Perhaps, in Cartier’s most surprising new development – and high mech its booming best possible evidence – Cartier ID One, a concept watch Cartier engineers to develop, probably the world’s first watch, never no need to adjust the November demonstration. Watch equipped with an innovative mechanism and materials, internal and external, for example, a glass-ceramic, a balance wheel made of carbon crystal oscillating weight coated with amorphous diamond-like carbon and niobium – titanium case under gossamer. It is currently ticking manufacturing and research and development department is committed to providing a new progress for the future of Cartier watches Haute Horlogerie under the watchful eyes according to engineers. (For more information, see “Cartier’s idea: do not adjust the table,” 1 Month – February 2010 issue WatchTime a) All of these developments have left the watch collectors and enthusiasts surprised, impressed and confused. They identified more Cartier jewelry, scarves and handbags their wives are not high mech miracle for their manufacturers. What they want to know, is how is it?
In April 2008, Cartier startled the watch world with the introduction of its first ever Geneva Seal watch, the Ballon Bleu Flying Tourbillon. At the time, some watch industry observers (including this reporter) considered it a stunt.Cartier is a genuine watch power; it is either the second- or third-best-selling Swiss watch brand in the world after Rolex. (Omega and Cartier both claim to be number two.) However, famously French Cartier had no tradition of making mechanical movements in-house and no watch manufacturing roots whatsoever in the canton of Geneva, which is a key requirement to earn the allegedly prestigious Poinçon de Genève. So how did Cartier get the Geneva Seal?
In 2007, Cartier’s parent company, Richemont SA, acquired the production facilities of Manufacture Roger Dubuis in Geneva, which specialized in making Geneva Seal movements. Cartier promptly took over an atelier in the Dubuis facility and installed 10 master watchmakers there. The flying-tourbillon caliber they produced there, the 9452 MC, is based on a Roger Dubuis design. Voilà: Paris-based Cartier, with watch production facilities in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Fribourg, Switzerland, was transformed into a Geneva Seal brand. Technically it was legit. But the question lingered: Was the expertise really Cartier’s or was it Dubuis behind a Ballon Bleu facade? Two years later, it’s clear that it really was Cartier. What some saw as a stunt was actually a shot, an opening salvo announcing Cartier’s emergence as a bona fide mechanical movement producer with serious ambitions in high horology.
Cartier – decorating movement
In the past two years, Cartier has rushed with Usain Bolt-like speed into the high-mechanical men’s market. It has unveiled 17 new men’s mechanical watches and nine new manufacture movements (including another Geneva Seal movement), at least six of them conceived, developed, prototyped, and produced entirely in Manufacture Cartier, the firm’s giant watchmaking facility in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Among them is a new base automatic caliber, 1904 MC (for Manufacture Cartier), the first Cartier has produced in-house. It was launched this year in a new Cartier men’s watch collection, Calibre de Cartier. Caliber 1904 MC will be the base movement for future Cartier automatic models, including those with complications.
What’s going on, according to top Cartier executives from Paris and La Chaux-de-Fonds, is a new chapter in the firm’s long, often illustrious watch history. Cartier execs acknowledge that Cartier today is more of a ladies’ line: it is the world’s top producer of jewelry watches. In the United States, for example, women’s models account for two-thirds of Cartier watch sales. Cartier execs also acknowledge that they are somewhat late to the luxury-mechanical-watch party and, at this point, don’t bring a lot of high-mech credibility with them. Nevertheless, they point out that their conversion to mechanical movement manufacturing is in keeping with Cartier’s identity as a maison (French for “house”) whose craftsmen and women historically produce its own luxury products, and with its heritage as a pioneer in men’s wristwatches with icons like the Santos and Tank.
Cartier’s reputation as a design house inevitably colors its approach to high watchmaking. “The main philosophy is to be creative rather than complex,” Forestier-Kasapi says. “Technique is at the service of aesthetics and creativity. Our goal is not to be the most complex or have the most complicated watches in the world. The main thing is that the creativity is a tool to be technical.” Forestier-Kasapi’s favorite watch of 2010, the Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon (see the cover of this issue) shows exactly what she is talking about: an unusual technical feat at the service of an unconventional design. Its striking feature is a tourbillon that doubles as a seconds indicator, circling the dial once every minute. The tourbillon’s off-center, arrow-shaped balance bridge points to the seconds. The hand-wound Caliber 9451 MC, another 100-percent in-house manufacture movement, has several unique features, according to Cartier. First, the tourbillon carriage is positioned at the center of the movement and has a special rotational axis. It requires a totally different gear-train design, from the two barrels of the movement through to the display of the hours and minutes. Second, the balance staff and escapement wheel staff are not on the same rotational axis as the carriage, but are located on the carriage’s side in linear alignment with the rotational axis. Finally, the tourbillon is positioned above the movement between the two-tiered dial instead of being integrated into the movement, as in classic tourbillons. Look for Cartier to continue to create new and unusual mechanicals. “We’ll come out with quite a number of new, highly complicated watches in the next two or three years,” Fornas says. “We’ll continue to push a lot.”
The Calibre de Cartier watch has a seconds subdial and a calendar window and comes in rose gold, steel or steel-and-rose-gold versions. It features a smooth, slanted bezel and a 120-notch fluted ring at the edge of the dial. Cartier executives see the collection as a means to “re-engage with our male customers,” as Emmanuel Perrin, CEO of Cartier North America, puts it. “Lately we have been focusing more on the women’s side,” Perrin says. “It’s not that we don’t know how to make a great men’s watch. Look at the Tank or the Santos, great iconic watches that are still very desirable. It’s very important for men to perceive Cartier as an innovator, as a technical craftsman, not to be dismissed as just jewelry for their wives. It is jewelry for their wives, definitely. But that’s not the only craft we have under the roof of the House. We are addressing the high-mech craft with the same level of detail as we do our high jewelry.”