The assembly of just a single kinetochore at the centromere of each sister chromatid is essential for accurate chromosome segregation during cell division. Surprisingly, despite their vital function, centromeres show considerable plasticity with respect to their chromosomal locations and activity. The establishment and maintenance of centromeric chromatin, and therefore the location of kinetochores, is epigenetically regulated. The histone H3 variant CENP-A is the key determinant of centromere identity and kinetochore assembly. Recent studies have identified many factors that affect CENP-A localization, but their precise roles in this process are unknown. We build on these advances and on new information about the timing of CENP-A assembly during the cell cycle to propose new models for how centromeric chromatin is established and propagated.