Louis-Francois Cartier opened his modest jewellery workshop and boutique in 1847. At the time, not even Louis-Francois himself would have any idea of the scale that the Cartier brand would grow to. Having indubitably grown to become the leading brand of haute joaillerie today, the brand has set its sights on the world of haute horlogerie.

Having been awarded the Poinçon de Genève certification for its Calibre 9452 MC Ballon Bleu Flying Tourbillon, Cartier looks readier than ever to take over the world of watchmaking.

Fine Watchmaking Manufacture

An expansive wall of glass greets visitors as they make their way into the entrance hall. A contrast of marble, glass and light beechwood create an atmosphere that is decidedly Cartier. The offices on the upper floors come in simple colours: blue, grey and beige, punctuated with pale wood. Designer furniture set the tone for the floor.

From the planted roof to the wooded site, everything is designed to generate a feeling of calm and respect for the environment—a feeling that is as noticeable in the offices and workshops as it is outside.

The manufacture is organised around three axes: development, production and customer service. The main mission is to develop and deliver watches of the highest quality, while safeguarding its future and expertise. Training is an essential dimension at Cartier.

The skills and craft of watchmaking are the guarantors of quality and expertise, as well as underpinning Cartier’s constantly advancing research into the mastery of watchmaking.

A 3,000sqm wing with four floors is dedicated entirely to research and development. Known as the “Think Tank project”, approximately 100 employees are in charge of design, prototypes, mechanics and running the laboratory.

Through a series of meetings, analysis and improvements, a Cartier watch slowly takes shape. Prototypes are modified progressively in order to help select the most appropriate methods of manufacturing. It is here where ideas are brought to reality.

Maison des Métiers d’Art

Located a stone’s throw away from the Manufacture is Cartier’s Maison des Métiers d’Art. Housed in a Bernese-style farm dating from the end of the 18th century, the Maison des Métiers d’Art is a wonderful combination of tradition and modernity.

The creation of the Maison des Métiers d’Art represents a pioneering act wherein Cartier is taking up the challenge of enhancing tradition while grounding these expert practices in modernity. The Cartier heritage has been passed down and continually enriched from generation to generation, over the course of more than a hundred years. Today, Cartier’s Maison des Métiers d’Art brings together the most precious artistic crafts applied to watchmaking.

It is here that Cartier pioneers, brings together and preserves over a century’s worth of rare expertise. It is a bold challenge born from the desire to reinvent, share, and perpetuate these crafts.

The first and second floors of the Maison des Métiers d’Art are occupied by 28 craftsmen. The first floor is dedicated to jewellery crafting, while the second is home to enamel and marquetry. Exchange and circulation of ideas is fluid, and very much encouraged.

The craftsmen’s work is dedicated to a range of rare crafts including gold cloisonné work, arranging stones into mosaics, floral marquetry, enameling, and intaglio engraving. In addition, masterpieces in Cartier’s repertoire also require craftsmen to possess knowledge of metalwork, composition and the art of working with fire.

Other rare methods, sometimes little known or forgotten, are regularly added to the list. The exceptional creations from the craftsmen are testament to their unparalleled talents, mastery of traditional methods, and the ability to overcome challenges.

The first floor of the Maison des Métiers d’Art is dedicated to metalworking. The creation of Cartier’s works of art begins with the traditional crafts: gem-setting, jewellery-making and polishing. The jeweller is entrusted with creating the open-work design of the piece, preparing the cavities that will hold the gems, and creating the outline.

The piece is then handed to the master gemsetter who attaches the stones one by one. Polishing a piece is the most decisive stage as it will determine the shine and sparkle, and also the comfort of the wearer. Only the most experienced of gem-setters can execute this highly technical step.

The newer methods of crafting that take place on the first floor are granulation and filigree work. Granulation can be likened to sowing seeds of gold, where beads are created from gold wires that are cut up, rolled in charcoal dust and heated with a flame. The gold beads are then assembled one by one and fused with a gold sheet in order to create the relief of the motif.

The art of filigree work is applied in creating a variety of Cartier’s signature motifs. Gold or platinum wires are twisted and flattened with a hammer, then shaped and soldered into the motif.  The 2015 Ronde Louise Cartier panthers motif watch combined filigree work with the application of lacquer and gem-setting. The filigree work for this sublime piece took 10 days to complete.

On the second floor, the craftsmen work with fire and enamel in its various forms. Enamel is treated at high temperatures at different steps of the processes in order to obtain the desired state and colours. They are then applied in various methods to create anything from translucent enamel motifs, to creating a backdrop with depth over which gold paste is applied, to being used as paint.

Each process will require different amounts of firing in order to achieve the most exquisite colours and finishes. Floral marquetry is yet another rare craftpracticed by the craftsmen at Cartier. The rose petals are selected for their colours, texture and specific characteristics. They are cut into tiny pieces then assembled on a miniature scale on the dial to form the motif.

Only the steadiest of hands and the keenest eye for detail would be able to complete this task.

Also read: Report from Geneva: Unveiling the World of Haute Horlogerie and SIHH 2017 with Richard Muljadi and Shalvynne Chang

Tags: Cartier, Cartier Watches