Monday, July 22 2019


Patrimony of time

Making of Cartier
It is the flair for fine watchmaking that defines the artistic expression of the House of Cartier. Bold and innovative with attention to detail, Cartier merges the artistry and traditions of the past with a relevance to the technological present. Riddhima Nagpal delves into the making of these precious timekeepers.
It was the end of French monarchy and the beginning of the second republic that coincided with the foundation of Cartier back in 1847. And thus, the rise of popularity of Paris directed international focus to the brand favoured by its aristocracy. Those were the golden years for Cartier, with its celebrated clients from the reigning monarchy, Russian princes to wealthy Americans.
It was in 1898 that this jewellery house took its first step towards creating history, led by the vision of Louis Cartier, grandson of the founder, Louis François Cartier. He fabricated the idea of creation of Cartier style, a concept that was new at the time. There was modernity in his ambition, a grammar in his philosophy that still defines the language of Cartier style.
He also gave the world the ‘Santos’ watch, the first men’s wristwatch that was practical and reliable unlike pocket watches of the time. The gallant styles evolved through neoclassical designs, Art Deco masterpieces, creation of the famous mystery pocket watch and crash watch, introduction of the ‘invisible mount’ stonesetting technique to the Art of Cartier retrospective. As times changed, the Cartier group later went from one hand to another, each trying to retain the brand’s value and philosophy of Cartier d’Art.
At the house of Cartier in La- Chaux-de-Fonds, each stage from designing and developing the movement to the manufacture, decoration, assembly, regulation and final inspection bring together the most advanced technology with traditional artisanal techniques. Cartier’s Haute Joaillerie watches have always been an interfusion of historical expertise and technological advance. The process starts with the technical design sketches, which define the concept of movement. It is then followed by the development of each piece in three-dimensional drawings to check the feasibility and functionality of each movement. Later, working prototypes are made and tested to check for perfection before the movement can be homologated.
At Cartier, the movement must fit design to convey a sense of elegance. Cartier has also received the Geneva Seal certification, the prestigious symbol of watch-making perfection for the 9452MC calibre. From assembling to regulating, watchmakers use precise equipment to achieve perfect chronometry. From fixing of balance springs, technical fabrication of oscillating systems and escapements, to the manufacture of winding elements, all operations are carried out in a controlled environment, where the air is filtered and refreshed several times an hour to prevent the slightest trace of dust from settling on the tiniest parts of the watch. When it comes to finishing, the bridges are chamfered with a burnisher, the sides are gently filed without affecting the polish of corners, and the surfaces are given mirror polish. Each watch undergoes extreme climatic condition tests, from 20 per cent to 70 per cent humidity as well as their resistance to water and magnetic fields.
An example of Cartier’s creative expertise for precision and perfection is the Rotonde de Cartier 42 mm watch in white gold with a tiger motif in enamel grisaille. Grisaille enamel is an ancient enamelling technique. The dial is first enveloped with a gleaming coat of black enamel, which is then hardened in a kiln. The design is painted with extreme precision using a brush in blanc de Limoges (hard paste porcelain popular for its quality and whiteness), the colour of which changes with each of six to eight additional firings in the kiln to achieve the final shade. After nearly 40 hours of enamelling work, craftsmen work on contrast play. While working on nuances of white to add depth and highlight the shades, they also work on the relief of the design. Later, a special tool is used to scratch the white and heighten the illusion of fur. The intricacies are a way of paying tribute to one of the emblematic figures of Cartier jewellery, the big cat.
The crown, again made of 18-carat white gold, is further embellished with a cabochon sapphire. The double adjustable folding clasp is also made of 18-carat white gold adorning the semi-matte black alligator skin strap. The mechanical movement, manual-winding, calibre 9601 MC completes this work of art.

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