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“Cartier is first and foremost for women”
Connoisseur of watches

“Cartier is first and foremost for women”

Thursday, 15 February 2018
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Marie de Pimodan-Bugnon
Freelance journalist

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The end of crisis and the upturn in sales, digital strategy and millennials, refocusing of its collections, changes to distribution… The CEO of Richemont’s flagship brand shared his thoughts in an interview given in the Auditorium at SIHH. Read some of the highlights below.

Cartier's refocusing on form watches and its women's collections

Cyrille Vigneron: “Cartier is both a jeweller and a watchmaker. As a jeweller, we naturally cater to a female clientele. Cartier is also positioned in form watches and watches with elegant and balanced proportions. A highly complicated movement will only fit into a large, round case. This throws up limits that aren’t us. When you’re known for something in particular, moving out of that area isn’t easy, even when it involves beautiful objects. A Fine Watch must have a powerful, recognisable design, and technique must serve that design. In that respect, we have slightly scaled back certain types of development, rather than aim for pure performance for essentially technical ends. Precision timekeeping through complications is a highly intellectual pursuit. We take a more organic, more poetic vision. This year, our complications are more transparent, more mysterious, but they are still there. They haven’t slipped into the background, they’re mysterious, that’s all.”

Quartz has potential and form watches have potential, provided they are done properly.
Santos and Panthère, two icons back centre-stage

“For the past two years, we’ve chosen to concentrate on elegant form watches, mainly for women though without excluding well-proportioned form watches for men. This year we are relaunching the Santos, with an updated architecture in line with today’s tastes. Last year it was the Panthère, just as it was twenty years ago. Instead of coming out with the same automatic round watches as everyone else, new models for Asian clients, we have a watch that isn’t new, is square and with a quartz movement. Simply because it is a beautiful watch. There’s nothing particularly interesting about something new that’s already been done, but there can be great pleasure in rediscovering something we already knew and had forgotten about. And it’s doing really well. Quartz has potential and form watches have potential, provided they are done properly.”

Cartier, tangible quality and perceived value

“As markets have developed, customers have become more sure of their tastes. They have a more mature notion of tangible quality and the value they associate with it. Economic contraction and the vast amount of inventory available gave customers even more opportunity to investigate and compare products. The product, its actual or perceived quality, as well as price are all decisive factors. This doesn’t mean we should be making inexpensive products. We’re doing very well in Fine Jewellery and even then, it’s important to have a clear vision of the perceived and tangible value of the products. With the Santos, for example, which we’re presenting with a metal bracelet and a leather strap, plus a more robust, better quality movement at the same price as before, our position is this: tangible quality and perceived value!”

Cartier makes 43% of its sales to under-35s. In Asia, it's more than half.
Digital and new generations

“There’s a tendency to think of millennials as the next generation when they’re already here. Cartier makes 43% of its sales to under-35s. In Asia, it’s more than half. The question being how to talk to them. This means digital, Whatsapp, WeChat and Line. It means advertising but events too. New generations live more in the present and are quick to respond to the things they see and feel. Long, overwrought messages don’t appeal to them. There are one billion WeChat users! We need to be using a new vocabulary that suits this type of media and conversations with their smilies and photos and little hearts, but continue to respect our clients at the same time.”

Cartier and changing distribution models

“We’re seeing a slight concentration of our boutiques because the luxury clientele in general is, to a certain extent, based in large, cosmopolitan cities. What’s true for our own boutiques is true for our distribution too. We’re globally satisfied, although there has been a certain amount of recomposing. Distribution is actually becoming more concentrated by itself. Partners are buying each other out. The number of points of sale will probably decrease as the market becomes naturally more concentrated.”

We're back in a growth phase
Cartier's response to excess inventory

“Two years ago we launched a programme to buy back massive amounts of retailer inventory. We also scaled back our position to ensure acceptable stock levels, and we now have proper, healthy levels in all our markets. We’ve also adjusted our capacities. Synergies have been made across the Richemont group to ensure we have the right balance, both for general capacity and for the different forms of expertise. We now have a tool that corresponds to what we do and are back in a growth phase.”

SIHH 2018 - Cyrille Vigneron

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