TURIN, Italy — Cartier is doubling down on its production capacity — and social responsibility commitments — with its latest jewelry plant in Turin’s Regio Parco.
With a surface of 113,100 square feet, the new site started operating in January after a two-year renovation and currently houses 360 employees out of the 450 it could accommodate.
Though it is new to Cartier, this isn’t a freshly constructed premise: it was built in the ’70s to house an industrial boiler-making plant.
When the jeweler’s previous rented premises in the Italian city reached its limits, “the question was either to construct from scratch in a green field or use existing buildings,” said chief executive officer Cyrille Vigneron, noting the availability of “an interesting network of buildings” in Turin due to its long industrial history.
Among them was a striking building in the city’s peripheral Regio Parco district, of the right size but also boasting “a very beautiful architecture and lots of natural light coming in” that was fit for rehabilitation.
“We thought it was nicer to take that premise, to buy the land and the existing building and to make something new within it [as] we wanted to make the site the most sustainable and environmentally friendly,” continued the executive.
Vigneron did not disclose the investment in the plant but said that it had been “substantial” to match an increased output, in light of the very robust COVID-19 rebound experienced in 2021 and 2022. Initial plans had been doubled in size and capacity as “volumes of what [Cartier] has been doing have been really substantially bigger.”
Despite this, the Turin project “was basically on budget,” despite the inflation in construction costs due to the compounded effect of pandemic-driven shortages, further heightened by Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
The executive also revealed that construction began in January on a new production site in Valenza, Italy, which will be ready in the first quarter of 2024. It will be just shy of 55,000 square feet, for up to 180 employees, up from around 40 in the existing one in Valenza.
Cartier has been directly manufacturing in Italy since 2013, when it purchased one of its partners, which itself had absorbed Turin-based jewelry atelier Marchisio, open since 1860.
Overall, these new facilities will amount to “twice the volumes that were produced in 2017 and 2018, a substantial growth,” he added, putting the share of the Turin plant at 80 percent and Valenza’s contribution amounting to the remaining 20 percent of its in-house production.
“We initially wanted to give ourselves [the space] for our ambition to grow jewelry in Italy,” said industrial director Karim Drici, noting that the company would also continue to work with a network of partners in all its production areas in Italy, France and Switzerland. Cartier currently counts nine manufacturing sites, including Turin, Valenza, its Paris high jewelry ateliers, as well as its Swiss watchmaking plants in La-Chaux-de-Fond and a historical 40-year-old facility in Fribourg.
Three times larger than its Turin predecessor, the Regio Parco site was overhauled with the latest technologies and sustainable materials but also following green energy concepts, with the aim of achieving the LEED Platinum certification, the highest achievable level.
Not only does it boast some 41,000 square feet of solar panels on the roof, expected to provide 20 percent of the site’s electrical needs, but there is also a hydroelectric power station an hour’s drive away in the Italian alpine town of Melazzo, in which Cartier has been investing in for the past two years.
It produces 3.5 gigawatts of electricity a year, more than the energy needed to power the Turin and upcoming Valenza plants. Not only will it make Cartier “a contributor to clean energy in the area,” but this production will pay for the upkeep of the power station and associated distribution costs, explained Drici.
Integrated into the network mid-2022, it had already started producing electricity by the time the new plant started operating this year.
Air and water used in the plant will also have been treated to ensure “absolutely no pollution on this side,” according to Vigneron. Adding other employee-facing energy-saving initiatives like electric bicycles and a fleet of electric vehicles for local transport could amount to “the cleanest [production site] we have done so far,” he added.
The Turin plant has started producing iconic designs and fine jewelry pieces, such as the Ecrou, Juste Un Clou, Clash de Cartier and the newly launched Grain de Café, which takes its cues from a 1950s design and made its debut in five markets.
Its production floor, totaling 60,000 square feet, is organized for “legibility and agility” by activity, with the possibility of rapid reconfiguration of equipment and teams to meet evolving needs, such as increased demand on a particular product, Drici explained.
Moving to Regio Parco has allowed Cartier to properly install its product development activities, quality testing and prototyping, he continued, saying it shortened the time-to-market by increasing production efficiency, while pushing higher its quality standards.
Traditional jewelry know-how, including lost wax casting, polishing and gem-setting, will be complemented by the latest technologies, including computer-assisted design, 3D printing used for prototyping as well as casting, high-speed machining and robotized stress testing of plastic deformation.
“Performance is not a dirty word,” said Drici, noting that the project had been approached with the idea of an environment built with performance and efficiency in mind but also to be “beautiful, comfortable and kind” to those working there.
Cartier’s commitments to its ecosystem therefore encompassed its workforce, ranging from management of light and sound to ensure comfortable working conditions to perks that range from gym and wellness activities to eating seasonal produce grown in the plant’s vegetable garden.
While Cartier’s internal production capacity will increase, its verticalization ratio and distribution between in-house specialties and external operations will remain on par with current levels, with partners expected to grow at pace, according to Drici, who gave the example of technological evolutions “shared as early as possible” with partners to ensure easy adoption in a method he dubbed “open innovation.”
Vigneron said the company didn’t have specific plans to acquire its partners, prioritizing the parallel development of their capacities.
The jeweler’s manufacturing ecosystem is “not just an internal [one] that calls on suppliers” but “strong, historic” and “borderless” relationships, added Arnaud Carrez, the jeweler’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, demurring to provide figures or order of magnitude for these partners.
Within weeks, the Regio Parco site will also be home to the Officina dei Talenti, Cartier’s in-house training school that offers full-time teaching with qualified experts and on-site workshop apprenticeships for up to six months.
This educational program, which currently produces two classes of up to 35 jewelers a year, will be open to new learners as well as re-skilling candidates. Regio Parco includes 40 workbenches for the school.
“Cartier is a house connected with the real world,” said Carrez, calling this educational arm the jeweler’s “role and commitment as an employer brand to contribute to the attractivity of these professions.”
These trainings are inscribed in the Piedmont region’s “Mani Intelligenti” program and Italy’s Federorafi academic programs, with further partnerships with Turin and Milan’s Politechnico schools for engineering and sustainability.
In time, the need was to train hundreds of jewelry specialists, not just for Cartier but also to ensure the continued excellence of European craftsmanship, said the CEO. He deemed this, along with sustainable supply chains and common practices such as those under the Watch & Jewelry Initiative 2030, a “common need” that made Cartier and other major players “more partners than competitors.”
“Overall, the more we have a know-how that grows at level, the more we develop a European know-how which makes luxury stronger. It’s a virtuous circle,” said Vigneron. “When everyone invests in the same direction, it’s beneficial to all.”