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Lot 393Art Deco Rock Crystal, Gold, Black Onyx, Enamel and Diamond 'Model A' Mystery Clock, Cartier, France
8 day mechanical movement, the rectangular rock crystal case with rounded pediment outlined in gold bead decoration, enclosing a white enamel chapter ring with gold Roman numerals spaced by gold florets, the inner rim set continuously with rose-cut diamonds, with rose-cut diamond-set hands, set within a white enamel frame applied with a gold laurel leaf motif, edged completely with fine gold decoration, the reverse with similar motif, all surmounted on a rectangular black onyx base with molded edges, case signed Cartier. N.Y., no. 1052, European Watch & Clock Co Inc, France, dial signed France. 5 3/8 x 3 1/2 x 2 inches.

Similar examples: Barracca, J., Negretti, G., and Nencini. F., Le Temps de Cartier, p. 99; Chaille, F., Cologni, F., The Cartier Collection - Timepieces, p. 148.

Few objects capture the imagination like the Cartier Mystery Clock. With childlike amazement the eye follows the hands as they float weightlessly, without a movement, dial or visible anchor. Truly sophisticated in its elegance, the Cartier Mystery Clock is as timeless as it is iconic.

The Mystery Clock is the result of collaboration between jeweler Louis Cartier and master clockmaker Maurice Couet, who had studied the enigmatic clock designs of French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (who later influenced Ehrich Weiss to perform his act under the name Houdini). Completed in 1913, the first Pendules Mysterieuses Model A mesmerized viewers for its technological achievement and use of illusion. The hands of the clock float amid a flawless rock crystal case and rotate on invisible crystal disks, the gears hidden within the gold columns, the clocks movement housed in the onyx base. Mystery Clocks required up to seven craftsmen to create, sometimes taking up to a year. An industry onto themselves, the Model A moniker pays homage to Henry Ford's Model T of the same era. Naturally, the clocks appealed to sophisticated American industrialists, including J.P. Morgan, the owner of the first Model A clock sold in the United States.

Cartier Mystery Clock designs of the 1920s range in influence from the exoticism of the Orient, so popular at that time, to the streamlined and understated elegance of American Art Deco architecture. The Model A tends towards the latter, and its style endures despite the passage of time and changes in fashion. Intensely sought and rare at auction, period Cartier Mystery Clocks are considered "the most valuable of all collector's items with a Cartier signature" (Nadelhoffer, Hans. Cartier. p, 271)

It is no surprise that Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl would come to own this beautiful and timeless object. The daughter of William Kissam Vanderbilt, Jr., Consuelo was raised in Manhattan and first married in 1926, coming of age at the height of the Jazz Age. Her father, a great-grandson of the railroad mogul "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, inherited great wealth and was an avid sporting enthusiast with a passion for yachting, exotic travel and fast cars. William K. Vanderbilt's yachts, the Ara (1922) and the Alva (1931), were also purchased in this high flying period, and were luxuriously outfitted with all the opulence of his Gilded Age sensibility as seen in the custom Tiffany & Co. 18 karat gold tray and cordial cups also offered in this section. The Vanderbilt family remains very highly regarded in the American imagination and experience; these items possess the finest possible American provenance. Thus within this Cartier Mystery Clock is combined the sumptuousness of William K. Vanderbilt's Gilded Age, the confluence of Houdin's French magic and Ford's American assembly line, the unparalleled aesthetics of Louis Cartier, and the unrivaled sophistication of Art Deco at its purest. Yet one glance at the movement of the clock's hands makes us forget time and feel what "composed of moonbeams" attempts to describe.


C Estate of Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl

Sold for $515,000
Estimate $200,000-400,000

The movement is currently running, but not guaranteed to be in working order.

Original box and key are not included in the lot.

Very minor chip on cornice edge of rock crystal. Several very small chips at edge of reverse rock crystal panel. A few minuscule chips at bottom edge of reverse of black onyx base. All not visible to the eye.

Plaque on reverse side of frame is not engraved.


Any condition statement is given as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Doyle New York shall have no responsibility for any error or omission. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging.





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