An interview in March 2013 by Paul Boutros

Smart, warm, and gracious, Carole Forestier-Kasapi is Cartier’s watchmaker extraordinaire. Born into a family of watchmakers, her infectious passion for watchmaking is felt the moment she begins speaking. During a brief interview in Geneva during SIHH 2013, Carole explained how proud she is of the 2013 collection developed by the Cartier team.

Carole Forestier-Kasapi, Head of Fine Watchmaking, Cartier
Photo Credit: Cartier

TimeZone (TZ): First, sincere congratulations for winning the “Best Watchmaker Prize” during last year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève! It was a well-deserved honor. Can you tell us how you got started in watchmaking?

Forestier-Kasapi: Thank you, Paul. I was born into it. My parents were watchmakers. My brother is a watchmaker. As a child, I was always in the shop where my father worked and I started dismantling different watches. My brother started in the same way, and wanted just to fix the mechanisms to get them to work. Getting them to work was not my goal. I’ve always been very curious, and like to know how things work – not only regarding horology. My goal was to figure out how the watches worked, and the possibilities to get them to work in a different way.

TZ: We saw so much diversity in this year’s new introductions from Cartier – the Métiers d’Arts, the Mysterious watches, and a new in-house chronograph for the Calibre de Cartier. What sources of inspiration do you and your team draw from to develop new introductions?

Forestier-Kasapi: There are different ways. First of all, I don’t put limits in place. I always try to question everything. For instance, today’s traditional oscillator – the balance wheel with hairspring – that’s not necessarily the best solution. I’m ready to put that into question. Once you have the mindset of putting existing things in question, that pushes you to be more creative and to drive innovation. This was how the Astrorégulateur was born – when we put in question the tourbillon.

Rotonde de Cartier Astrorégulateur
Photo Credit: Cartier

Another source of inspiration is the heritage of Cartier. When I worked with the movements of our historic mysterious clocks, I was inspired. It’s another way to be creative.

Modern Cartier Mystery Clock

TZ: When you presented the Rotonde de Cartier Mystery to the press, you were proud of the fact that 58% of the volume was devoted to the mystery indication. Can you explain why this is so impressive?

Forestier-Kasapi: It’s true, I am proud of it. A large part of the movement is used for the mystery. We managed to develop a movement with a 4 Hz frequency and a power reserve of 48 hours. Most mysterious movements have a very low power reserve. We managed to do this within a small space and maintain a very thin movement, which is a real achievement. I’m probably the only person to appreciate these details!

Rotonde de Cartier Mystery

TZ: Since the launch of Cartier’s Fine Watchmaking Collection in 2008, we’ve seen 47 new references and 16 all new, in-house movements over the past five years. What can we expect to see in the next five years?

Forestier-Kasapi: The development planning up to 2018 is now completed. Our development time is very long – I like to have five years to ensure better solidity and stability. You will see, between 2013 and 2018, there will be some incredible pieces. There will be many new complications that do not exist today. More seriously, the basis of the new collection will be classical pieces. In the Fine Watchmaking Collection, we do need to have tourbillon watches, perpetual calendars, chronographs, etcetera. Once you have all these foundations developed, you can become more creative. The collection will always change. Some calibers will disappear and be replaced by new ones. In five years, there may be a new, completely different chronograph that will replace the central chronograph. We don’t have to have three chronographs in our collection.

Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon

TZ: Will we eventually see more of the ID One and ID Two’s innovations distributed further across Cartier’s watches – even outside of the Fine Watchmaking Collection?

Forestier-Kasapi: Yes, our final goal is to implement all these different technologies within our whole collection. A goal for instance, is to have our caliber 1904 movement be adjustment free. We know this will take some time, and we want to proceed step-by-step. It takes a lot of time to properly industrialize all these new developments.

ID Two Concept Watch

We will never try to go too fast and skip steps. Instead of having a watch without requiring any adjustments, you will have a watch with many problems! We are discovering things every day. We don’t yet understand some of these new technologies completely. We conduct extensive tests and make new discoveries every day. That is a major difference between a traditional development and an advanced technology development. For example, making a tourbillon with a carriage made of titanium or steel – that’s not a big challenge, and it wouldn’t be really fun. We know very well how to design it to be shock resistant. It’s much different when you work with new materials. Things occur that you didn’t know before.

TZ: Cartier’s Tank designs are loved by collectors. Will we see more Tank variations in the future?

Forestier-Kasapi: Certainly! The Tank is really an icon at Cartier. What was the slogan at last year’s SIHH? ‘Never Stop Tank!’

Cartier designed the first Tank watch in 1917. From Cartier’s SIHH 2012 Never Stop Tank Display.

TZ: Do you ever read online forums such as TimeZone.com, and are you ever offended by negative comments? For example, the most frequent criticism I hear is that of the large size of some of Cartier’s watches.

Forestier-Kasapi: From time-to-time, yes. When wrong things are published or mis-information is spread, it sometimes hurts my feelings. Regarding the large sizes, we know and we are aware of it. This year, we made an effort to reduce size. It’s a good thing for us to have some large models because many of our customers desire them. But fashion is changing. So we correct and we improve. We’ve taken this perception into account, especially for the development of new movements. We are really addressing thickness and size.

TZ: Can you comment on this year’s large number of Métiers d’Arts watch introductions?

Forestier-Kasapi: It’s nice to have many variations, for instance, with enamel. We use two techniques – cloisonné and champlevé – for our dials, like many other brands, of course. However we do original, more creative things with the same material. For example we use an enameling technique called Grisaille, which is a transparent type of enameling.

Métiers d’Arts Watch with grisaille enamel horse dial

TZ: What are your favorite watches this year, from both the Fine Watchmaking Collection and Métiers d’Arts collections?

Forestier-Kasapi: From the Métiers d’Arts collection, the Cameo piece – because it’s very French – sorry, I’m French! I just love it, the engraving, it’s really a work of art. Someone’s hand brought it to life.

Rotonde Tourbillon Watch with hand carved Cameo Alligator formed from stone

From the Fine Watchmaking Collection, it’s difficult to say because it’s like trying to identify your favorite child! I love the Double Mystery Tourbillon just for the amount of history that I learned and experienced with the project.

Rotonde de Cartier Double Mystery Tourbillon

The project fulfilled Hélène Poulit-Duquesne’s dream. She is the International Marketing Director. We all work together. The Marketing department is in Paris, and our designers, half are in Paris and the others are in Geneva. My team is in La Chaux de Fonds. This distance makes collaboration difficult. However, another idea of Hélène, we meet one day a week – every Tuesday – for what we call a “Studio” meeting. Our colleagues from Paris, every Tuesday morning, fly in to La Chaux de Fonds and are at the Manufacture by 9:00 AM. The designers from Geneva come in by train. We spend the whole day in a closed room, thinking together. It’s a mandatory meeting, and sometimes we fight. But our creations are the result of this great teamwork.

TZ: Thank you so much for sitting down with us, Carole. We appreciate your time. One last question, which is a tradition with TimeZone interviews – what watch are you wearing today?

Forestier-Kasapi: A Santos Dumont Squelette.

Santos Dumont Squelette

TZ: A favorite of mine. Thank you again, Carole!


Picture credits: Cartier, Paul Boutros

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