Cartier has five facilities in Switzerland, but the Cartier manufacture is in La Chaux-de-Fonds; everything from the Cartier Fine Watchmaking tourbillon to the Santos 100 is made there in one way or other. This provides an overview of the Cartier manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the processes in creating a watch; each department will be explored in more detail in later posts. This report also provides exclusive peeks into certain areas of the manufacture never seen before anywhere else.
Manufacture Cartier possesses a high degree of vertical integration and in it one can see almost every single process in creating a watch. At many firms the various steps are done in various places, but at Cartier it is all under one roof at La Chaux-de-Fonds. The benefits of vertical integration are primarily speedier time to market, greater flexibility in production and a higher level of quality control. On average, a third of any one component used in production, be it hands, dial or even screws, is made in-house by Cartier and mostly at La Chaux-de-Fonds.
A notable benefit to the consumer of this manufacturing capability is the nearly unlimited availability of parts. If the spare part is out of stock, even if it is a case, crown or bracelet, which is more difficult to replace than movement components, it can be manufactured. Parts for vintage timepieces are also made here, including hard-to-find bits like the balance wheel and accompanying timing screws.
Completed in 2000, the La Chaux-de-Fonds manufacture consolidates what was previously a disparate number of production sites into one 33,000 m2 manufacture. It currently houses more than 1000 employees, engaged in every aspect of watch production. It is a very large building – in all it took over more than eight hours over two days to cover practically every area of the manufacture. I was fortunate enough to be shown around by Pierre Piffeteau, Customer Service Manager, and Sebastien Mathey, head of the restoration workshop.
Cartier's immediate neighbour to the right happens to be the revered Geneva house of Patek Philippe
The view of the staff canteen on the ground level from the rear of the building
Of course, size in itself means nothing and could even be a weakness as the spirit of craftsmanship could be lost. But Cartier has managed to preserve artisan skills – the manufacture has its own enamelling workshop with three full time enamellers as well as a high jewellery workshop where spectacular, sculptural jewellery watches are made by hand. Movement component finishing also has its own atelier, where anglage and other top-end decorative finishing is hand-applied.
These skills are evident in the high-end Cartier watches, ranging from the high watchmaking complications to the enamelled watches. These are of course separate from the entry to mid-range watches, which are excellent products at their price point, but accessibly priced, honest products, not high horology. It is Cartier’s wide range of products, from the affordable to the Astrotourbillon, that make this vastly impressive manufacture possible, where economies of scale exists alongside skilful, artisanal work.
Each of the areas of the manufacture will be explored in the follow-up posts below.
click here for Part I.
This message has been edited by SJX on 2010-08-21 23:31:13