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Watches & Wonders 2021 First Look – Cartier

The hits just keep rolling in. Cartier watch– first of the most iconic and important design houses on planet Earth – have consistently had strong horological showings the last few years. And they show no signs of slowing down in 2021. In fact, this pair of French brands and their Italian counterpart have a lot to teach the more conservative elements of Swiss watchmaking and a ton to offer collectors looking for watches that ooze personality.
I've got Ben and Jack joining me once again to discuss the latest releases and to give us a shot of much-needed historical context. First up is Bulgari, which yet again set a world record for a super slim watch, this time a killer perpetual calendar that looks unlike anything I've ever seen before. Then we have a panoply of Cartier drops, including a new Privé Cloche that has Jack salivating and some colorful Tanks that can only be described as straight-up sexy. And, finally, we dive into the H08, a new sport watch from Hermès that's a perfect complement to the more traditional Slim. We hope you enjoy this special episode of replica watch. Stay tuned for a ton more live coverage this week and follow along with all the latest releases and analysis right here.
Cartier CEO and President Cyrille Vigneron is an industry veteran. The boss of Cartier since 2016, Vigneron has held senior positions at Cartier and at the Richemont Group for many years, with past posts including a stint as Director General for Cartier Europe, as well as serving as President of LVMH Japan. At Cartier, he has presided over a major shift in focus over the last five years, placing a new emphasis on classic designs (including the evolution of the Privé Collection of watches, which is a platform for revisiting designs from the past including the Tank Asymètrique, and this year, the Cloche. Not exactly, but it has reinforced a trend we had seen before, which is that since 2016 we have been revitalizing our iconic lines and designs. Cartier used to be known for that: Proportion, shapes, beautiful design. A lot had gone into trying more novelties than anyone else, but in a way, exploring territories that were not that much Cartier. At some point, we lost some of our clients. By coming back to the core of what Cartier was loved for, certainly we regained our customer’s affection, and with the COVID pandemic, we see that even more strongly. When we’re in a period where you cannot leave home, or only on specific occasions, you can’t cross borders or go to different countries, then you go with what is top of your mind. On one of your podcasts you said that Cartier designs feel "inevitable." The trend to go more for really iconic products, like Tank and Santos, has been reinforced with this crisis. What we had also revitalized in the Cartier Privé are beautiful shapes, with the Cloche, and with the Tonneaus, and the Tank Cintrée. The collectors also renewed a lot of interest in Cartier. I think probably, in a moment of reflection, you say, "What do I really like? What do I really want?" People said, "After all, we don’t care that much about what’s new. We care about what’s durable and beautiful." Let’s revisit the beautiful shapes of the past, Tank Chinoise, or Tank Cintrée, Tank a Guichet, or the Tortue, or Tortue Monopoussoir. By the time it shipped, the waiting list was already full. We were taken by surprise on that. We relaunched the Crash watch, and we saw quickly a very long waiting list shaping up and we were quite surprised. On some models, we thought we would be short just for a year. Then we got constant requests – even for the Santos Skeleton, where the customer’s orders were two or three times more. But this was the first time for the Tank Cintrée vintage model, which is hand wound and not even waterproof. It was sold out before even being on the market. Thanks to the Internet, if you start to get interested in something, even if you can’t get it right away, you can get a very deep knowledge very quickly. So we see some young collectors who can become watch specialists very quickly. We have now some 20-year-old customers who are asking if they can get on the list for the Crash, or the Tank Cintrée – in the past, you would mostly see that only from customers in their 40s or older, because they have gone through so many things, made their own choices. As you said, in a way we came to be at the right time of the wrong moment. There have been too many novelties in the past. When I got here in 2016, I said to the team, how many novelties do you remember from last year? People had at the top of their minds only five or ten, when we had made over a hundred. So we have to ask ourselves, why are we making so many things that people forget so quickly? And how many of these novelties are nicer than all the range of the beautiful icons we have done in the past? Very few would pass through that filter, I would say. A watch today is more to tell you who you are than to tell the time. Aesthetics and design take on a bigger role. You can have many functions on a connected watch, but that will not have the lasting beauty of the design and preicious materials. So you probably won’t transfer it to your children or grandchildren, because it’s been replaced by something else. But you can transfer a Panthère or a Tank, because it’s still beautiful. If we work on enduring beauty, it will last longer than anything technical (i.e. a smartwatch) and which will be repeatedly replaced over ten or 20 years. I think it’s a combination of both. People tend to follow what you might call the box office. When something is appreciated by so many people, how can it be wrong? If you ask people who are the best contemporary artists, they will first ask what the worth of their work is on the market. And if it’s millions, they say, "well, it must be good." The world has this kind of framework of trusting less recommendations from your family, parents, and friends, and more what has been accepted by the world as "good." If [wine critic] Robert Parker says "this is good," people will follow that, who are not so sure of their own tastes. "If I want to go right to the best, I will follow what others have selected before me." And you know, it basically works; if you see the bestselling models of the best brands, usually they have something behind them. It doesn’t happen by chance. People used to read a magazine, or a newspaper, or go to their family to tell them what’s right. Now we have this collective intelligence. In some ways it’s easier but that doesn’t automatically mean there is less knowledge. It’s more that there is trust in collective knowledge. Well, we said to ourselves, let’s come back to the original, iconic designs – even for watches which have been very broadly sold and appreciated, like the Panthère or the Pasha. There are all these beautiful shapes which have been done in the past. So we said, let’s revisit them, one by one. So for Cartier Privé, it started with the Crash, and then the Cartier Tank Cintrée, and the Cloche. Now that we’ve done that we’re going to receive wish lists from you guys! We have a lot of requests coming in. We can approach making something in a vintage way, meaning exactly the same shape and proportions – exactly the same. Which means, in the case of the Cintrée, for instance, you have a mechanical movement, and it’s too thin to be totally waterproof, but collectors would know that. But then, on the other hand, we might ask ourselves, how do we adjust the initial design to today’s sense of proportion? What kind of movement can we fit inside, that will meet the quality expectations and requirements for durability which customers today have? Or can we put in a skeleton movement, in a way that can really add something? And then, if we want to use the original shape, sometimes there are more than one – for the Tank, there were many, many variants, from 1918 through the 1930s. At the end of the day, it has to be something beautiful. If we end up with a version that’s too big, or we can’t make the proportions work, or the movement won’t fit inside properly, we think, and then we decide not to do it. We’re not obliged to do things if they’re not right. Must de Cartier was a bestseller at the time (that they originally came out). So we thought, let’s come back to the original, and have different views of it. If we revisit it, what can we do? One part was to explore the solar dial. The SolarBeat movement can run for at least 16 years – it’s the most innovative, durable, and sustainable movement inside one of our oldest and most enduring designs. And, it’s nice to be able to say, there’s no tension between tradition and innovation, or past and present. They say the past is alive because this design is still beautiful, now, in the same way it was a hundred years ago. Looking back at the Must de Cartier, even if that moment was not so much appreciated by collectors originally, now they’re kind of looking back and thinking after all, this was nice too. If we look back at Tank, where should we look back. Basically you can look at the 1910s and 1920s when the design originated, but the 70s were equally important. Having the colored dial was important. The Tank was interesting in the 1920s but it can be equally interesting in the 1970s. We should not just review only selected moments from the past, let’s review them all. Absolutely. The ranking of brands, or what is top of mind, in the next five years, might be very different from what it was in the past fifteen years. Those customers – when you say, “young customers,” they are not tomorrow’s customers. They’re already here. Some people made the mistake of thinking, “We have to make young products for young people.” Well, that’s just not true. You have to interact with people in a way that’s natural for them, but you have to stay true to who you are. It doesn’t mean you have to do something different. If you have classic products, you just have to stage your products in a way which is relevant.
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