In its Maison des Métiers d’Art in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Cartier creates artisanal dials for manufacture watches. WatchTime was among a group who were the first visitors to the facility. In this feature from the WatchTime archives, we offer an inside look.
The field next to Cartier’s giant, ultra-modern, glass-walled watch manufacturing facility in La Chaux-de-Fonds was, until recently − and for hundreds of years before − a farm. On it to this day stands a Bernese-style, four-story farmhouse, built in 1872. A few years ago, Cartier acquired the field and the farmhouse. Now the house has been transformed into a center for artisans whose crafts are used to produce Cartier watches, particularly watch dials.
Called the Maison des Métiers d’Art, the facility opened last fall after a three-year restoration of the farmhouse. It houses 28 craftspeople who work on two floors in an unusual open-space plan designed to encourage exchanges of information between the artisans. On the second floor are the jewelry crafts (gem-setting, jewelry making, polishing, granulation, and filigree work). On the third floor are the crafts of enameling (six different kinds), a traditional craft used in dial making; as well as newer, more exotic ones like marquetry (using wood and straw) and stone mosaic. There are meeting rooms on the first floor; on the sloped-roof fourth floor is a mezzanine for meetings and exhibitions. “The snug atmosphere of the Maison des Métiers d’Art evokes a beehive,” Cartier says, “with periods of great concentration, exchanges about traditional techniques and the development of specific tools. This is how forgotten expertise is rediscovered and the craftspersons work hard to understand its secrets and further develop it.” The new workshop is part of a growing trend to emphasize the artistic side of fine watchmaking, using both traditional and unusual crafts to create products that combine high art and high horology. Scroll down to see photos.
On the following pages are examples of Cartier watches with complex, intricate manufacture dials that are now produced in the new Maison.