In this age dominated by machinery, only art by the hands of craftsmen can inject substance into clocks and watches. Cartier gives time perfect harmony with superb craftsmanship, transforming it into an art, injecting life into mechanical clocks. The ‘Ephemeral. Eternity-Cartier CARTIER Time Art Exhibition’ held by Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art perfectly witnesses Cartier’s deep historical heritage in the field of watchmaking. This exhibition leads visitors to the Cartier Watch Workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, to appreciate the rich creativity and outstanding professional watchmaking craftsmanship.
Master watchmakers at the La Chaux-de-Fonds watch workshop
The long-lasting charm of Cartier watchmaking is not only the result of superb design and superb craftsmanship, but also a complementary and harmonious interpretation of the two. In addition to the fascination of mechanical clocks is reflected in the design, the vitality inherent in them is more closely related to our lives. It is this fusion of mysterious mechanical vitality and its external design that allowed Cartier to make the most of watchmaking craftsmanship, and in the unremitting exploration of the true meaning of time, it will instantly become eternal.
Every year, Cartier Watch Workshop incorporates new complications into the creation of timepieces. The birth of an advanced watchmaking movement requires a long, complicated and rigorous research and development process, which perfectly integrates master craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology. The movement design not only requires impeccable function, but also needs to be the cornerstone of the watch design, so that the mechanical performance and aesthetic design of the watch can be perfectly combined. It takes several years for a complex-function movement to be fully worked out by the watch designer, and dozens of techniques are used by a number of experienced craftsmen before it can be finally formed. Designing and making a Cartier watch movement requires not only mastery of professional skills, but also profound refinement and elegance, both of which are indispensable.
Make large solid models to verify the functionality of the entire movement
It all starts with a flash of light. Movement designers first sketched their ingenuity with simple lines, and made hand-drawn sketches showing all the retouched details for the new mechanism. These planar sketches were then converted into 3D drawings of each component so that the watchmaker could check the feasibility of the design. Only on this basis can large solid models be made to verify the function of the entire movement. Then a series of movement prototypes are made and carefully inspected one by one to pass the final review. At each stage of the movement’s development, the movement design is continuously tested and improved based on the results of ergonomics, aesthetic modifications, and other quality control. The results reflect the philosophy that Cartier Watch Workshop has always upheld during the development of the movement-the perfect combination of mechanical performance and aesthetic design.
Movement modification and assembly
The hand finishing of the fine watchmaking movement gives each timepiece its unique charm. Before the final assembly, master craftsmen with superb finishing skills are responsible for decorating the movement in person. They uphold the tradition of craftsmanship over a century, using different tools and techniques to manually polish each part of the movement.
Whether directly into the eyes or hidden in the dark, the exquisite decoration of the movement’s parts and components has made each fine watchmaking work unique and unique. The best way to fully appreciate the complexity of this decorative art is to appreciate the structure of each movement through the watchmaker’s magnifying glass. The table bridge is chamfered by a polishing machine. The fine file grinding on the side does not affect the polishing of the corners. At the same time, the surface of some specific parts needs to be mirror polished. Sometimes it takes fifteen hours to decorate a single component. In the ‘openwork’ movement like a miniature building, the precision and complexity of its craftsmanship are unparalleled.
The watchmaker completes the assembly of the movement’s components in a strictly controlled environment
Watchmaking masters are like a conductor in a microcosm, assembling hundreds of parts by hand to give timepieces life. Only experienced and skilled watchmakers can create high-end watchmaking works. Because to assemble a complex function movement, you must be familiar with the function of each component. After decades of professional training, their accumulated experience enables them to master the various professional skills required for the assembly and adjustment of complex-function watches. Gears, ruby bearings, escapement, screws and bridges, each component is carefully assembled in strict order to ensure the perfect operation of the movement.
Mineral crystal mirror production
As a master of styling watches, Cartier can make its own mineral crystal mirrors for watches. And this advantage has given Cartier more creative space. With its exquisite craftsmanship, mineral crystals have been crafted into a variety of complex modeling mirrors, paired with unique cases such as Crash, Tank Américaine or Tonneau watches. Each mirror is hand-made and heated with a welding gun at 600 ° C until a perfect curve is formed. Masters of craftsmanship rely on a pair of smart eyes to control the shape, and judge the quality of the work based on the reflection effect on the mirror surface. Subsequently, the outer surface of the mirror surface was manually polished to remove burrs and smooth the edges, making it easier for the mirror surface to be embedded in the case.
Making slim hands requires extra care, ingenuity, and sensitivity. The pointers come in a variety of shapes, including sword-shaped, apple-shaped, diamond-shaped, or hammer-shaped. Blue steel hands first appeared in Cartier’s work in the early 20th century. They have two thicker apple-shaped and sword-shaped shapes, and have been used ever since. Each pointer is cut by a high-precision punch, arranged by hand one by one, and then heated at a high temperature of 340 degrees to obtain the blue steel effect that Cartier loves. If the heating time or temperature is slightly different, the coloring process must be repeated again.
The manufacturing process of the dial is self-contained, often involving mysterious craftsmanship passed down from generation to generation. Cartier is good at creating a variety of enamel crafts on the guilloche chassis. It is called the guilloche master of art. This aesthetic design is often used to decorate the dial of watches. Cartier has introduced small table clocks with enamel dials since 1909. Following this tradition, the production of such dials requires extremely rare techniques. First, the dial’s metal base is engraved with a radial pattern and an arc-shaped guilloche pattern called flinqué, followed by a translucent enamel layer. During firing, temperature control affects the entire process. At this stage, any mistake will cause irreparable damage to the dial, which cannot be used but can only be scrapped. In addition, iconic symbols such as the minute track, Roman numerals, and secret signatures make Cartier’s dial visible at a glance. Silver-plated, sunray-patterned, grained, engraved, inlaid with gemstones or mother-of-pearl, allows the dial to carry the brand’s endless creativity. Cartier has been known for its sophisticated watchmaking skills since it began making watches in 1853. The relentless pursuit of excellence and perfection has made Cartier’s timepieces show an extraordinary level of mechanical production and a high level of aesthetic and artistic accomplishments. Cartier’s designers, watchmakers and craftsmen have created a unique and unique Cartier watch through the perfect control of every detail such as the movement, mirror, dial and hands.
Cartier launched the Tonneau Barrel-shaped watch in 1906, and its curved case opened a new era. Tonneau watch, 1908, Cartier, Paris
‘Ephemeral. Eternity-Cartier Time Art Exhibition’ through more than 180 precious timepieces spanning more than a century, leading visitors to explore Cartier’s historical heritage, extraordinary aesthetics, excellent craftsmanship and breakthrough innovation in the field of watchmaking. This is also the first time Cartier has showcased its masterpieces of mechanical timepieces in China. The exhibition also invites watchmakers from the Swiss Watch Workshop of Cartier to showcase a variety of rare and exquisite watchmaking craftsmanship.
Pavilion: Shanghai Contemporary Art Museum, 7th floor (200 Huayuangang Road, Shanghai)
Duration: July 19-October 12, 2014
Opening hours: 11: 00-19: 00 (closed at 18:00), closed on Mondays
Master watchmaking craftsmanship
Movement assembly August 21 – August 23; movement chamfering September 4 – September 6
Movement assembly September 18 – September 20; enamel craft October 2 – October 4