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“I had my team produce a book for in-house use on the...
Point of View

“I had my team produce a book for in-house use on the métiers d’art”

Thursday, 19 January 2012
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Fabrice Eschmann
Freelance journalist

“Don't believe all the quotes you read online!”

“In life as in watchmaking, it takes many encounters to make a story.”

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4 min read

Marketing director at Cartier International, Hélène Poulit-Duquesne describes herself as product-focused. A few years ago, she asked her team to inventory and define each of the métiers d’art. So that they will never fade into oblivion.

A graduate of the prestigious ESSEC business school and a former product manager for cosmetics at Christian Dior Parfums, Hélène Poulit-Duquesne has risen quickly through the ranks. She joined Cartier’s watch department as product manager, following which she was appointed deputy marketing director, then marketing and development director. She is now marketing director for Cartier International.

Cartier came to last year's SIHH with the Rotonde Décor Tortue watch with a mosaic of stones, an idea you brought back from a vacation in Saint Petersburg. This year you're presenting the Santos-Dumont XL Décor Cheval, also in mosaic…

We’ve raised the bar! Once we’d decided to revive mosaic, why stop? The turtle was a Roman mosaic, made from cubes of equal size, whereas the horse is an example of the Florentine technique, meaning the tessarae are cut then assembled like pieces in a puzzle. We even used enamel for the harness. I love horses, and can tell you that this is an Arab thoroughbred. You can see by the nostril and the dark shading around the eye.

You've also used grisaille enamel this year…

What a fabulous technique! It produces an incredibly interesting effect, almost more beautiful than an enamel miniature in my opinion. The background is black enamel, painted with white. The piece is fired six to eight times. It’s an ancient technique.

How did you rediscover this style of enamel?

We’re constantly researching the different métiers d’art [the artistic trades]. Five or six years ago, I commissioned a book which precisely defines each of them. Many concern painting and furnishing.

Has this book been published?

No, it’s purely for us to consult, in-house. It was compiled by my team, who spent long hours researching in books, online or by talking with specialists. Some things we found quite by chance, such as the micro-mosaics I saw in Saint Petersburg, which weren’t inventoried. There’s no end to what we might discover.

What is this book called?

Les Métiers d’Art.

Could you explain the specificities of the Tortue Grand Modèle Décor Cacatoès watch?

It’s engraved mother-of-pearl. Many different surfaces can be engraved, but engraving on mother-of-pearl is a little-known technique. The background and the beak are in champlevé enamel.

Then there's the Rotonde watch with straw marquetry. Was this a complicated dial to produce?

No. Well, that’s what I imagine the craftsmen would say, but this is an art we have mastered. We weren’t obliged to reinvent a defunct technique such as micro-mosaic.

Where do you find these artisans?

Cartier boasts a huge range of skills in-house, and if these aren’t sufficient we have outside contacts. We always manage to locate someone. So far, we’ve found all our artisans in Switzerland.

How are the designs chosen?

All our subjects are in some way connected to Cartier and its history. The choice of subject will also depend on the technique used. Last year’s turtle was a flat motif which enabled us to understand and learn the technique. We’ve gone further with the three-dimensional horse. And there have always been representations of horses at Cartier. Of course, the horse is anchored in Asian and Middle Eastern culture. It makes sense to talk horses with our customers there.

Clearly you're passionate about these métiers d'art…

Absolutely. I have many interests, but in the realm of luxury, if you appreciate beautiful objects then you appreciate the métiers d’art. They are also a part of Cartier’s history. I honestly believe there are professions in the field of luxury which must be preserved. We mustn’t allow these “trade secrets” to disappear. We have a moral duty to help preserve this savoir-faire. And if Cartier doesn’t do it, then who will?

Article published in BIPH

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