Sunday Reads: Carole Forestier-Kasapi of Cartier

Carole Forestier-Kasapi has been making watches at Cartier since 1999, and has been Director of Movement Creation since 2005. She and her department of engineers and watchmakers are responsible for creating new calibers for Cartier in its La Chaux-de-Fonds manufacture. This includes direction for every stage of development, from design and industrialization to prototyping, testing and quality control. Under her direction, the brand has launched 29 new movements in the fine watchmaking division, including five this year, and 50 new references.

In an industry populated mainly by Swiss men, Forestier-Kasapi is proudly French and female – and considered a watchmaking genius by her peers. Certainly she is one of the most creative inventors in this new golden age of watchmaking. Her method is to first understand everything there is to know about traditional watchmaking, and then to do it differently, to question everything.

Haute Time: Can you tell us how you got started in the watch world?
Carole Forestier-Kasapi: I am only just getting started. I am still learning! But I was born into a watchmaking family. My father, mother and brother were watchmakers. It’s part of my culture, my roots. At the beginning, I learned from my father. At 16, I left Paris to go to La Chaux-de-Fonds to start watchmaking studies. I stayed because all the manufactures are in Switzerland.

HT: You are from Paris then?
CFK: Yes. I am from Paris – I am not Swiss, I am not a man. I am just a particular person in watchmaking!

Inside Cartier’s La Chaux-de-Fonds manufacture

HT: Not just any person in watchmaking we would argue! What is the process of bringing a watch from the idea stage through development to production, and how long does it take?
CFK: It takes between three to five years to develop a movement. We are already working on what will be launched in 2019. Each week we have a studio meeting. We spend an entire day together: my team of engineers, the designers from Paris and Geneva, and the marketing team. We discuss each project, working on all the details, aesthetic, color, technical, launch date…everything.

HT: Have there ever been disagreements in these meetings?
CFK: Sometimes it’s not only a discussion, but a fight! [laughing] But it’s always for good reasons. Sometimes we have to decide to change the timeline of a movement from one year to another, or to change the name but it’s always for a good reason. Sometimes my concept for a watch is too thick because it will be a feminine watch, or we decide to change a function.

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