width 10.8 cm, depth 9 cm, height 6 cm when closed, 14 cm when open
• eight-day gilt lever movement, 19 jewels • dodecagonal dial centered by hexagonal engraved turquoise plaque, chapter rings composed of mother-of-pearl tiles, gold Roman numerals heightened by gold-flecked indigo enamel, the inner intervals set with diamonds, diamond-set stylized hands in the form of a fanciful dragon, all hinging open to access the winding and setting system, the bezel composed of lapis lazuli mosaics applied with turquoise in gold collets at 5-minute intervals • the whole designed as a tortoise, the hardstone shell carved in repeating hexagons and edged in onyx to the exterior and gold to the interior, hinging open to reveal the dial, the tortoise shell and head heightened with gold, opaque black and turquoise enamel, ruby cabochons and turquoise, the profile applied with turquoise and black enamel in archaistic stylized dragon scroll with cabochon rubies at the intervals, the tortoise's mouth with a gold stylized Chinese shou character for longevity applied in black enamel, the tortoise's tail and feet realistically carved • the tortoise surmounted upon a tiered base composed of carved frosted glass and onyx, the corners set with cabochon turquoise finials within gold collets, the onyx base applied with a 'Tutti Frutti'-style turquoise jardinère issuing forth flowers composed of carved rubies, emeralds and sapphires • dial signed Cartier, movement signed Longines and European Watch & Clock Co., Inc., cuvette signed European Watch & Clock Co., Inc., cuvette hand-stamped with Cartier reference numbers


An extremely rare piece and a trophy for the collector of Cartier timepieces. When fully wound, the movement will run for 8 days. Photographs of the movement can be furnished upon request. The movement plate is numbered 2980393 and signed European Watch & Clock Co., Inc. upon a raised plaque. The reverse is numbered 2980393 and signed Longines. Longines confirms: "The serial number 2'980'393 identifies a brass calotte fitted with Longines manually wound mechanical movement, caliber 19.41. It was invoiced to Messrs. Perusset, who were for many years our agent for France, on 23.08.1923." Our further research has found a number of similar 8-day movements, Longines' cal. 19.41, also fitted for important Cartier clocks. Those pieces are also recorded as being invoiced from Longines to Perusset and bear serial numbers 2978xxx, 2977xxx, or 2978xxx, four of which were sold in December 1920. The exterior of the cuvette is signed European Watch and Clock Co., Inc., France. The interior of the cuvette bears the hand-stamped Cartier reference numbers 3739. The reserve surrounding the movement bears the hand-stamped Cartier reference numbers 0739 and 2416, and on the reverse side of the same element 3739. The underside of the dial is hand-scratched 3739. There are numerous gold hallmarks to the bezels and the 'mouth' of the turtle, six of which are visible to the naked eye. The dial signature reading 'Cartier' and the further 'France' designation is completed in a somewhat atypical font and it is possible that it was added later. The piece illustrated in the Nadelhoffer book, cited in the catalogue note, does not bear a Cartier signature to the dial. The 5 o'clock hour marker shows some slight losses to the edge of the enamel, which is visible in the catalogue photograph. Some of the small diamond markers appear to have a bluish tint. The green hardstone, most likely moss agate, displays color mottling throughout and some spots of translucency, which are characteristic of the stone. The tortoise 'shell' portion of stone shows two visible 'veins'. The enamel throughout and gems are in overall excellent and intact condition- the only exceptions being one cabochon ruby lacking to the encircling dragon-scroll border, slight surface chips to the black enamel on the tortoise 'mouth', and a slight spot of loss to the black enamel above one of the tortoise eyes. International buyers should note that due to United States Fish & Wildlife Services and International CITES restrictions on precious red coral and mother-of-pearl, there will be a wait time of approximately 5 weeks for shipment of the property.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. All dimensions in catalogue descriptions are approximate. Condition reports may not specify mechanical replacements or imperfections to the movement, case, dial, pendulum, separate base(s) or dome. Watches in water-resistant cases have been opened to examine movements but no warranties are made that the watches are currently water-resistant. Please note that we do not guarantee the authenticity of any individual component parts, such as wheels, hands, crowns, crystals, screws, bracelets and leather bands, since subsequent repairs and restoration work may have resulted in the replacement of original parts. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. In particular, please note it is the purchaser's responsibility to comply with any applicable import and export matters, particularly in relation to lots incorporating materials from endangered species.NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

**Please be advised that bands made of materials derived from endangered or otherwise protected species (i.e. alligator and crocodile) are not sold with the watches and are for display purposes only. We reserve the right to remove these bands prior to shipping.

Important Notice regarding importation into the United States of Rolex watches
Sotheby's cannot arrange for the delivery of Rolex watches to the United States because U.S. laws restricts the import of Rolex watches. The buyer or a designated agent may collect the property in the country of sale."

Catalogue Note

Considered a symbol of longevity for their famously long lifespans, the tortoise enjoys a prominent position in Cartier's Art Deco productions. The storied creature serves as the muse for multiple examples of the firm's most important clocks from the animalia genre within that period. The Tortue wristwatch model was also inspired by the tortoise. A particularly apt motif for timepieces, the present tortoise further features a stylized Chinese shou character for longevity.

The present example offers collectors the opportunity to study a previously unknown clock of great importance and of highly unusual design. Cartier clocks from the period are highly imaginative, in fanciful and awe-striking forms, among them the famed Mystery Clocks. The present lot is noteworthy for the concealment of the dial and movement - indeed, the very function of the piece as a clock - within the tortoise shell itself. Closed, the piece is an ornately designed objet; open, the utility of the piece as a clock is revealed, delighting the beholder with its utterly ingenious design. The act of opening the shell to a viewer for the first time is a joy such that only the clever minds in the atelier of Cartier could engineer.  

In addition to its expert marriage of form and function, the tortoise's intricate design serves as a testament to the broad-ranging inspiration Cartier looked toward in their Art Deco period creations. Elements of Indo-Persian and Mughal motifs are evident in the turquoise central portion of the dial and the carved colored stones of the Tutti Frutti floral vase to the base. References to China are abundant, from the shou character, to the dragon hands and the dragon scroll to the profile of the piece.

A nearly identical clock is illustrated in black and white in Nadelhoffer, H., Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary, p. 248. For other tortoise clocks, see Nadelhoffer, pl. 63, 72 and p. 248. For a discussion of the animalia genre of Cartier clocks and further illustrated examples, see Reflections of Elegance: Cartier Jewels from the Lindemann Collection, pp. 23, 29, 163 and 172-3.