The Maison des Métiers d’Art

The Maison des Métiers d’Art

A showcase for Cartier's watchmaking craftsmanship

In La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland, Cartier's Maison des Métiers d'Art brings together the most precious artistic crafts applied to watchmaking. Devoted to dialogue and research, this institution focuses on numerous forms of watchmaking expertise. This unique project's ambition and bold challenge is to pioneer, unite and preserve rare skills.

The Maison des Métiers d’Art is located near the Cartier Fine Watchmaking Manufacture, in a Bernese-style farm dating back to the late 18th century. Its architecture represents the successful combination of tradition and modernity. While the spirit of the building has been preserved , the interior has been completely redesigned and equipped with latest technology to produce exceptional timepieces. The Maison des Métiers d'Art is a pioneering act for Cartier, and it represents the challenge of upholding relevancy in modern times while honoring tradition and expert practices.

THE CARTIER ARTISTIC CRAFTS

The craftsmen's work is dedicated to a range of rare crafts including intaglio engraving, gold cloisonné work, arranging stones into mosaics, enameling and floral marquetry. Cartier's repertoire is divided into the art of fire, the art of metalwork and the art of composition, with regular additions of new expert crafts.
Impressive challenges are met through the unparalleled talent of the craftsmen. The results are exceptional creations, a testament to the link between watchmaking constraints and traditional methods. Perfection and beauty emerge on an infinitely small scale.

 

THE ART OF METALWORK
 
GRANULATION

Granulation first appeared in the third millennium B.C. It reached its peak in the eighth century B.C. in Etruscan art. The technique of granulation, which can be likened to sowing seeds of gold, involves creating beads using gold wires that are cut up, rolled in charcoal dust and heated with flame. The gold seeds are then assembled one by one and fuse with the gold sheet in order to create the design.
In 2013, Cartier created a watch with a panther motif through the use of granulation. This luminous feature is made up of nearly 3800 gold beads which are attached to the dial in groups of five. Nearly 3500 firings were necessary to complete it. The engraving of the motif took 40 hours, and nearly 320 hours were required to attach the beads.

FILIGREE

The invention of filigree work is attributed to the Sumerians. The first objects created using this technique, which comes from the cities of Troy and Ur, have been dated to 3000 B.C. Our craftsmen have adapted this technique to Cartier's criteria of excellence and to the scale required for watchmaking. Today, gold or platinum wire are twisted and flattened with a hammer. They are then shaped to form the motif and soldered. When the elements are attached on the sides but not on the bottom, it is known as “openwork filigree.”
In 2015, Cartier reinvents this technique with a watch that combines this ancient art with lacquer and gemstone setting. These techniques come together to create this sublimely beautiful watch, which took ten days to complete the filigree work.

 

THE ART OF FIRE
 
CHAMPLEVÉ ENAMEL

For champlevé enamel, the colored enamel powder is applied in the cavities obtained by removing metal from the dial. The cavities are thus surrounded by strips of metal. Once applied, the enamel is fired and the whole piece is sanded until the desired level of polish is achieved. The creation of the dial of the Santos-Dumont XL hawk motif watch required 30 hours of work and 13 colors of enamel.

GRISAILLE GOLD PASTE ENAMEL

The gold plate is covered with an even layer of black enamel. The enameller uses a needle or a very thin brush to apply a gold paste which he then works to produce the design. The dial is then fired.
In 2014, with the Rotonde de Cartier grisaille gold paste panther motif watch, Cartier rediscovered the grisaille gold paste technique and combined it with enamel.

PLIQUE A JOUR ENAMEL

The motif is traced out using a thread of soldered gold, with a layer of silver or copper placed across the bottom of each cavity that is formed. Once the enamel-work is completed, the bottom surface is dissolved. This allows light to pass through the translucent enamel motifs, which are held in place by extremely thin gold partitions, creating a stained-glass effect. 21 different colors of enamel are used for the dial of the Ronde Louis Cartier XL toucan motif watch, created in 2014.

GRISAILLE ENAMEL

In the case of grisaille enamel, the base of the dial is covered with a layer of black enamel. Once it has been fired, “Limoges white” enamel is applied using a needle or a thin brush. Like a painter, the craftsman produces different tones and highlights the contrasts.
Over 40 hours of work are required to create the dial of the Rotonde de Cartier watch with a tiger motif in grisaille enamel.

 

THE ART OF COMPOSITION
 
STONE MOSAIC

At Cartier, two mosaic techniques complement each other: small miniature square stones that are set on the base of the dial, and irregular-shaped stones known as tesserae make up the pattern. The composition is strictly controlled, and the colors vary according to the nature of the stones. In 2014, Cartier created a dial with a tiger motif composed of a stone mosaic. This spectacular feature includes nearly 500 tiny tesserae and between 30 and 40 hours of work for the base, together with between 25 and 30 hours for the motif.

STRAW MARQUETRY

The straw used by Cartier is chosen for its high quality, sturdiness and sheen. It is split, blade by blade, and then beaten flat with a burnishing bone, cut up with a fret saw, and assembled carefully to make up the motif. Blades of straw in different sizes and shades are juxtaposed as closely as possible to produce volume and depth. Once the motif has been formed, the straw is left in its natural state, without being further processed or polished.
45 hours of work are required to create the dial of the Rotonde de Cartier straw marquetry lion motif watch.

ROSE PETAL MARQUETRY

In 2014, a new artistic craft was introduced for the first time in the Cartier repertoire: floral marquetry. This technique is as rare as it is delicate. The craftsman must undertake a series of painstaking operations: collecting, coloring and then cutting each petal, attached to a thin piece of wood, with a marquetry saw, sometimes referred to as a “crossbow saw”. Once assembled, these pieces form the whole design of the watch. This is an extremely demanding procedure in which a mistake at any stage can lead to the risk of losing all the work accomplished. This highly skilled technique requires enormous concentration, with two weeks of work exclusively dedicated to the marquetry.
A total of three weeks of work are needed to produce the dial of the Ballon Bleu de Cartier floral marquetry parrot motif watch.