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The Cartier Tortue stands out from predominantly round and rectangular watches. Designed by Louis Cartier himself, its first model dubbed "tortue à pattes" or "turtle on legs" boasted a sinuous shape inspired by tortoise-shells. At its inception in 1912, it was only the third watch design made by Cartier, following the Santos-Dumont and Tonneau, and showcased the French maison’s expertise in creating new forms, mechanisms, and aesthetics.
Cartier Tortue dials are in the signature style of the brand, with Roman numerals, and a railroad track for the chronograph seconds hand. Beyond that, the collection became home to many of Cartier’s complications – including perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, and the famous Monopoussoir or monopusher chronograph. A wide range of models and sizes were made available, but the Cartier Tortue always came exclusively in precious metals.
Aside from its innate elegance, the Tortue’s allure lies in the fact that is has only been released in small numbers. It is quite a rare sight and one that is hard to miss. Find yours from our collection of Cartier Tortue watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.
Introduced in 2012, the Cartier Tortue’s unique shape quickly became standout among the rectangular and round watches of the time. It went through various re-editions – in 1928, 1999, and finally in 2013. Below were the models under the latest edition of the Cartier Tortue:
Cartier Tortue (Time Only)
The time-only Cartier Tortue is available in 18k rose gold or 18k white gold. While it comes with the classic shape of the original Tortue, a few modern Cartier design flairs were added: the manually wound Caliber 240 MC, and blued steel, sword-shaped minute and hour hands on a flinque dial.
Cartier Tortue XL
The Cartier Tortue XL comes, as the name suggests, in a larger than usual 38 x 48mm case, made available in 18k white or rose gold. There is a time-only edition, and a Large Date and Small Seconds edition. For the latter, on the 6 o’clock position is a small seconds dial, and at 12 o’clock is a two-window Grande date. It is powered by the 9602 MC mechanical caliber, and comes with a leather strap.
Cartier Tortue Perpetual Calendar Openworked
Even larger was the Cartier Tortue Perpetual Calendar Openworked, housed in a 45.6 x 51mm case, also available in 18k white or rose gold. Four subdials show the functions – the days of the week are indicated using a retrograde hand, month and leap years shown on a subdial at 12 o’clock.
Cartier Tortue XL Multiple Timezones
Finally, the Cartier Tortue was also offered in a multi-timezone edition. An elaborate but easy-to-read several layer dial shows the time in 24 different timezones using a unique window cut into the side of the watch. The lower half of the dial indicates daytime and nighttime hours with the help of hands incorporating symbols for the sun and the moon. Available in 18k white or rose gold, it measures 51 mm X 45.6 mm wide. It is powered by the in-house developed 1904 MC caliber which offers power reserve of 48 hours.
Every Cartier watch design is given a reference number, in order to properly document their manufacture and sale. Cartier’s reference numbers are randomly assigned and are composed of 8 characters. They begin with a letter, followed by an alpha-numeric combination.
Below are the reference numbers for the Cartier Tortue collection:
|Cartier Tortue Multifuseaux||XXL case, 18k rose gold|
XXL case, 18k white gold
|Cartier Tortue Perpetual Calendar||XXL case, 18k rose gold|
XXL case, 18k white gold
|Cartier Tortue XL||XL case, 18k rose gold|
XL case, 18k white gold
|Cartier Tortue Ladies||Medium case, 18k rose gold|
Medium case, 18k white gold
Small case, 18k rose gold
Small case, 18k white gold
18k rose gold with diamonds
18k white gold with diamonds
|Cartier Tortue Monopusher Chronograph||18k rose gold|
18k yellow gold
18k white gold
The Cartier Tortue incorporates timeless Cartier design and sophisticated functions in a unique shape. Here are the most frequently asked questions about the Cartier Tortue:
The Cartier Tortue was designed by Louis Cartier in 1912, as the third design of the French maison following the Santos-Dumont and the Tonneau.
It is characterized by an elegant tortoise-shell inspired case shape. It comes in both time-only and complicated models, but it is famous for housing many of the brand’s most sophisticated complications.
Cartier Tortue watches have a water resistance level of 3 bar or 30 meters.
This level of water resistance is enough to protect the watch from rain or hand washing but it is not recommended for use during water sports or swimming. The Cartier Tortue is primarily a dress watch and best worn under the cuff, or during more formal occasions.
The Cartier Tortue has been quietly removed from the Cartier website.
However, Cartier Tortue models can still be had by shopping from reliable pre-owned watch retailers. Explore our selection of Cartier Tortue watches here.