Moving from métiers d’art to micro-series of 250 units or more: that’s the vision of this fiercely independent dial manufacturer. It’s a place like no other, fired by a creativity containing just a touch of madness…
By Joël A. Grandjean
The adrenaline coursing through the company is precisely this whiff of madness floating around in the design office upstairs (dubbed ‘Les Arts’), located above a fleet of machinery (‘Les Artisanats Industriels’) in pristine condition and perfectly suited to the size of the market.
Trend towards exceptional pieces and small bespoke series
The market in which Cadramont is a standout player is booming, since the trial concept of post-prototype pieces, for which a number of disruptive full-scale tests have been carried out, is increasingly moving from the one-off piece towards small series of 250 dials and more. More and more, the big names in luxury watchmaking are venturing into this realm, in which they play the card of producing combinations and numbered editions of installed models, or adding to private collections or more select lines. In these exercises in style, the dial is almost always the lethal weapon.
The dialmaker is therefore performing a balancing act. This entails a verticality of tools and know-how, since on the one hand, for large volumes, there are those that are moving their production outside of Switzerland, and on the other hand, for the myriad of new independent brands, there is the emergence of a new breed of micro-workshops. Between the two, Cadramont, based in the high-altitude city of La Chaux-de-Fonds, aims to focus entirely on the high-end segment of brands that eschew large volumes in favour of excellence, operating in a register that is 100% Swiss Made where, whatever the feats of industrial prowess, the human hand and an impeccable finish further embellish the end product.
Creativity driving growth
For reasons of discretion, we won’t find out anything about the prestigious customers who are regulars here. The art workshop is peopled with creatives, of whom CEO Vincent Michel is clearly one. Wafting through the place is the hint of madness that consists in following through on ideas because you always have to be able to offer customers something new. Discoveries are made here, such as the miniaturisation of wire art, which involves creating a work from a taut thread stretched between nails. The silk thread has become a golden thread. The precision required in this place is something completely new, not based on centuries-old practices or on tried-and-tested techniques.
On the floor where the artisans work, a miniaturist is initiated into the secrets of marquetry and grand feu enamelling, or a combination of the two. In a field where popular motifs usually resemble scaled-down versions of pictorial works from the past, or reflect the personal whims of super-rich collectors, she had to be convinced to try her hand at ‘street art’. The results are impressive, she can’t quite believe it herself! The outcome is a series of mini-paintings that inspire but also unlock a world of possibilities. Sparks of freshness that trigger bursts of creativity within brands and their design offices.
Industrial coherence in the service of art techno
Laurent Ryser, director and president of Cadramont, is a captain of industry with common sense. The Manufacture, which employs almost thirty people, is on a human scale, and all supplies of machines and tools are thought out and weighed. Technologically at the cutting edge, there is a 5-axis CNC, which is rather rare for a watchmaker. Totally verticalized, we even practice cold stamping as well as all those operations that are specific to neat dials. Here, everything is of exemplary cleanliness. A wind of passion is always blowing. It is fuelled by the possibility for the craftsman to manufacture his dial to the last operation. The human being at the centre, an inexhaustible source of emotion.