Cartier is not a new comer in eyewear, not at all actually.
One might think that their collections are from the last years, or may be from the time of ‘Les Must de Cartier’ end seventies. Both wrong. Cartier made her first unique piece, a lorgnette already in 1887, for the Princess of Essling.
The first real pair of spectacles was ordered by Jeanne Lanvin in 1932. We’re talking ‘unique pieces’ here, no production line. Also in the forties special orders like this amazing Tiger Lorgnette, were placed by the clientele of La Maison.
(you remember him from the movie “A View To A Kill”) wore these glasses, almost constently in the film.
These first collection of frames became a real success and soon frames made in solid gold, set with diamonds were presented to the press. The ‘Must collection’ was very recognizable, due to the (maybe too) prominent C’s on the temples of the frame.
Cartier launched the concept of manufactured luxury eyewear with the Must and Vendôme models, which were entirely designed and manufactured in Joinville-le-Pont and which are celebrating 30 years of existence this year. Both these thirty-year-old legendary eyewear models paved the way for a “made in France” design with expertise inherited from the Maison’s jewellery and watchmaking heritage. The watchmaker and jeweller was to continue reinventing and diversifying further, extending its influence to other areas such as perfumes and leather goods.
As with fine jewellery, it all starts with a gouache drawing from Cartier’s design studio which gives rise to a wax sculpture, itself the prelude to the creation of a resin model or a 3D design, a modern technical tool essential for the successful completion of the frame. Then it is the turn of the modellers, who are specialised in acetate or metal. Their model allows for adjustments to be made in order to deal with morphological and technical constraints before going on to production.
METAL WORK: FROM SWAGING TO STAMPING
The first step in this decisive stage is the hammering of cylindrical metal parts in order to lengthen them and reduce their diameter, thereby optimising the next step: stamping. The second step is the fashioning of the metal parts which, under the action of a press, are stamped with the traces of the decoration’s final form.
Once the metal has been pressed by the stamp, it undergoes a first cut of surplus metal all around its edges. It is during this stage that any hollowing out or perforating of the metal is carried out.
MACHINING AND DIAMOND POLISHING
As with watchmaking, bridges and joints are surfaced with a diamond before assembly. A rare process in eyewear, it allows for perfect surfaces (sharp angles, mirror finish) and carved decorations. The parts are immobilised using a gel vice, in which they are trapped in ice to hold them in place during the diamond polishing.
Performed by hand, brazing is the technique most often used to solder two pieces of metal with a complete and inalterable bond that requires an external supply of metal.
A true finish in the great tradition of jewellery-making, polishing is crucial as it gives the object its shine. It takes place in barrels containing crushed walnut shells or wood with polishing paste that turn for many hours to polish the parts. On all frames, a manual finishing pass is carried out by polishers using polishing pads. These pads are made of fabric layers coated with polishing paste. Manual polishing is highly technical and requires years of experience and great control to avoid misshapen surfaces.
This is the Maison’s signature, a guarantee of Cartier excellence that is expressed through several markings, namely: the Cartier signature, the serial number, the CE marking
in accordance with EU regulations, the size of the frame, the length of the temple, and for precious-metal frames, the guarantee and Cartier master stamps.
Electroplating is an operation that involves depositing a precious metal layer on a conductive part using an electric current. This is the process used by Cartier to create precious finishes on its eyewear (gold, palladium, ruthenium, or platinum plating).
The pieces to be treated pass through several successive baths – a highly technical process when it comes to a piece such as the triple ring on the Trinity frame
which requires three different baths for its three gold tones. In this instance, Cartier uses a technique known as resist coating, that is, painting by hand and brush to mask the parts that are not to be plated.
ASSEMBLY, FITTING AND FINAL ADJUSTMENT
The assembly workshop is where these incredibly precise interventions are carried out by hand and where all the parts are assembled.
The last stage is to check the symmetry and conformity of each frame and adjust it manually to obtain a balanced and comfortable frame. In the end, 180 actions go into assembling a finished product.
QUALITY CONTROL AND PACKAGING
Always with the same attention to detail, Cartier glasses are inspected at every stage of their manufacture right up to the final control, a total of 25 tests.
Among the most creative materials in eyewear, acetate has been used since the 1920s and offers an unlimited range of shades, colours and patterns. Acetate, a cellulose- based material, is worked at Cartier in the same way
as wood, horn or gold. It is barrel-polished and then polished by hand before being manually fitted. Cartier brought it back into favour in 1994 with the creation of innovative frames.
A delicate craft process, lacquering consists of depositing the lacquer by hand with a brush or a syringe into recesses hollowed from the metal. The lacquered piece is then oven-dried for three hours. Once dry, the lacquerer
goes on to grind and polish the piece, before diamond-polishing it, until the lacquer is truly levelled. This jewellery skill is used in the production of the panther head in the ‘Panthère Wild de Cartier’ frame where each of the animal’s spots is crafted from black lacquer made flush with the metal.
Among the pioneers in the use of wood in eyewear, (see featured image)
Cartier began using this material in 1992. Noble and natural, it requires many skilled interventions such as cutting, polishing, machining and finally varnishing, which gives
it a shiny appearance and protects the surface.
Each temple consists of thin layers of wood glued and pressed together in a process called lamination used by Cartier to maximise the strength of each frame.
A buffalo horn can measure up to a metre but only a very small part of the horn meets Cartier’s criteria in terms of quality and aesthetics. A construction of thin strips layered crosswise ensures quality, resistance to warping and the stability of each frame.
Cartier’s precious eyewear has an independent workshop in the Manufacture where work with precious metal is carried out. As a master of jewellery-making, Cartier oversees all the Maison’s jewellery frames. The just announced re release of some famous models from the eighties, are a prime example of where the new Manufacture is able to.