Earlier this week we posted Part I of our interview with Cartier-expert Geo Cramer. In Part II we focus more on the recent developments at Cartier. The brand is extremely on the move not only with high-tech concept watches like the ID2, but also with stunning watches deeply rooted in their heritage like the famous Tank. Particularly unique about Cartier’s approach is that their innovations find their way to their boutique’s in rapid time. In our recent report of our visit at the Cartier Boutique in Chicago, we showed you a rich pictorial of many of these watches. Now Geo Cramer is going to share his thoughts with us about the latest developments at Cartier.
Cartier is a very successful brand, and in regard to watches it is often said that they are the runner up in the amount of watches sold just after Rolex. What is in your opinion the secret to this success?
For many years Cartier’s production in numbers was indeed very close to that of Rolex. That was in the time when Cartier produced much more entry level watches than they do now. In the meantime Cartier’s collection has totally changed and pushed to a much higher level than before. The collection of ‘les Must’ watches came to an end around 1990 and since then Cartier is putting a lot of energy in the production of in-house movements for their high end timepieces. Compared to Rolex, the production progress of their timepieces is much more complex, mainly due to the variety of models. While the whole Rolex collection concentrates around 8 different calibers, Cartier is using more than 15 different in-house calibers just for their high end models, plus the various calibers for their regular collection.
Like you already point out, in the recent years we have seen Cartier evolve from a brand that uses high grade Swiss movements from third parties to a very serious player into the highest echelons of ultra-complicated watchmaking. How will this affect Cartier’s future?
The problem here was the delivery of these high grade Swiss movements from third parties. In a market that still expands every year, it’s very important to be able to deliver what’s promised. The only solution for Cartier was to make everything in house. That’s why Cartier decided around 2002 to start making its own movements, the moment had come that everything had to be done ‘in-house’!
With caliber 1904MC Cartier introduced its first manufacture movement for mainstream models. How important is it for a brand like Cartier to have such a movement in the line-up?
Due to magazines and internet, the male consumer became more informed and more aware about the calibre of this watch. The demand for ‘in house calibres’ for the mainstream collection, became strong and the 1904MC became the movement for the “Calibre watch” and “Tank Anglaise”. The success of the ‘Calibre the Cartier’ watch, which really is for men, is partly due to this ‘in house’ calibre. In the meantime the base of the 1904MC is used for high end perpetual complication movements too.
Cartier has a very long relationship with Asia and opened their first boutique in the ‘Prince Building’ in Hong Kong 1970. There have been quite a few Limited Editions, especially made for Asia, sometimes with Chinese characters and Cartier is introducing its history to the public with traveling exhibitions like ‘The Power of Style’, that was held in the ‘Forbidden City’ in Beijing and the exhibition ‘Time Art’, that was a huge success in Singapore, earlier this year. China has become a huge market for the luxury brands and Cartier is opening one boutique after another in the larger cities like Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shenzhen and others.
Cartier is often referred to as a jewelry brand. Although they are highly successful in this field, they are also one of the pioneers in watchmaking. This resulted in an wealth of models and collections. Perhaps an almost impossible question, but do you have an all-time favorite?
Pfffffffffffffff….difficult, but if I really would have to live with just one watch, it would be the Santos Galbée, since it’s so versatile. It’s a piece that can take me from business meetings to workouts in the gym, the watch suits any occasion and… any climate.
Cartier’s current CEO, Bernard Fornas, will be stepping down later this year. He will be replaced by Stanislas de Quercize, currently the CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels. What will this mean for Cartier?
I have not had the pleasure of meeting Mr Stanislas de Quercize yet and I do not, of course, work for Cartier, so I have absolutely no clue if Mr Stanislas de Quercize will divide his responsibilities the way Mr Fornas did. If he will be concentrating on product development and design as much as Mr Fornas did, then it would not surprise me if we’ll see more refinement in the gents watch collection. In other words, we could see more models based (from a design point of view), on Cartier’s history. Smaller cases and more visual complications. But this is all guessing, of course.
Where do you expect Cartier to be five years from now?
When one realizes what Cartier has achieved between the end of CPCP which was in 2008, and today, it’s amazing how many new high end watches with in-house calibers there are in the Fine Watchmaking Collection. This was all developed ‘behind the curtains’ by Carole Forestier and her team, over many years. I guess that the total development will go a little slower now, but I expect in five years from now, Cartier will have an immense collection of excellent and very wearable complicated and non complicated time pieces, with in-house movements that will compete easily with any brand in terms of technology and in terms of looks. After all, Cartier has been a trendsetter for decades.