Cartier never fail to deliver the goods when it comes to their SIHH collection – historically offering a large range of new goodies with everything from consumer-friendly steel all the way up to fabulous, one-of-a-kind jewelled masterpieces. And while we’ll have to wait a few more days to see what’s in store for 2017, this early release already has us intrigued.
This limited edition of 30 uses the Ronde Louis Cartier XL as a starting point – a very traditional white gold canvas, framed prettily with a bezel of baguette-cut diamonds. But it’s the dial where the magic happens. Cartier has a strong interest in artistic crafts – or Métiers d’Arts if you prefer – and has invested in a sizeable facility dedicated to fostering these niche skills. This year they’re showing off a brand-new technique called flamed gold, inspired by the traditional manual heating of hands (and screws) to a rich blue, a technique originally developed to harden these key components. Cartier’s artists have taken this originally utilitarian skill to a whole new place, giving life to a multi-coloured panther by applying heat to the solid gold dial. Greater temperature results in a deeper blue, so the first step is to evenly heat the dial to the rich blue we see in the background. Then parts of this oxidised layer are brushed off before a slightly lower heat is applied to give a lighter shade of blue. This process is repeated many (many) more times until the softest hues of brown and beige are achieved. It’s painstaking work, but even from the press pictures it’s clear the effort is worthwhile.
Stepping back from the detail of this particular watch, it will be interesting to see if and how Cartier’s latest collection responds to the Richmont Group’s recent lacklustre performance and the current shaky global economic situation. Should we read the announcement of this new flame technique as a coded message that the brand isn’t worried about getting burnt in a volatile marketplace? Or can we expect chez Cartier to be much quieter this year? We’ll find out soon enough.