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Cartier has maintained a long history of superior jewelry making, dating back to 1847. In 1904, Brazilian pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont told Louis Francois Cartier that his pocket watch was neither reliable nor practical for aviation purposes. In response to his friend's complaint, Cartier designed a wristwatch with a slim case and a square bezel named the "Santos" - the first Cartier men's watch, and an enduring part of their collection.
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  • Cartier - Rotonde Double Mystery Tourbillon

    Slightly closer inspection will reveal the magic concealed in the mechanism. Indeed the flying tourbillon, which turns once on its own axis every 60 seconds, appears to be floating completely free in space, with no visible connection to any gear train. The illusion is complete when the same tourbillon cage starts to perform a second rotation at a rate of one turn every five minutes. This product of Cartier's creative daring and watchmaking know-how, the Double Mystery Tourbillon, is the quintessence of more than a hundred years of mystery creations from the Maison.In its simple elegance, which masks unbelievable complexity, the Rotonde de Cartier watch highlights a totally original mechanical construction named "Double Mystery". The watchmakers of the Cartier Manufacture had to demonstrate boundless ingenuity in order for matter and movement to give birth to this fascinating kinetic sequence. When performing a conjuring trick, the magician has to distract the attention of his audience and convince them, by the illusion he produces, of the existence of preternatural forces. In the Rotonde Double Mystery Tourbillon, the design team took inspiration from the "tricks" of Jean-Eugene Robert- Houdin, the father of modern magic, to create the illusion of levitation. Connoisseurs of watchmaking are aware that the mechanism of the tourbillon, in a vertical position, uses the rotation of the cage in a given time to shield the balance (the regulating organ) from the influence of the gravitational attraction of the Earth by smoothing out regularity errors (done by causing them to occupy every point on a circle in a given time). This fascinating device, set in the heart of the Rotonde Double Mystery Tourbillon, seems to defy the universal laws of gravity, giving the impression that it is floating unsupported in the void, and that its cage, rotating one turn in a minute and performing a complete rotation in its space in 5 minutes, has completely liberated itself from gravity.The watchmakers of the Cartier Manufacture have employed a disc of sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective finish containing an aperture the size of the tourbillon to give the best possible illusion of a cage in a state of levitation. To do this, they set the disc to support the cage in rotation. By doing this and positioning the minute wheel, which propels the oscillator, on the axis designed to limit the "resistance torque" inherent in the mechanism supporting the tourbillon, they succeeded in transmitting its force to the tourbillon, and thus causing the entire device to revolve in space once every 5 minutes. This results in the tourbillon making one full turn of the open, transparent space in 5 minutes, while the cage performs 5 complete revolutions in the same time... The ingenious way of achieving such a result is to place a rack around the edge of this sapphire crystal disc, transforming it into a large gear wheel that performs one revolution every 5 minutes.The 9454 MC Double Mystery Tourbillon movement is the result of long research. For example, numerous calculations were needed to determine the speed of rotation of the different moving parts. To optimise power consumption, the cage of the tourbillon performs one complete rotation in the space dedicated to it over 5 minutes - making it perform one turn per minute would have consumed 25 times as much energy. To improve the mechanical efficiency of this moving organ, the weight of its components had to be reduced to the minimum in order to limit the inertia of the rotating assembly comprising the disc and the titanium tourbillon cage. To compensate for the weight of the regulating organ and the "flying" cage, although the weight of the latter had been reduced to the absolute minimum (0.28 g), a circle segment designed to relieve the toothing has been positioned opposite the tourbillon to restore the equilibrium between the masses, with the effect of creating dynamic balance.    READ OUR "WATCHMAKING 2013" DOSSIER

  • Enameling - Rare Beauty

    IW Magazine - 14 December 2011 

    Enameling is an art that had become increasingly rare in the early days of the mechanical renaissance; during this time, the hand-worked aspects of watchmaking had all but died out. Now, more than twenty years later, work being done by hand is emphasized by many, if not all, high-end mechanical watch companies as both a return to past values and to underscore the preciousness and nobleness of the high-quality, high-priced products they create.

    In this age of mass-produced wares, the handmade mechanical watch with its artisan elements also emphasizes its uniqueness. A hand-painted dial will always be a one-of-a-kind creation because a painter paints the same motif slightly differently each time. Given its extreme level of difficulty and decorative aspect, a traditionally hand-enameled dial is always sought-after.
    One thing that makes enameling so hard to master is the fact that the artist must mix his or her powder agents in just the right way so that they fire evenly in the kiln without splattering, which will happen when too much water has been added to the powder and it begins to boil. If the paste is too dry, it will not stay on the surface for which it was intended. Enamel must be fired many times to achieve its incredible richness and depth.

    After the quartz crisis, miniature enameling had all but died out in Swiss watchmaking, so that almost every complicated hand-enameled dial of this modern age had been done up to just a few years ago by one artist with unmistakable talent: Anita Porchet.
    In the last two decades, Porchet has created beautiful enameled dials for Ulysse Nardin, Patek Philippe, Van Cleef & Arpels, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Jaquet Droz, Hublot and Milus. She created many of these dials in the difficult cloisonne technique, which involves separating the colored fields—practically tracing the outlines of a scene's figures—with miniscule gold threads smaller in diameter than a hair.
    Porchet and her colleagues, which notably includes Dominique Baron, also master other techniques. Champleve is the art of putting the enamel into prepared grooves, while paillonnee sees gold specks fired within the enamel to give it an extra, glittery quality.
    Despite the rarity of this craft, some far-sighted companies have decided for themselves that enameling is so important to them that they have hired and trained in-house enamellers. These companies couldn't be more different from each other and include Ulysse Nardin, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier, Vacheron Constantin and DeLaneau.
    Ulysse Nardin is widely known for the progressive steps it has taken underneath the dial. But this brand, headquartered in Le Locle, has also been a huge proponent of the art of enameling since the day that Rolf Schnyder took it over in 1982. From its Jacquemarts model to various repeaters and, naturally, the Trilogy of Time, Ulysse Nardin collaborated in the earliest days of its modern era with artisans such as Michel Vermot to create wondrously aesthetic dials.

    Schnyder passed away earlier this year, but his life's work continues to live on: this fall, the innovative little brand announced it had acquired Donze Cadrans SA, a dial company specialized in enamel. After many years leading this supplier company, Francine and Michel Vermot decided to retire and sold 100 percent of the business to Ulysse Nardin—the company that played a major role in their growth for the last twenty years.
    The acquisition provides Ulysse Nardin with additional cloisonne and grand feu enamel expertise, while simultaneously cultivating its passion for uniquely beautiful watches.
    "We are very excited about this move as Ulysse Nardin has been instrumental in the revival of enamel and cloisonne craftsmanship," said CEO Patrik Hoffmann. "Not only do we now have enamel and cloisonne techniques in-house, for the past few years we have also had our own dial painting department in which two women paint our own Moonstruck and many more special dials."
    Jaeger-LeCoultre employs about 1,000 in its factory in Le Sentier. Up to just a few years ago, however, none of them had been enamellers. Historically, Jaeger-LeCoultre has famously placed enameled miniatures on the flip side of the Reverso case, uniquely done upon request for a given timepiece's new owner. For the past few years, this artwork has been taken over by self-taught master enameller Miklos Merczel, who creates these miniature masterpieces with a fine brush comprising one single marten hair.
    In 2006, Jaeger-LeCoultre even offered a small series of Reverso models, called the Reverso a eclipses, with paintings enameled on 18-karat gold dials under metal shutters in honor of the Reverso's 75th anniversary. Merczel is meanwhile aided by apprentice Sophie Quenaan in embellishing the manufacture's Reverso models and special series.
    Creating a department within its Geneva workshop just for enameling in 2004, DeLaneau has since re-introduced this magnificent art to the feminine world of high-quality watchmaking.
    "Being a brand solely dedicated to bringing the patrimony of watchmaking to the woman of today, we do not believe that the arts and crafts developed through the centuries should only be geared toward men's watches," previous owner and designer Cristina Thevenaz explained.
    "Handmade pieces in exclusive and often patented designs cannot, of course, be produced in great quantities. The high-fire (grand feu) enamel miniature paintings alone can take up to two months of very delicate and risk-taking craft. Only a small number of pieces leave our Geneva workshops each year."

    DeLaneau's enamellers relish delving into the secrets of this craft. Colored powders, comprising silicium and metallic oxides, are applied by steady hands and then fired in a kiln at the high temperature of 800° C. DeLaneau uses enameling powders from India, known for their vibrancy and purity of color and composition.
    Thevenaz explained, "A great enameller must be not only an artist, but also a bit of an alchemist, as each color has special characteristics that demand that the enameller judge in advance what will happen under the extreme conditions of the kiln. Too much heat and the created color mixture becomes worthless; too little, and it will not achieve perfect flow and translucency."
    Some colors are so difficult that they demand separate firings, while others can only be fired in certain combinations. To create visual depth, as many as fifteen individual layers of enamel are required, each fired separately, increasing risk of damage, and often followed by a polishing stage.
    Once the actual painting is done, the piece is still far from finished. The Geneva technique utilized by DeLaneau requires a transparent coating—called the fondant de finition—be applied in another ten to fifteen layers, adding an unparalleled brilliance and depth to the painting located underneath it and giving the composition a glass-like finish.
    Vacheron Constantin, too, can now boast in-house enameling at its Plan-les-Ouates facility inaugurated in 2004. Sylvia Callovera, who learned the unique art from Anita Porchet along with Dominique Baron, is in charge of beautifying the venerable Geneva manufacture's Metier d'Art pieces.
    Whatever you Fancy
    Van Cleef & Arpels is also a well-known proponent of enameled art, particularly when it comes to the firm's Poetic Complications line. The concept became popular not only for its easily understood mechanics, but also for the fact that its enamel dials allow for cultivated aesthetics making each model unique.
    "In effect, it is the dial that is the determining factor at Van Cleef & Arpels," explains Dominique Baron, the gifted master enameller that Van Cleef & Arpels collaborates with on the Poetic Complications. "The creations by Van Cleef & Arpels effectively give another dimension to time because its representation across the Poetic Complication watches is above all an aesthetic one approaching more of an artistic oeuvre telling a story that one wears on the wrist rather than a watch."
    Van Cleef & Arpels also has a unique program called Art on a Dial, which allows clients to meet with the artisans and designers in Paris and Geneva to create their own extraordinary bespoke dials using a variety of mixed metiers, including enamel. The artisans then translate those ideas and inspirations into renderings: Van Cleef & Arpels suggests the best use of mixed metiers, bringing in specialists in enamel, stone-setting and metalworking to create a unique dial that meets the level of standards of this reputed company.
    Jean Dunand, though not specialized in the art of enamel, also dabbles in it in order to top off the masterful movement of the Tourbillon Orbital—and make it into a unique, one-of-a-kind timepiece that perfectly suits its owner.
    "Only many years of experience can bring perfect results to this craft," Thevenaz sums up. "Even then, the finesse required is so delicate that pieces are often ruined because of conditions outside of the enameller's control, such as small differences in the composition of the metal oxides, making the perfect pieces all the more valuable."

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