A delicate balancing act

The maison is 'known by many, owned by few and dreamt about by all', particularly across Asia, writesPin Lee

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 5:13pm

Cartier recognised the vast potential in Asia decades ago. The maison's presence is virtually a timeline of the region's economic development, opening an outlet in Hong Kong in 1970, one in Singapore in 1973, another in Tokyo in 1974 and the first of more than 40 on the mainland in 2001.

Today, of its 300 or so boutiques worldwide, a significant number serve an Asian clientele.

So it is as an established partner to Asia that Cartier participates in Watches& Wonders.

"Since the invention of the wristwatch in 1904, Cartier has been pushing back the boundaries of watchmaking," says Stanislas de Quercize, CEO and president of Cartier International. "Being part of Watches&Wonders is a unique opportunity for our maison to showcase not only fine watches, reflecting Cartier's extensive creative patrimony, but also a large selection of contemporary timepieces which exemplify our core values: excellence, craftsmanship and defining style."

What could exemplify this more than the Tank MC, an elegant yet masculine version of the timeless Tank? The famous rectangular face is wider, but the look is still Tank, with the guilloché dial, the "rail-track" and the Roman numerals. Tank MC is a self-winding watch, and its movement, the 1904 MC, was the very first produced by Cartier Manufacture.

Watches&Wonders visitors will see Tank MC in several variations, including cases in all-steel or pink gold, and dials in white or chocolate. Highlights include a diamond-set version and a skeletonised timepiece in palladium.

De Quercize promises more revelations. "It will also be a premiere as, for the first time in Asia, we will present both Cartier ID One and Cartier ID Two." Carter ID One was the first adjustment-free watch. Cartier ID Two is an energy-efficient watch, consuming less and storing more energy.

Twin duo-level barrels with fibreglass springs store 30 per cent more energy than a comparable mechanical watch, and a revolutionary gear train and escapement transmit 25 per cent more energy to the oscillator. The trademarked Airfree technology creates a vacuum in the case so that the oscillator consumes 37 per cent less energy.

One commentator says: "It could very well be the singularly most important timepiece for mechanical watchmaking, as a whole, over the next generation."

By presenting these concept watches to Asia at Watches&Wonders, Cartier compliments its Asian customers on their interest in groundbreaking watchmaking technology.

Asia is also known for its appreciation of high jewellery and fine watches. At Watches&Wonders, Cartier will uphold the great tradition of the house by showing some superlative collections, including its iconic timepieces, high jewellery watches and the Fine Watchmaking and Métiers d'Art collections, as well as a selection of new and exclusive watches for men.

Among the highlights is the Rotonde de Cartier Double Mystery Tourbillon, a watch that marries the elegant simplicity of its good looks with a lovely technical achievement - a tourbillon which seems to be suspended in space. The Calibre 9454 MC is a flying tourbillon that turns once on its own axis every 60 seconds and appears to be floating 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.

It is housed in a 45mm platinum case, and the watch's design details include a sapphire cabochon crown and a guilloché silvered openwork dial in a sunray effect.

The power reserve is 52 hours. Cartier has the cachet of being jeweller to generations of royalty, aristocrats and the fabulously wealthy in general for more than 165 years.

"Jeweller to kings, king of jewellers", as King Edward VII once said. Or as the firm itself puts it: "The success of the Maison Cartier lies with its ability to strike a delicate balance between being known by many, owned by few and dreamt [about] by all."

At Watches&Wonders, visitors will see magnificent jewellery which may be worn as ornaments on a watch or as separate pieces of jewellery.

They will also see the extraordinary Métiers d'Art pieces, a limited-edition series of watches of which each piece is a genuine work of art in itself. The dials were created by skilled craftsmen such as enamellers, sculptors, engravers and specialists in marquetry.

One Ronde Louis Cartier watch depicts a clown fish and seascape rendered in glowing enamels and mother of pearl, surrounded by a bezel of diamonds, while a prancing horse on another model requires 40 hours of expert enamelling.

A Santos Dumont model uses high-relief hand engraving and champlevé enamel to depict a falcon.

For a Rotonde de Cartier watch, the chosen dial motif is a cameo crocodile in natural agate.

Perhaps the most surprising - and impressive - is the lion, again on a Rotonde de Cartier model. The lion is executed in straw marquetry, which gives a realistic look.