I’ve always had a major soft spot for Cartier replica watches, especially high-end ones. The particular blend of technique, design, and a traditionally Parisian take on luxury makes them feel both conservative and full of personality. The Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton is a good example of what to look for when you want a Cartier that is much fancier than the ones most people have, but not so exotic as to make it challenging to wear on a regular basis.
Cartier recently announced that their Haute Horlogerie division would significantly slow down production – as I understand it will focus instead on more practical, accessible (i.e. simple and less complicated) high-end watches. Exotic tourbillons and highly technical and original movements which the brand has received many accolades for will be increasingly uncommon as the brand transitions to mostly service existing watches and producing a smaller number of very exclusive watches that I believe will focus more on decoration than a novel movement or mechanism.
That leads me to believe that for the most part, outside of “piece unique” creations for special customers, watches like the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton might very well represent the top-of-the-line products Cartier makes for men. The watch is actually a combination of three existing items at Cartier, and that includes the Rotonde-style case, “mysterious” movement which has the hour and minute hands on a transparent plane, and on top of that, skeletonization of the in-house made caliber 9981 (which then becomes the caliber 9983) manually wound movement.
We’ve substantially seen all this before, and this watch more or less represents Cartier fake wanting to make the most out of its movements by offering them in a variety of cases. For instance, if you love the Mysterious Hour Skeleton but prefer the Cartier Cle case, they have a watch for you in the Cle de Cartier Mysterious Hour watch. The “non-Skeleton” version of the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton watch was actually the first model to debut this style of “mystery dial movement” in 2013 .
Such designs have a long history going back to early 20th century table clocks produced by Cartier. At the time, it was en vogue for some brands (Cartier included) to produce mystery dial clocks. Many of these Art Deco style creations celebrated the intriguing optical illusion created when the hands were not mounted to the dial via a stem as is the case in a traditional watch, but rather mounted on a transparent plate, which itself features hidden gearing used to move it around the dial.
Skeletonized mystery Cartier copy watches are ironic since the skeletonization part sort of “ruins” the mystery. I’ve not seen anyone comment on this, but it wouldn’t stop me from having an otherwise enjoyable experience with a product such as this. In fact, if you liked the original Mystery Hour watch but wanted to “see even more,” then this Skeleton version might be right for you. Note that the privilege of having a skeletonized version of the Mystery complication watch will cost about $15,000 USD more than the non-skeleton model.