Among the new models presented this year by Cartier at the Geneva event “Watches and Wonders,” the new Tortue watches from the “Collection Cartier Privé” stand out by far for their elegance. This collection, which Cartier itself defined in the 2023 edition as “the appointment for collectors that celebrates and explores the mythical models of the Maison through timepieces made in limited numbered series” is probably one of the most interesting phenomena in the watch world. 

What happens when the second largest watchmaker in the world decides to offer the public a reinterpretation of its historical models in a modern key, placing the utmost attention on quality and style?

The answer? Cartier Privé.


It all began in 1998. We were amidst the quartz crisis, but times seemed to be changing. At that time, Cartier was predominantly presenting a collection powered by quartz movements or simple ETA movements. Cartier Privé was meant to establish itself as a separate line: more quality, more style, more exclusivity. The solution was: limited editions of up to 300 pieces, models exclusively in precious metals, refined dials (such as those with the famous guilloché pattern dial), sapphire exhibition case backs, movements from prestigious manufactures (Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, and Frédéric Piguet), the iconic inscription “Paris” beneath the Cartier name.

The first production series of Cartier’s Collection Privée is estimated to have run from 1998 to 2008, before being reintroduced to the public in recent years. The two series are very different from each other, although they maintain the fundamental principles outlined in 1998. The second series, in fact, features much larger dimensions compared to the first series, the “Paris” designation is absent and the models are more modern. However, limited production, quality and finishing of movements, and the exclusive use of precious 

metals remain unchanged.

Among the models of the first series (of which only 3000 watches are estimated to have been produced), the most iconic are 

perhaps the Tank Cintré, the Tank Chinoise, the Tank  Àsimétrique, the Tank à Vis, and the Tortue series (among which the monopushers really stand out).



In the second series, the Tonneau, the Tank Chinoise, and the Tank Àsymétrique were reintroduced, some of them in skeletonized versions, adding an important touch of modernity but deviating slightly from the sobriety and elegance that had characterized the first series.  


Witness to this new philosophy was the 2023 edition of Watches and Wonders, for which Cartier presented a reinterpretation of the Cartier Normale, unveiling a pair of bracelets in platinum and yellow gold, along with a version featuring a skeletonized dial. The Cartier Tank Normale presents itself as a less rectangular, more symmetrical version of the classic Cartier Tank. Furthermore, in the model presented in 2023, there is an almost unique feature: a beveled sapphire crystal (of extremely complex design) that gives an irregular shape to the roman numerals on the dial.


This year, for the Collection Privée, Cartier has decided to breathe new life into a model with an extremely long history: the Tortue, first launched in 1912 (Rolex had been founded just 7 years earlier). The Tortue model is presented in two different mechanical configurations: one with only hours and minutes, and one with a monopusher chronograph function (this complication also has a long history, as it was first launched in 1928).

The models with only hours and minutes function feature a case in yellow gold or platinum (a special version with a diamond-set will be available as well), a simple smooth white dial, and a closed caseback. The models with the chronograph function (also available in platinum or yellow gold) are definitely more interesting, as they not only feature the monopusher chronograph complication but also have sub-dials with guilloché decoration and a sapphire crystal caseback to showcase the beautiful manual-winding movement with a tonneau-shaped design.

All the new models feature Breguet-style hands, drawing inspiration from the style of historical Cartier timepieces. The models in platinum and yellow gold will be limited to 200 pieces each, while the diamond-set platinum model will be limited to just 50 pieces. These watches will be available for purchase only at selected Cartier boutiques.

The models of the Cartier Privé collection are examples of high-level watchmaking, history, creativity, quality, and exclusivity. Owning a Cartier Privé watch means possessing an extremely rare and understated object, yet one of extremely solid value, as demonstrated by the following auction results (at Christie’s and Phillips, two of the world’s major auction houses) which have seen watches from the Collection Privé reaching very high price levels and often exceeding estimates.

-Marco Vigo

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