Cartier has proved its point as a serious watchmaker, with 45 new complications and a series of award-winning timepieces emerging from its La Chaux-de-Fonds workshop over the past decade.
This year's fair was all about bringing together its revelations in mechanical watchmaking with haute joaillerie creativity, displayed in new timepieces that combine familiar Cartier references with artisanal flair.
Cartier first dabbled with the concept of floating hands in 1912 with its mystery clocks. It provided the blueprint for innovations that led to its mystery dial, characterised by invisible sapphire discs that give the appearance of the hands or movement suspended in gravity that belie such a feat.
"We like the idea of transparency and mystery," says Cartier image, style and heritage director Pierre Rainero. "There is nothing as pure as being transparent, so it is very Cartier. But there is also a constraint in the continuity of design because the dial is transparent; then the movement is around it. Creatively it is a challenge, but we like challenges."
This year, those challenges are met with a series of new high-jewellery interpretations of the dial that suggest a growing desire for a more refined aesthetic and originality to mechanical timepieces.
"The idea of combining both specifically this year sees the mystery technique at its best combined with high-jewellery refinement at its best. That composes extraordinary objects," Rainero says.
The white gold Dragon Mysterieux watch features the 9981 movement with an hour and minute display surrounded by diamond scales, coral and piercing emerald eyes that mark out the dragon's enigmatic profile, while a cushion-shaped 23.77ct fire opal mounted on the dragon's head is Cartier's interpretation of its strength and energy.
The 9981 MC movement also features in the Panthere Mysterieuse pendant watch, which is one of three new interpretations of Cartier's most iconic symbol. The mystery dial is sculpted from a block of agate that cleverly enhances its inner crystallisation, while a diamond-studded panther rests around it in an arc of diamonds and obsidian.
Other additions to the set include the Tourbillon Mysterieux Azure pendant watch. The floating tourbillon is set off by diamonds and sapphires in a rhythm of curves that mimic the movement of a butterfly, while a detachable 25.93ct oval-shaped Ceylon sapphire hangs at the bottom of the chain in a vertical parallel of the movement.
The Rotonde de Cartier Astromysterieux represents one of Cartier's most ambitious pieces with a mystery dial. The watch is powered by the patent-pending 9462 MC movement, which arranges its components around four sapphire discs that work in tandem. The escapement, balance wheel, gear train and barrel are attached to the hands so that they move in sync supported by the rotating discs.
The Pantheres et Colibri makes the leap between high jewellery and highly complicated mechanisms in a playful interaction of time. The white gold case and rhodium-finished dial is the resting place for a 270 brilliant-cut diamond panther and a rose gold hummingbird, but the real beauty is the mechanical and aesthetic marvel underneath.
The watch features the mechanical calibre 9915 MC with an on-demand power reserve, activated by pressing the crown.
On activation, a rose gold cub jumps out from behind its mother to give chase to the hummingbird, which takes off on flight to indicate the remaining power reserve.
The 30-piece yellow gold and diamond Ballon Bleu de Cartier Panthere is the brand's third interpretation of the cat that also unveiled a new technique in its Metiers d'Art repertoire.
Enamel granulation is a combination of enamel and Etruscan granulation, a goldsmith's technique dating back thousands of years. The process involves creating minuscule beads of gold and enamel, which are assembled on the dial in a delicate technique resulting in a beautiful graduation in colour that brings the panther's face to life.
Shape is a constant source of inspiration to Cartier, and the new pink gold Crash Skeleton is the latest example in its Mechanical Legends series that plays with form.
Like its platinum predecessor, the case and movement are merged as one, with the calibre 9618 MC giving over to asymmetrical Roman numerals on one side and the skeletonised movement on the other.
"Our vision of mechanics has always been influenced by a vision of shape, always linked to our culture of being a jeweller," Rainero says. "The way we integrate or define the dials for a complicated movement is very influenced by our culture of design."
Drive de Cartier is the brand's newest collection for men that shows its fascination with shape by way of curves within a square structure.
The collection debuts with three variations: the Drive de Cartier Flying Tourbillon, Drive de Cartier Time Only and the Drive de Cartier Second Time Zone, featuring a large date, retrograde second time zone and day/night indicator.
There is also a 15-piece pink gold Rotonde de Cartier Earth and Moon featuring two sub-dials cut out of meteorite stone; one indicating the earth and displaying local time with a 24-hour time zone disc, the other indicating the lunar display with a tourbillon and on-demand moon-phase indications.
The watch is powered by a new calibre 9440 MC with a push-piece at 2 o'clock to adjust the second time zone. The moon phase is activated by a push-piece at 4 o'clock that hides the tourbillon to reveal its present phase.
Other new models include the Rotonde de Cartier Day and Night retrograde moon phase with a blue lacquer dial, and an addition to last year's debut of the Cle de Cartier collection with the Cle de Cartier Automatic Skeleton.