In the intimacy of Cartier?s Tradition workshops
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    Apr 2005

    Picture In the intimacy of Cartier’s Tradition workshops

    From our Special Reporter

    In Geneva, Cartier’s flagship has been reopen beginning of November after several months.
    The flagship store is now the biggest in Europe.

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    Enter the secret room behind the wall
    But who would have imagined that in this corner street shop , behind a moving wall, were
    hidden the Restauration workshops of the brand ? Getting in there is a tough job. Only a few
    VIPs, including your devoted, had the honor and chance to enter this secret garden.

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    The restoration workshop is one unique room, large enough to welcome two watchmaker’s
    benches and a couple of furnitures. This is the particularity of the workshop : very small, only
    two experts, full time devoted to restore pieces from the early past century.

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    Two doctors looking after unique extraordinary vintage pieces
    Under their loupes, there is not a whole bunch of open movements. These very skilled
    watchmakers work only on two or three pieces at the time. It can go from extremely rare
    complications to simple three-hands watches or clocks but with an historical interest. Some
    of them are ‘simple’ gold pieces, but many of them are adorned with true jewelry artwork –
    jewelry being the very first job of Cartier.

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    Back in the 1920’s – 1930’s, LeCoultre was the dedicated supplier of calibers for Cartier.
    Edmond LeCoultre and Louis Cartier were close friends. The brand EWC (European Watches
    & Clocks) was even what we would have called a joint venture between them, EWC being
    Cartier’s exclusive supplier of blanks. Today, Cartier gets back some of these old pieces
    through two different chanels : auctions or public sales (even on the internet), and sales
    of private collectors.

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    Mandatory restoration
    All the collected pieces are fully restored – Cartier provides all its clients with a lifetime
    warranty of restoration. Afterwards, some are kept for Cartier’s own legacy collection,
    while some other are reinjected into the sales process, only in boutiques. As for now,
    Cartier’s network offers 300 of these restored vintage pieces, split over 10 stores in the world.

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    Sometimes, the brand has some surprises. Good ones, in fact : one day, Cartier saw
    on a website a Grande Complication pocket watch from 1920’s, for sale at 5,5 millions
    CHF. This piece was so unique that Cartier made the trip to Hamburg were the piece
    was located. It reminded the brand a piece that had been stolen a couple of years before.
    The intuition was correct : this outstanding piece was the one Cartier was looking for for
    ages ! It went back (for free, obviously not for the 5,5 millions requested) in Cartier’s
    Tradition department.

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    High pressure job
    Being one of the two watchmakers of the Tradition workshop is a privilege in the company,
    granted only for most skilled ones. The reason is simple : restoring such vintage pieces not
    only requires true watchmaking skills but also a huge culture of early XXth century, as well
    as the ability to recreate some parts of these old ladies. For that purpose, the two doctors
    were given by Cartier all the required tools (including the most sophisticated ones) to rebuild
    any part from any watch. In fact, as if the restoration workshop was a small manufacture in
    the manufacture...

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    The workshop obviously repair all types of calibers from any watch or clock. Some complicated
    pieces, such as Répétition Minutes or Pendules Mystérieuses may require up to one full month
    of dedicated work. The watchmaker in charge of this amazing job is reponsible for ‘his’ piece
    from the very first day to the moment where it’s sent back to the client.

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    Needless to say that the pressure is way higher on these two people than on any other of their
    peers in the La Chaux-de-Fonds manufacture : in Geneva, they work only on unique pieces,
    all broken or badly injured, not produced for ages and most of the time without any proper
    information attached ! Extreme watchmakers for an extreme job, in a nutshell...

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    Olivier Müller, live from Geneva, Switzerland
    Images © David Carteron / Delos Communications

    Visit the Cartier website
    Last edited by Ernie Romers; November 28th, 2013 at 19:00.
    Best regards,

    Ernie Romers
    Founder and former site owner,

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