Cartier Restoration Workshop Geneva

Cartier Tradition Workshop in the intimacy

Cartier restores all of its vintage watches. Two watchmakers are dedicated to this hard task. Their workshop is secretly hidden in Cartier’s Geneva boutique.

By Olivier Müller

What if the most secret workshop of Cartier was Geneva downtown, in the biggest european flagship of the brand ? Impossible ? Yes, from a streetview, it is. But with an insider perspective, that’s possible. In Geneva, Cartier’s walls move.

No machines are used during restoration process. Every operation is made by hand

The scene happened a couple of days ago. Cartier gave a few happy ones the possibility to visit the brand new, refreshed, flagship store at a corner of the Rue du Rhone. It’s an impressive store. Almost any watch currently manufactured by Cartier in 2013 can be seen there. With more than 700 m2 dedicated to sales, and three times more for the whole boutique, this Cartier flagship is the second biggest one in Europe, just behind Moscow.

Cartier Tradition workshops are hidden behind a moving wall in Geneva’s boutique

But, wait: 700 m2 dedicated to sales, 2000 m2 for the whole building ? Are there some hidden spaces in there ? - Yes, there are.

Secret doors in Geneva’s boutique

Lucky visitors have to go up the stairs and wait to witness something quite unusual. After a short ballet of security guards, one of them push a remote controller that opens what was previously a wall – and which is, in fact, a moving door.

Cartier restores all of its pieces, including rare Mysterious Clocks

Behind it stands a complete fine pieces workshop. Two watchmakers work there. They have one single mission: restore any kind of timepiece that Cartier ever produced. Welcome to the hidden Cartier Tradition workshop.

Mandatory restoration

Since 1983, Cartier gather some extraodinary pieces of its own legacy. Most of the times, these vintage watches are purchased during auctions. But good surprises happen. A couple of years ago, a stolen 5.5 millions CHF Grande Complication from the early 1920’s popped up on a website. Cartier, with the help of local police, took it back.

Back of a Grande Complication from the early 1920’s, based on a LeCoultre caliber.

That’s where the Tradition workshop gets on stage. «Every single piece left on our workbench must leave it in perfect condition», sums up one of the two watchmakers.

To complete that mission, a ‘simple’ graduation in watchmaking is not enough. «We have all spent four years at Cartier to learn its techniques and legacy», follows the man. «On a technical standpoint, as Edmond LeCoultre and Louis Cartier were close friends, almost all our vintage calibers come from LeCoultre. For us, that’s a good start».

Grande Complication from the early 1920’s, based on a LeCoultre caliber

Rebuilding watches, parts, and even tools

Still, the Tradition workshop often have to make again some parts of these vintage calibers: «Before 1950, there were no waterproof or even hermetic watches. Most calibers from this period have been seriously damaged». At a point that, in some cases, watchmakers also have to rebuild the original tools to make some parts again, following the original process.

Replacinf the escapement

In the end, these ‘new old Cartier watches’ stay in Cartier’s museum, or are proposed for sale. 300 of these fine pieces are currently dispatched in 10 boutiques. It goes from Grande Complication to 3-hands watches, through the famous «pendules mystérieuses» that made Cartier famous a century ago. And they have all been restored in this secret room of Geneva’s boutique!

Cartier Tradition workshops are located just a few meter from Geneva’s Lake

And receive each week a custom selection of articles.

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