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Cartier - In The Workshop of...

Cartier In The Workshop of...

A centuries-old soul and three floors dedicated to perpetuating expertise, sharing and innovating

In Switzerland, Cartier has five watchmaking production entities employing 1,400 people, 900 of whom work at the imposing Manufacture in La-Chaux-de-Fonds alone. They make daily use of 5,000 machine tools, including 200 specifically for machining. For the past four years, decision-making and information exchange processes at all hierarchical levels have encouraged productivity and innovation, while cutting by three the number of watches returned for after-sales service. An agile giant! Its CEO Cyrille Vigneron has also insisted that Cartier reduce its carbon footprint by half in ten years, an inescapable challenge in today's luxury industry.

In The Workshop of...

© Cartier

A few steps away from this ultra-efficient building, a 300-year-old farmhouse has been entirely renovated by Cartier – obtaining the highest LEED certification for sustainable buildings – which has made it into its Maison des Métiers d’Art. Its vocation is based on safeguarding and reviving sometimes forgotten crafts, as well as sharing them in order to innovate. It notably houses former cabinetmakers who have created their own wood marquetry micro-cutting tool resembling a loom, as well as artisans who have returned from the Louvre to give new life to Etruscan art. This high-flying laboratory feeds off the power of Cartier, while bringing heightened creativity. Its teams are immersed in history, yet also draw their knowledge from the culture of great civilizations – including Chinese and Indian – whose skills are applied to creating one-of-a-kind models. This thirst for constant exchanges and learning enables them to surpass themselves. 

In The Workshop of...

© Cartier

Conceiving the Unthinkable

By way of example, the astonishing Coussin watch – with its gemstone-paved soft case flexible to the touch – owes its existence to this interactive knowledge platform. The design department wanted an Haute Joaillerie watch that could reflect several different skills and convey emotion through sight as well as touch. Working out how to create a flexible case and how to set it with gems required innovation. Cartier had already created a gold-mesh glove watch. Pushing the principle to the extreme, the chainmail was effectively closed up and given life through a rebound effect. In order for it to return to its initial position, an elastomer shock absorber was designed by additive manufacturing technology (3D printing). The same went for the chain-mail grid pattern, composed of multiple mesh elements that had to be modeled and printed at once. This requires such large computer memory that its power had to be increased before launching the printing! It was impossible to set gems on a soft surface since the gemsetter normally leans on it to secure the stones in place. Using the same process, scaffolding was built and placed inside the grid pattern to prevent it from collapsing, then cut once the chainmail was set using the four-grain technique. An artistic and technological feat yielding an incomparable result, as all the people involved in this limited series still vividly recall.

In The Workshop of...

© Cartier


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GMT Magazine n° 80 © GMT magazine


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Characterised by audacity and inventiveness, Cartier’s watchmaking history reflects a unique state of mind: “jeweller of kings and king of jewellers”. Its renown is bound up in the tradition of excellence to which it is heir. Cartier was a forerunner in the use of platinum in jewellery and one of the pioneers of watchmaking.

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