In Conversation with Arnaud Carrez and Carole Forestier-KasapiBy George Cramer
George: Collectors are always interested in something special. People still talk about the salmon dial Royal Oak Jubillee and the red dial Reverso of 2012. Despite the fact that there are over 300 boutiques worldwide, is it still sensible for a brand like Cartier to do a boutique or online special watch?
Arnaud Carrez (AC): We have a large network of boutiques and are not planning to increase that reach. It is, however, important to us that we upkeep the existing network.
Part of that effort is making sure that we create messages that are relevant to those various locations.
Launches, like the Panthere, are international but at the same time some markets have special needs and we like the idea of doing some city-specific. For example, a special collection in order to engage a certain clientele in one city. We don’t believe that one solution should fit all. We like the idea of being more in a collaborative mode with our markets. It’s all about finding the right balance.
Some collections might not be right for a certain market. We have to cater to local cultural habits. There’s much to gain from catering to our customers in such a colloquial manner.
What would you say, if a collector really wanted a particular piece that was made exclusively for a market far away from him/her?
AC: You’d be surprised how often that actually happens. But for the brand, you must understand that the product was created with a particular boutique or local event in mind. Therefore, the product bears a mark of exclusivity that is important for our story and overall effort to be effective. Remember that luxury is, after all, about scarcity.
Okay, let’s may be focus on a specific product from SIHH 2017 now. The small and the medium models from the Panthere collection are the only two models in this launch, will there be a larger mens version too in a later stage, like the version Keith Richard and Pierce Brosnan were wearing in the 80s?
AC: For 2017, we decided to make it an exclusive ladies’ watch and we like to keep it as such, because we have plenty other creations in store for men.
The bracelet of the new 2017 Panthere watch is not exactly the same, as the one from the 80s, I noticed, is that correct?
AC: Yes, you’re right, the new bracelet has been strengthened compared to the original version. When the Panthere was launched in 1993, we had a few cases of loosened bracelets. So, the watch that is presented now, is exactly the same, except for some improvements and modifications, to make better.
When I look at the new Panthere collection, the steel/gold links now go all the way around the wrist, while in the 80’s collection, they did not. Is there a plan within the brand to update all other instances of steel/gold watches, like within collections such as the Clé de Cartier or the Ballon Bleu?
AC: That is, in fact, in the works. One of our consistent commitments has always been to ‘give back value to our clients’. No compromise on design, no compromise on pricing. It must be propositioned correctly.
This year the Tank Normale will have its 100th birthday. Will Cartier do anything special on the occasion of this monumental anniversary?
AC: The Tank anniversary will be properly celebrated during the second half of the year. We don’t like to reveal everything at the same time here at the SIHH. But you will not be disappointed. What is your favorite Tank by the way?
George: My favorite Tank, for years now, has been the Tank Cintrée. For me, it is the ultimate and most classy Tank in the collection.
AC: [Laughs] We best try to cater to your love for the Cintrée soon then. I’m sure many others share your sentiment.
Something a little more specific to the watchmaking now, and may be a more approproiate question for Carole this time. Currently, Cartier is using over 30 different Manufacture calibers, much more than any other brand. How do you manage all these different variations in terms of improving and testing?
Carole Forestier-Kasapi(CFK): We have different test procedures all along our production cycle. Every movement must satisfy strict standards that are required by these tests.
Once deliveries begin with a certain batch of watches, we pay close attention to the number of returns we encounter within the first two years of the batch being out in the market. We end up with crucial lessons as a result and make necessary adjustments to our movements as we go along.
We have five new calibers this year. All of these will be subject to the these practices in Cartier within the first two years of their lifecycle.
For the new Drive de Cartier Extra Flat, though, you decided to work with the 430MC caliber, like you did for the Santos Dumont. Do you have plans to exchange this caliber anytime soon, for a Manufacture caliber?
CFK: Never say never, but it is not a priority for the moment.
AC: We are very happy with the 430MC movement and it’s not like we’re obsessed to have only ‘In-House’ movements.
Just out of curiosity, why was the decision made to close the back of new ‘Drive de Cartier Extra Flat’?
CFK: It was really just out of practical necessity. This way we are able to achieve maximum flatness. Hence the name, Extra Flat. If we had done the watch with a see through caseback the case would’ve ended up thicker.
This is also why we opted to make the watch a clean two hand timepiece, minus the small seconds.
So, it was the minimalism of the watch that ultimately drove the decisions into realizing the Drive de Cartier Extra Flat. Just on that note, allow me ask another question on behalf of collectors everywhere. It is the subject of the cut-out date window. In terms of marketing, how important is the date window and what do you think of alternatives, like a pointer date?
AC: The date window? I think it is very important. We receive requests often enough to take address the whole date window issue — there, however, aren’t too many — but for an automatic watch, we feel, it is important to have a date.
CFK: A pointer date is difficult to integrate in an attractive way. We like to keep the dial as simple and easy to read as possible.
Time is almost up. So, my last question is about the ‘two-sided adjustable folding buckle’. Collectors in general don’t seem to be very fond of this new (2008) version and prefer the one that’s the ‘one sided adjustable’ one (1989). Is this something Cartier is aware of, and if the brand is aware, what is being done to address this?
AC: This really must be reiterated, as many times as we can say it: Our biggest concern will always be to give value back to our customers. The fact is that when we talk internally about quality it must encapsulate many concerns from the many arms of our business. It’s never quite as simple as just making the fix. In the instance of the matter with the buckle, we are, in fact, aware of this sentiment from our collectors and rest assured, we are working to address it.