Burning Gold

Cartier makes the latest Panther watch dial by literally setting gold ablaze.

The panther is Cartier’s symbol; it appears on countless of their works, whether watches or jewelry pieces. Now, Cartier has made their latest panther by taking flame to gold. And we mean actually subjecting the gold to fire, using the heat as part of the process to create an incredible image of a panther. The image will then become the watch dial, and be set within a gem-encrusted watch case, because Cartier has a lot of skills, and it is using them all.

Apparently, in the no-doubt-exciting process of applying heat to gold, there is a point in the process where you are affecting the metal, but not yet actually melting it. I imagine that takes some skill, and probably included a little trial-and-error that some craftsmen may want to forget. (“Okay, I’m heating the gold circle. I’m heating it. I’m heating it. Okay, now it’s a half-circle. Now it’s a gold puddle. Aaand now I’m going to need another gold circle. Sorry, sensei.”)

You might be forgiven for thinking that Cartier specialized in extremely high-end mechanical complication watches, but Cartier’s reach spreads wider than that. They have an excellent and well-deserved reputation for fine horological complexity, but they have been a jewelry-maker even longer.

Cartier started off by brushing the panther’s coat pattern onto the 18 karat gold dial. And then, well, you bring the fire.

You heat the entire dial to a certain temperature to achieve the color, but then you reapply the heat, many times, to bring out the color of each different area – in this case, to bring out the blue of each individual panther’s spot.

“Cartier started off by brushing the panther’s coat pattern onto the 18 karat gold dial. And then, well, you bring the fire.”

This may remind you of the method of Gran Feu enamel: a lot of fire, and applied many times. That’s one reason the Flamed Gold technique seems to require such care. Each time you return the dial to the flame, all the colors are affected. And one mistake can ruin hours and hours of work. Like enamelwork, flamed gold a job that seems to need a lot of patience, and also a lot of planning. And no doubt experience helps.

So now Flamed Gold joins the list of skills that Cartier brings to their magnificent works. It joins enamel work, gem setting, and such crafts as filigree work and Etruscan granulation. All of these are at Cartier’s command, as they continue to bring you not just the best of watchwork, and not just the best of jewelry work, but sometimes the best of both.