Cartier’s ability to create inventive and artistic styles of watchmaking is something that’s a definitive part of their identity. Beginning with their mystery clocks, the jeweler-watchmaker has always sought to have a different conversation around timekeeping, to capture the artistry of reading time along with the precision of doing so.

The Métiers d’Art division has always been an important part of Cartier’s manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and has steadily grown since the maison set aside an entire building for this division. What was once the barn of the farmland that Cartier had acquired for the manufacture was completely converted into a space where artistes, craftsmen, jewelers and enamelers share and interact, researching old and new ways of specific crafts.

Cartier’s maisons are highlights of the brand and the group, contributing to its great success

Over the years, Cartier has developed bold designs and rediscovered old jewelry techniques such as granulation, and modernized them for the future. Other techniques include floral marquetry, wood marquetry, gold filigree and much much more. As CEO of Cartier, Cyrille Vigneron, says in his video interview with our founder Wei Koh, “[these are] beautiful know-hows and métiers that can fit very well, whether it’s marquetry with straw or wood or with stones, or champlevé or cloisonné enamel, and the many things combined together can make such beautiful shapes and design. By exploring that, is kind of exploring creativity in the constraint of having a very small dial.”

This year, the brand adds two new techniques developed at the Maison de Métiers d’Art in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Both are amalgamations of various crafts on a single watch, which is truly impressive. We’ll start with the Ronde Louis Cartier Enamel Filigree Watch, which is a little easier to understand. Combining filigree with enameling, the artistes first create the artwork frame, which is a panther in a bamboo forest amidst a snowy evening.

The Ronde Louis Cartier Enamel Filigree combines the techniques of enameling with gold filigree.
The Ronde Louis Cartier Enamel Filigree combines the techniques of enameling with gold filigree.

The background is done in miniature painting for the sky and bamboo in the backdrop. Then the outlines of the panther and the placement of the black enamel spots are created in gold wire, into which the enamel is added before firing. The bamboo in the foreground is done differently, with the enamel heated to create the green glass for the bamboo, which is then stretched to create the effect of the bamboo texture. Then it’s set and fixed on to the dial with gold strands.

The entire dial from start to its finished product.
The entire dial from start to its finished product.

On top of all that, the panther is set in diamonds in a snow setting, with emeralds for its eyes, and the bezel is also set with brilliant-cut diamonds, in all, 269 brilliant-cut diamonds are on the dial, bezel and buckle, with another capping the crown. This model is limited to 30 pieces worldwide, individually numbered.

The bas relief like dial is crafted with a combination of various crafts, from straw marquetry to gold marquetry and enameling.
The bas relief like dial is crafted with a combination of various crafts, from straw marquetry to gold marquetry and enameling.

The Ronde Louis Cartier Straw and Gold Marquetry Watch is the second and more complicated model. It combines straw marquetry with gold and enameling techniques to create a rendering of a life-like panther on the dial. In order to accomplish this, the jewelry artisans had to guide the marquetry artisans so that they were able to combine the crafts on a single dial.

Starting with the base design, the craftsman begins to assemble the details of the panther.
Starting with the base design, the craftsman begins to assemble the details of the panther.

Starting with a base that outlines the entire dial, the craftsman begins to place the various elements piece by piece. 75 blades of straw in different sizes and 11 colors make up the various parts. Then, yellow gold wires are carefully embedded with the straw marquetry, distinguished by how they catch the light.

In the straw and gold marquetry, tiny slivers of straw in various colors are placed carefully in position, mixed with strands of gold.
In the straw and gold marquetry, tiny slivers of straw in various colors are placed carefully in position, mixed with strands of gold.

Further more, enameling on the black spots of the panther’s coat, eyes as well as the details in the background, which is combined with miniature painting to create that vivid starry black on the dial. The combination of the various elements require not just concentration but also the thoughtful arrangement of each straw piece, gold strand to create the image of this powerful feline on the watch. Each dial requires over 100 hours of hand work, of which 97% is spent just the dial alone.

The model is issued in a limited edition of 30 pieces, similar to the Ronde Louis Cartier Enamel Filigree. Both models are powered by the 430MC manual winding caliber, a familiar Cartier movement found in many of its Métiers d’Art watches. These are absolutely stunning creations that describe a world of watchmaking that goes beyond the appreciation of time, to the preservation of unique crafts for the future.

Ronde Louis Cartier Enamel Filigree

Technical Specifications

Movement

Manual winding Cartier 430MC caliber; hours and minutes; 3Hz 38-hour power reserve

Case

36mm case in 18K white gold; 9.13mm thick; dial with panther motif in enamel filigree; 269 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel, dial and buckle; crown set with brilliant-cut diamond; limited to 30 pieces

Strap

Blue alligator leather strap

Ronde Louis Cartier Enamel Filigree
Ronde Louis Cartier Straw and Gold Marquetry

Technical Specifications

Movement

Manual winding Cartier 430MC caliber; hours and minutes; 3Hz 38-hour power reserve

Case

42mm case in 18K white gold; straw and gold marquetry on panther motif dial with enameling and miniature painting; crown set with sapphire cabochon; limited to 30 pieces

Strap

Gray alligator leather strap

Ronde Louis Cartier Straw and Gold Marquetry