Cartier’s director of movement development works her magic in transforming the house into a genuine manufacture.
By Laurie Kahle, September 05, 2011
What are the biggest influences that shape your approach to watchmaking?
A very strong influence comes from my childhood. As a child, I played in my father’s watchmaking workshop in France. I was keen on dismantling mechanisms to understand their operation. It’s like going to school—you start by learning the alphabet before you can read. When you work with a brand such as Cartier, you must relearn the alphabet of the house and study the history and codes of the brand. Then you use those elements to write the next page. The difficulty in all that is to arrive at the right things. Just because you know the alphabet doesn’t make you Shakespeare.
What inspired the Astrotourbillon?
The Astrotourbillon is a reinterpretation of very a classical, very old complication. I wanted to come back to the essence of the tourbillon. The idea was to magnify this complication and take the tourbillon cage out of the movement and put it above the dial. It doesn’t do anything more than a classical tourbillon, but it is a different creative expression. I wanted to create a magic tourbillon. It is magic, even for people who don’t know anything about watches, because you can see the hand covering the 360 degrees in a minute. For those who are technicians, they understand how it has been designed, and they understand how impressive it is.
Of your most recent introductions, which model proved to be the most interesting and challenging for you to develop?
That was the Astroregulateur by far. It is something brand new in the industry, and when you bring in new ideas it’s always more difficult to execute and realize those ideas. You have to learn the hard way. We almost stopped the project for various reasons. At that time, the design process was over, and we were about to launch the production of the prototypes. I told them it was too late because production has already started, and we started production the next day
What is the key to designing complicated watches for women?
Developing a ladies’ watch does not consist of taking a small, complex movement and putting it into a ladies’ case. To me, making complicated watches for women means doing something different, something that does not exist. Two years ago, we developed a skeleton movement in a Pasha for ladies with the skeleton depicting a panther’s head. This year, we placed a crocodile in a tourbillon watch. A ladies’ complication must be some kind of magic complication. It must not refer to technique. Even though we need technique to design those complications, it must be perceived as something magical, not something technical. A woman who can afford such a watch expects the watch to make her dream. What makes men dream is technique, automobiles for example, but what makes ladies dream is magic.
Why do you think there has been such a strong resurgence in métiers d’art?
You have to realize that Cartier has a long heritage and tradition in those arts. We have always produced those pieces, but this year, we really emphasized that side of production. It’s just a fashion. Some years ago, we had a similar fashion for the finish of the movements—they wanted the movements decorated and so forth. And all the manufacturers at that time communicated a lot about movement finishes. Today, the emphasis has moved to métiers d’art.
How is Cartier’s watchmaking image evolving?
We have experienced remarkable change since the launch of the fine watchmaking collection in 2008. Cartier has moved from being a purchaser of movements to a real manufacture. We carry out all the functions linked to movement development—development, production, assembly. This makes it possible to build creative momentum by being in control of the development process. In 2010, we developed the ID Concept watch, which made it possible to enhance R&D. Thanks to the integration of all functions, Cartier can express itself in original and creative ways and demonstrate technical expertise.
A fine watchmaking collection must be built up over the long term. It is not enough to have a good year. You must progress continuously year in and year out. We want to move forward with a gradual approach to complications. This type of process is aligned to the fact that developing a movement takes a very long time—two to five years—so this a long-term vision.