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  • Harry Fane

The Sky at Night

Updated: Oct 5


In Hans Nadelhoffer's seminal work 'Cartier, Jewellers Extraordinary' published in the early 1980s, it is odd he missed including this clock in his 'complete' list of all the Mystery Clocks Cartier ever made. I am assuming he was working from the photographic archives alone and it might well have been, because the backplate of the dial is blue, it may not have looked like a Mystery clock in the old, black and white photos and hence he ignored it. It is the only explanation. After all, it was made in the 'golden years' of Cartier's productivity (i.e 1925-1930) and certainly should have been there.

It was originally sold in 1928 to a Mr Weszyuski who remains as much as a mystery as the clock. He in turn sold it in 1941 to an English noble family.

The unique coloured dial which is, of course, transparent gave the clock its present name 'Le Ciel' as indeed it is a night sky studded with diamond stars. The diamond-set hands are 'comets' which completes the celestial picture.

The sky is not the only interesting element of this clock's design. The two carp frolicking in the (rock crystal) fountain waters are according to Feng Shui, representatives of wealth and prosperity. (The actual word in Chinese for fish, yú, 魚, also translates to “abundance” 裕 yù). Twin golden carp swimming atop a golden yuanbao/ ingot/ coin is an even better sign. ... In addition, a pair of fish is also one of the Eight Buddhist Symbols. Hence, herewith a wonderful object full of symbolism which would not have passed unnoticed by Louis Cartier who was very interested in such things.

The 'Mystery' clocks are the pinnacle of Cartier's clock making. Enough has been written about them without me having to go into further detail here.

But what I can offer, is that this clock was recently sold to someone who was looking for a very particular gift for an extremely important friend. He loved the clock and was delighted by the hidden meanings concealed within the different elements.

There is not a single 'Mystery' clock which is not spectacular. Each, from the tiniest to the largest, is a marvel involving the works of many skilled artisans. Not just clockmakers but lapidaries, enamellers, goldsmiths and setters. They perfectly fulfilled Cartier's dream of creating a 'clock as a jewel and a jewel as a clock'.

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