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In Cartier’s 33,000m² manufacture, over 1,500 employees exercising 175 different crafts create the Ballon Bleu, Tank, Santos, Pasha, Roadster and Calibre collections.
"Along with the fantasy and aesthetic beauty provided for its customers, Cartier has constantly sought to bring innovation from the outset. “True innovation means clearing new paths never taken before and thinking up novel solutions. Innovation means starting with a blank sheet to tackle problems that mean something to the customer, be they long-standing problems never satisfactorily solved, or very new ones, keeping in mind the desire for ever more reliability or new functions. It means having not just one, but several ideas, because you need a lot of ideas to arrive at an innovation, with some being discarded in the process. The challenge of innovation is the ability to point the way while remaining capable of transposing solutions in series. The principle of the concept-watch has one essential advantage: it lets you set your course without being fixated on the means, and offers you the ongoing ability to adapt to certain pitfalls.” Edouard Mignon, Product and Services Director, in charge of Cartier Watchmaking
At Cartier, innovation can be seen in the watches themselves, but also in the methods and state of mind.
“We have totally rethought the organisation of our Manufacture by bringing together professions, workforce and talents. As of now, we have grouped crafts traditionally kept apart, and for example, only a few meters now separate the most sophisticated CNC work stations from materials derived from other industries, destined to express a vision of the future and point the way forward.”
In 2012, Cartier took another step forward with the release of Cartier ID Two, building on the key elements of Cartier ID One and adding a new mission of technological exploration: to halve a watch’s energy consumption by increasing its power while reducing friction and losses.
While Cartier ID Two is a concept watch that will remain a unique piece, it highlights new technological prospects that tomorrow will culminate in opening up possibilities of miniaturisation, of functions unthinkable up till now and levels of performance never before achieved.
In 2009, Cartier introduced a watch called ID One. It was designed as a completely adjustment and lubricant free watch. This is an incredible achievement in a mechanical watch because over time, the oil – very much like the oil in your car engine – will simply cease to ease the friction created in the gears and drive chain.
The precision with which ID One was created is so precise that zero adjustment is required during assembly, and adjustment timeis big time, fully 30% of the time required to completely assemble a watch. This means ID One cut back significantly on production time. The ID One was also shock proof and immune to temperature, and magnetic fields.
ID One focused on the improvement of the regulating element. Now ID Two’s approach is far more radical. It completely re-thinks how every aspect of a watch should be.
Nothing was ruled out. The case is made from a single block of ceramic called Ceramyst. This transparent new skin is vacuum sealed using inspiration borrowed from the automotive industry. This is the first stab in the direction of an energy efficient watch, which on average simply wastes around 75% of its stored energy. If watches ran on petrol you can bet this technology would have been introduced decades ago.
30% overall energy improvement
ID Two has managed to ensure the energy transferred from the barrels to the escapement is used to the max while decreasing the amount of energy consumed by the oscillator.
This means the ID Two can deliver 30% more power while consuming half as much energy as a conventional watch. This gives the watch a 32 hour power reserve in a large 42mm case. This saving is achieved by the springs in the ID Two being made from lightweight fibreglass. Fibreglass is able to store significantly more energy than metal.
You may be old enough to recall the advent of metal tennis rackets – compare them to today’s powerful fibreglass rackets, and you will realise how much they have transformed the whole game.
As for lubricant, for so long a problem with keeping watch parts moving, this is simply bypassed with the use of transparent polymer film.
While the two dual-level barrels with their four fiberglass mainsprings hold up to 30% more energy than a traditional barrel.
Friction cut by one fifth
Again, Cartier has reconfigured the gear train, and changed the material from which it is traditionally made. The new design allows for smaller teeth but higher rates of transfer between the carbon crystal-coated silicone gears. These non-corrosive gears are 60% harder and 70% lighter than steel. This reduces friction by up to one fifth while the anchor and the escape wheel are constructed of carbon crystal down to a single micron - a human hair is generally around 100 microns.
500 times air reduction in the case
By removing air from the case with a high powered vacuum sealed at 99.8% air tightness. This reduces air particles inside the case, made in two parts, by 500 times less than the normal level of air found inside a conventional watch case. And it's all achieved without screws. This dramatically reduced air reduction improves oscillator consumption by 37%.
The result is 30% more energy with a power reserve of 32 days in a solid, lubricant free, virtually air tight and screw free case. Not surprisingly, there are no less than six patents pending.
A vision of the future
But of course, concept watches such as Cartier ID One and Cartier ID Two were not designed to be marketed, despite the years of research and all the investment that went into making them. Their role is to express a vision of the future and point the way to future goals.
Each of the innovations they contain may one day become a reality. For example, Cartier’s new Astrotourbillon Carbon Crystal watch, presented in July 2012, uses some of the technological solutions tried and tested in Cartier ID One: the niobium-titanium case, carbon crystal components, and the adjustment-free and lubrication-free pallet and escapement wheel.
At Cartier the future looks clever, and very bright.