Monday, 26 May 2014

Cartier Realises Dreams and Fantasies Through Fine Watchmaking

The year was 1975 – an exotic Central American beauty waltzed into the iconic La Maison de Cartier at Rue de la Paix with a jar, containing two infant crocodiles.

Her request was simple – to have her pet infantile crocodiles immortalised into a beautiful necklace. Years before, she had commissioned the jeweller of kings to a necklace in the form of a serpent. 


Of course, Cartier materialised her request in the form of a yellow gold dual crocodile necklace with 1 023 brilliant-cut fancy intense yellow diamonds, weighing 60.02 carats in total, two navette-shaped emerald cabochons (eyes), 1 060 emeralds, weighing 66.86 carats in total, two ruby cabochons (eyes). And the necklace soon inspired the birth of La Doña collection.

The exotic beauty described in this story was none other than Mexico’s silver screen siren Maria Félix and throughout the decades, the story has turned into a folklore that is synonymous with Cartier’s expertise in turning dreams and desires into highly coveted objet d’arts

What’s more, the expertise is not only restricted to jewellery but also timepieces. As early as 1888, Cartier has been producing wristwatches as well as a large number of pocket and chatelaine watches, followed by the unveiling of the first mystery clocks in 1912, that showcased the miracles of watchmaking. 

Does magic play a significant role in its conception? Certainly not. Rather, it was a juxtaposition of jewellery and watchmaking challenges with a host of complexity and professions. Utmost dedication and passion serve as the bridge that links the goldsmith, the enamelist, the lapidary, the watchmaker and the engraver. Through this unbroken chain, creating impossible commissions and realising fantasies and dreams are possible. 

Each year, the Cartier Manufacture introduces new complications for its timepieces, with fine watchmaking movement is designed over the coirse of a long, complex and demanding process that amalgamates human expertise with the latest technology.

It takes years to perfect a complication movement while an absolute mastery of technique coupled with finely honed sense of elegance is necessary. 

The creative process starts with designers outlining the concept through freehand sketches of the mechanism bases and finishes, later transformed into three-dimensional designs. 

Once the functionality of the movement is checked and a large mock-up is produced, the working prototypes can be built and tested for approval. Next, the mineral crystals are manufactured to ensure unfettered creativity. The crystals are worked manually to obtain the perfect curve by emplying gas torch heating technique at up to 600°C with its outlines hand-polished to create smoothly rounded edges and fits perfectly into the case. 

Next, each component of the movement is hand-finished by craftsmen using specialised tools and traditional techniques. A single component may require more than 15 hours of work to finish. For flawless movement, gears, jewels, escapement, screws and bridges are assembled with extreme order and precision.

The following step challenges the skill and the creativity of the jeweller. Like a full-fledged artist, a jeweller sculpts, melts down the gold and platinum, mixes the alloy and fashion the metals, offering unique and essential insight into the choice of gem, size, and callibrations. 

On the other hand, the gem-setter dresses the creation in colourful precious coats. At this point, the master craftsman governs the play of light and positioning are dictated by the size and make-up of each quintessentially precious stones with supreme flair. As the master of the art of guilloché, a Cartier dial can be recognised instantly via its recognisable trademark rail track, roman numerals and secret signature. 

The dials are either adorned with silvered, sunray, grained or flinqué effects, set with stones or inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Another meticulous dial-decorating technique mastered by the craftsmen of Cartier is  the enamel miniature painting.

To create a single yet exceptional enamel miniature painting, it requires 40 hours of precise work with step-by-step accuracy. 

On a plate of gold covered with four enamel coats acting as the illustration milieu, the motif is painted entirely by hand in five or seven coats on the first layer of enamel using a very fine brush. A flux is then applied in three coats to give the dial its depth and protection, before being fired to at least 750°C to yield the required shade.

Another enameling art, known as grisaille enamel – due to its grey palette and complete absence of colour – requires the enameller to work like a painter. The dial is covered in a coat of glossy black enamel before firing it in the oven, followed by a step by step design painting in Limoges white with a small brush. The motif will gradually appear over the course of 40 working hours and six to eight firing. 

The final result is, voila, the beautiful Les Indomptables de Cartier watch. A limited edition and numbered creation, the watch comes with a separable frog brooch and the dial features 18k white gold with enamel miniature painting of a traditional oriental pond. The dial is also set with 11 brilliant cut diamonds for 0.15 carats and seven sapphires for 0.27 carats. 

The frog brooch, on the other hand, is made from 18k pink gold set with 67 briliant cut diamonds for 1.18 carats; three moonstones for 6.04 carats; eight sapphires for 1.54 carats; and two emeralds for 0.04 carats. 

A serene masterpiece that celebrates the finesse of oriental art and its unparalleled influence to the world, the Les Indomptables de Cartier watch is an absolute must-have investment piece. To secure one, do pay a visit to your nearest Cartier store today.

*Photos courtesy of Cartier/H5

Cartier - Lot C-G05 & 105A Ground & First Floor, Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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