Cartier, like Bulgari, has brought enormous corporate resources to bear in its drive to become a force in mechanical watchmaking. Yet the firm’s most important resource in this process so far has been a human one. Almost every one of Cartier’s achievements in mechanical watchmaking today bears the fingerprints of design movement specialist Carole Forestier. Women have by now gained a significant foothold in the watchmaking profession, but in the more demanding field of movement development, Forestier is almost unique. After years of study, she began her career at Conseilray, where she worked on Zenith’s Elite automatic movement. She subsequently spent two years at the renowned complication specialist Renaud & Papi before propitiously joining Cartier on a part-time basis, just as the company was first seriously venturing into the mechanical-movements business.
Forestier, who is both personally modest and infectiously enthusiastic about her work, now designs for the brand exclusively. The movement she devised for last year’s Central Chronograph—a type generally regarded as one of the most difficult to complete successfully—was in many ways a technical validation of Cartier’s program. Forestier, however, seems to take more personal satisfaction in a watch unveiled this year, the Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon (pictured). For this piece, Forestier placed the tourbillon escapement on an arm rotating around the dial, an arrangement similar to that of Piaget’s Polo Tourbillon Relatif or Ulysse Nardin’s Freak. But the cage on the Astrotourbillon rotates at a much higher rate—once every 60 seconds—than those on these other watches, making it effectively a sweep-second hand. "The mechanism is actually a relatively simple modification of the traditional tourbillon," says Forestier. "I just love the way it turned out."