At the recent Watches & Wonder Geneva trade show, I got an individual interview with the CEO and President of Cartier International, Cyrille Vigneron. It was an exciting display for Cartier, which released the world’s first mechanical marvel that lasted eight years, spectacular crafts pieces using marquetry, miniature painting and more, and the first “spongy” cushion watch. to the golden world. mesh.
At the helm of Cartier for just over six years now, Vigneron is a bit of a Renaissance man. Cultivated, gentle and articulate, he discussed the history, art, culture and global inspirations that have inspired Cartier over the years.
“Geography, art and other influences from around the world are sources of inspiration that we continue to reinterpret and make contemporary. It can be something simple like the Tank, or geometric, Islamic, Chinese, but Cartier also has other inspirations, such as floral motifs, the panther motif – figurative or not – and other animals that stimulate our imagination. History circles, culture circles, and we are part of those circles.
With these inspirations in mind, Vigneron was eager to talk about Cartier’s design strategy and overarching themes. “We have three main parts to our watchmaking strategy,” Vigneron said. “The first is to stay true to who we are; everything we do starts with the design, and then the technology has to support that design. We have to make beautiful watches because we have a long history of designing beautiful shapes and aesthetics.
After all, Cartier’s first non-round watch shape was the Tank in the early 1900s. Later came the Panther (square), the Santos (square with cushioned corners), the Bain (oval), and other distinctive looks. de Cartier, including the beloved Crash watch.
“We have a plurality of designs, and each is exuberant, each is mysterious, each is innovative, and they all define Cartier in unique ways. So when it comes time to create something new, we don’t need to going out and starting fresh. We’re just revitalizing our past by taking a fresh look at everything we’ve done over the past 100 years,” Vigneron said.
He notes in particular the Crash unveiled this year with a colorful tiger pattern, the Tank Chinoise with a colorful geometric pattern on the movement parts, the Privée triangular wristwatch reminiscent of the Rock Crystal bracelet worn by Gloria Swanson and the Cushion-bracelet mesh-like gold that actually moves when pressed with a finger.
“Of course, Cartier Privée watches and special pieces must remain rare and be created only in limited quantities for those who want something truly different. They are a nod to the creativity we show when we look back to the past with fresh eyes,” Vigneron said.
In addition to staying true to its core design value and keeping rarities limited, Cartier also focuses on the complicated watch, which in recent years has mainly been the skeleton or mystery watches. Of particular note this year is the Mysterious Masse, which took eight years to manufacture and whose entire mechanical movement is housed inside the rotor. A world first for the brand, this complicated mechanical timepiece is destined for the history books of watchmaking.
“We don’t start with our research and design to create a vision that we see as the end result. It comes more from open innovations. For example, with the Cushion Watch which is plush, we asked if our designers could come up with new materials and they chose to find new ways to build materials we already had, like mesh. So product innovation comes from research, but you never know what the end result will be. When we find something really interesting that we think will make a great product, we go with it. Sometimes we only make one because we don’t know if it will sell or not,” Vigneron said, noting that the brand keeps truly innovative watches exclusive.
He recalled the Cartier Revelation watch introduced a few years ago which contains gold beads that form a panther’s head. It was born out of research into the use of fluids for design and was in such demand that the brand introduced it into the collection – but can still only make 100 pieces a year.
Vigneron admits that the brand has waiting lists: something that many collectors of certain brands with long and intense lists complain about today. For example, to own a Crash watch or a Santos Skeleton, there is a waiting list of about two years.
“We don’t want to have excessive visibility in the market. We believe in a limited number of Creatin watches to keep them. If you don’t have waiting lists, the watch is no longer special because it can be found everywhere. I think it’s about waiting lists versus instant gratification, and I think waiting allows you to cherish it longer and hold onto it longer.
Ensuring that Cartier is also part of the solution to important problems, Vigneron has reinforced the brand’s commitment to certain initiatives (including the creation of the Cartier Women’s Initiative) and to the environment and biodiversity. Because the Panther is so important to Cartier, the brand has launched initiatives to save some endangered panther species, or to restore their natural habitats so they can grow. This is the case of the desert leopard in Saudi Arabia and the snow leopard in China.
“We have joined the United Nations development programme, Lion’s Share, where we work to share profits to support and protect iconic animals and their environment,” Vigneron said, noting that the brand rarely talks about its products. different philanthropic enterprises. “Our policy is to do first, it’s not about communicating about it, it’s about doing the direct funding and helping, doing our due diligence first. We talk, but we does not work anymore.