July 11, 20246 min Read

Collector’s Diary: Cartier Monopoussoir CPCP

By Niclas Berglund

I was on a photo assignment in Paris when I happened to see a photographer capturing a newlywed couple in a beautiful neighborhood in central Paris. As always, my watch radar was on, and my eyes were immediately drawn to the elegant, tortue-shaped gold watch on his wrist. I instantly recognized it as a Cartier. However, I couldn’t determine if it was a Monopusher or the simpler time-only version. I lingered to get a better look. It was so incredibly stylish on his wrist. Someone once told me that “Cartier’s greatest complication is its classic design,” and those words echoed in my head. Not wanting to intrude, I walked away, somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t confirm what I had seen.

Later that evening, I sat down at a nearby brasserie to grab a bite to eat. Suddenly, I spotted the photographer from earlier, still wearing the Cartier watch, sitting a few tables away with his companions. This must be fate, I thought, the Cartier gods are speaking to me. After a while, I gathered the courage to approach him and introduced myself. I mentioned that I was a huge watch enthusiast and couldn’t help but notice his watch. At first, it seemed like he was going to ask me to leave. But after a few seconds of silence, he asked me, “So you like watches – what is your favorite brand?” I replied MB&F. He paused and looked at me. “That’s my favorite brand too. Which watch do you own?” I told him about my LM101 and he beamed: “I have that one too.” We stood there for a long time talking about MB&F and watches in general. I asked him more about his Cartier, and he showed it to me. It turned out to be a time-only Cartier from the CPCP collection. I knew right then that my hunt for a Cartier Tortue had begun.

Introduced 1999 – The Cartier 2356 Monopoussoir CPCP, a timeless blend of elegance and innovation.

The Cartier 2356 Monopoussoir CPCP, with its elegant 34mm by 33mm gold case and 10mm thickness, exemplifies timeless design.

The Collection Privée Cartier Paris: A Tribute to Horological Heritage

In the last decade of the 20th century, the watch industry was still reeling from the quartz crisis, slowly rekindling an appreciation for mechanical watches. During this period, Cartier sought to reaffirm its status as a premier watchmaking manufacturer. From 1998 to 2008, the Collection Privée Cartier Paris (CPCP) reintroduced some of Cartier’s most iconic designs, such as the Tortue and Tank Cintrée, now featuring high-quality mechanical movements. This revival aimed to spotlight Cartier’s rich heritage, particularly as these designs had not been produced for decades.

The CPCP watches showcased Cartier’s capabilities, especially during a time when the brand was primarily known for its quartz timepieces. Most CPCP models targeted the men’s market and were produced in limited quantities, utilizing mechanical movements from external suppliers until Cartier developed its in-house movements with the Fine Watchmaking Collection.

These watches are characterized by subtle yet distinctive details. All models, except the Cintrée, bear the inscription “Cartier Paris” on the dial, a homage to vintage pieces. They also feature a central rose motif beneath the hands, radiating into a classic guilloché pattern. The caseback engravings evoke the craftsmanship of early 20th-century Cartier. The manual-winding movements were finished in-house, adorned with Cartier’s interlaced “double C” pattern.

A Historic Collaboration

The Tortue, first introduced in 1912 as Cartier’s third wristwatch, predates the Tank by a few years. Its design, inspired by a tortoiseshell, initially featured a simple time-only mechanism but soon evolved to include more complex versions such as a minute repeater and a chronograph. The Tortue Monopoussoir, reintroduced in 1999 alongside the CPCP collection, is a prime example of this evolution.

The Calibre 045MC, powering the Tortue Monopoussoir, was produced by THA Èbauche, a collaboration between renowned watchmakers Vianney Halter, Denis Flageollet (founder of De Bethune), and François-Paul Journe. Reflecting on this collaboration, Flageollet remarked, “We were young, we had no doubts and we created incredible objects together that would be difficult to make today.” The project aimed to recreate a monopusher chronograph from the 1920s, emphasizing the historical significance of the design.

The Monopoussoir Design

The Monopoussoir configuration introduced by Cartier is noted for its classic case size and metal, as well as its traditional dial design. The watch features two sub-dials: one for running seconds and the other for a 30-minute chronograph timer. A railroad minute track encircles the dial, complementing the subdial borders and contrasting with the white guilloché background. Dark black ink is used for the subdials, minute track, and Roman numerals, while blued steel hands add a touch of color.

The dial, made of 18-carat gold, includes a central rose motif and traditional guilloché. The Tortue case, with its elegant, curved lines and polished surfaces, measures 34mm by 33mm, maintaining a classic yet contemporary appearance. At 10mm thick, it balances presence on the wrist with practicality.

An iconic piece from the Collection Privée Cartier Paris, reflecting the brand’s rich heritage.

The intricate movement of the Calibre 045MC, visible through the sapphire case back.

The Movement

The calibre 045MC, developed by THA Èbauche, features a lever escapement and a balance beating at 21,600 A/h. Its clutch system activates the chronograph’s central wheel smoothly, eliminating the common “jolt” in chronographs with lateral clutches. The movement, visible through an elliptical sapphire case back, is meticulously finished with beveling and anglage.

A Legacy of Innovation

The Tortue Monopoussoir stands as a testament to Cartier’s innovative spirit, combining historical design with sophisticated mechanics. This model was Cartier’s first chronograph, featuring a single-pusher mechanism integrated into the crown. Its slim bezel, matte dial, and flame-blued Breguet hands made it a distinctive and rare timepiece, with only 11 known examples surfacing at auction.

In the latter half of the 20th century, Cartier underwent significant internal changes, expanding its production and becoming a quartz powerhouse. The CPCP initiative aimed to restore Cartier’s watchmaking prestige by reviving important designs and emphasizing mechanical expertise. Collaborations with movement makers such as Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and THA produced technically impressive watches like the Tortue Monopoussoir, solidifying Cartier’s legacy in horology.

The THA calibre 045MC’s unique oscillating pinion system streamlined the movement, making it smaller and more efficient. This innovation was later adopted by Flageollet and Journe in their independent brands, underscoring its significance in high-end watchmaking. The Tortue Monopoussoir’s compact case, refined design, and historical importance make it a landmark in Cartier’s storied history.

The beautifully arranged sub-dials of the Monopoussoir, showcasing the watch’s chronograph functionality.

The Cartier Monopoussoir 2356 CPCP, an exquisite addition to any horological collection.

Returning to My Personal Story

I have been constantly scanning various forums to see if any Cartier CPCP 2356 Monopoussoir would appear. The only ones I found were outside the EU and unreasonably expensive. So I have been biding my time and moving slowly. Then one day on Instagram, I spotted a dealer from Belgium who had just acquired a full set 2356 CPCP. I emailed him immediately and got a prompt reply. It was available, and he offered me a good price. After a few rounds of negotiations, we struck a deal. I felt incredibly lucky because I was going to be in Belgium in a few days, so I would be able to visit his shop for the transaction.

When I entered the shop, Alex from MCW-Collection greeted me warmly. The shop, nestled in a charming cobblestone street, had an inviting storefront that exuded timeless elegance. Alex, cheerful and welcoming, shook my hand and asked, “How was your journey?” with a genuine smile. We sat down and began to chat. After a while, he asked me if it was time to retrieve my new watch.

As I waited, I took in the shop’s atmosphere. The walls were lined with wooden shelves displaying an array of exquisite timepieces, each meticulously arranged to showcase their beauty. The soft lighting cast a warm glow, highlighting the craftsmanship of the watches.

Moments later, Alex placed the distinctive red watch box in front of me. The box itself is a work of art, with “Collection Privée Cartier Paris” gilded in gold on the front. My heart raced with anticipation as I opened the lid. The watch that emerged left me floored. It was even more beautiful in person; I had only experienced the watch through pictures, except for that evening in Paris several months ago. The gold case gleamed softly, and the intricate details of the dial were mesmerizing.

I slipped it onto my wrist, and it was so well-balanced. I was struck by how it had a lovely weight to its otherwise modest and elegant appearance. I felt overjoyed to have found such a fine example. Alex watched my reaction with a knowing smile, clearly pleased that the watch had found a new appreciative owner.

A Few Hours Later

I took off the watch and noticed the clasp had a mix of rose gold and yellow gold. My heart skipped a beat as I thought, “This can’t be right, what kind of mix-up is this?” Someone must have tampered with the parts. I checked the time—it was past 7 PM. Nonetheless, I called Alex. He answered after a few rings.

– Alex, it looks like the clasp on the watch has rose gold; it doesn’t match the case, I said, disheartened.

Alex calmly reassured me:

– Cartier does that with some of their models. I should have mentioned it when we met. They use rose gold on the underside but yellow gold on the visible part of the clasp, right?

I confirmed what he said and breathed a sigh of relief, thanking him for answering despite the late hour.

A close-up of the exquisite guilloché dial and rose motif of the Cartier Monopoussoir.

The Cartier 2356 Monopoussoir CPCP, a stunning masterpiece that combines elegance and intricate detailing, making it a true work of art on the wrist.

Captured in natural light, the gold case of the Cartier 2356 Monopoussoir gleams with sophistication. It wears beautifully on my 17 cm wrist.

I keep coming back to their CPCP collection

This is the second time I own a Cartier watch. The first one I owned was a Tank Louis ref. 1600 in yellow gold with a manual Frederic Piguet 21 movement. It was fantastic, so beautiful and elegant, and could be worn effortlessly with various styles. However, I sold it in a deal for another watch, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Cartier. In recent years, they have truly established themselves as one of the greats in the watch market. Rightly so, as they create fantastic watches and have an incredible knack for maintaining their classics while tastefully updating them. Despite this, I keep coming back to their CPCP collection. There is something magical about that collection from the late ’90s and early 2000s. They found their way back and managed to brilliantly recreate the iconic design profile for which the brand is so well known. Gone were the quartz movements, and back was fine watchmaking combined with their design language.

The Cartier Monopoussoir is a watch that sits incredibly well on the wrist, and I love that it looks just as good paired with jeans and a t-shirt as it does with a shirt and blazer. Winding the mechanical movement and then watching the heart start to pulse on the back is a pleasure. Knowing that giants like FP. Journe, Denis Flageollet, and Vianney Halter are behind the movement is, for me, the crowning touch. It adds to the feeling of wearing something special. Something I have realized over time is how this watch follows my personal style in a fantastic way and somehow adapts its attitude to my mood of the day. I guess this is what is called timeless design. A design that never goes out of style but instead fluidly follows the different trends of the times. ⏱

To stay ahead and receive the latest updates from Bezl, follow us on our social media channels @bezlmagazine on Instagram and YouTube. We look forward to sharing our passion for watches with you!