Cartier has a very special meaning to me and is my favorite brand, bar none. The biggest misconception that Chinese people have about Cartier today is that it is the Cheap Cartier watches same as a “fashion watch”. The dial of the watch bears the logos of both brands, with different codes in their respective product archives, much like today’s code sharing between airlines.
My first encounter with Cartier was in 1998, when Chinese people’s understanding of modern luxury was still a blank slate. Cartier also started to do some tentative PR activities in Beijing that year. As the purchasing power of the Chinese people was still very weak, Cartier started by promoting the cheapest items in its line. The myth that Cartier was a fashion watch probably fell into place at that time. Cartier is a system, a kingdom, and once you enter it, you begin a strange journey.
The history of the Cartier brand began in 1847 when a Parisian, Louis-François Cartier, gave up his family’s powder keg business to become a jeweler in his own right. From the outset, the jeweler’s workshop had a strict identity – to serve only an exclusive clientele, and it soon became the favorite of Europe’s aristocracy and royalty; in other words, the brand’s association with prestige and luxury was unchanged from the very beginning. The company later moved to 13 Rue de la Paix in Paris, near the famous Place Vendôme, which is still the home of Cartier’s worldwide headquarters.
Three generations of Cartier families worked tirelessly to bring the company to its peak at the beginning of the 20th century. The key figure in this phase was Louis-Joseph Cartier (1875-1942), often referred to as Louis Cartier, whose creativity and management talent laid the foundations for the brand’s status, design style and countless legends. Another great achievement of Joseph’s time at the head of Cartier Paris (when two of the founder’s grandsons opened Cartier London and Cartier New York) was in the field of watchmaking, where the company’s expertise in jewellery-making was fully applied to its products. In addition, a keen eye for the market and the strategic decision that “watches would inevitably replace pocket watches” made the Cartier brand unique in the history of watchmaking. What is even more surprising is that in the first half of the 20th century, Cartier was in close contact with almost every major watch brand of the time, to the extent that Patek Philippe and Rolex, among others, produced special commemorative models for the brand. Antique watch collectors will have to admit that special “Cartier” models from different brands have long been an important and precious collector’s item, a distinction hardly ever shared by any other brand.
Today, no other luxury brand offers such a wide range of watches at such a long price. At this point, it’s probably easy to understand why Cartier is often mistaken for a fashion watch, because it’s hard to appreciate the full picture when you’re blind. It’s hard to define what kind of company Cartier belongs to, as if Cartier knows everything. The interesting thing is that Cartier never puts out a fashion watch, and maybe that’s the difference between being a jeweler and a tailor. Cartier’s bottom line for clothing is: scarves, belts and cufflinks, never to cross the line again.
Cartier antiques have become an important evidence for the study of French art history and modern European history. Later on, I personally participated in more and more exhibitions of Cartier, including the Forbidden City in Beijing in 2009, Singapore in 2011, Shenyang in 2013 (Diocesan Art), and the Grand Palais in Paris in 2014 (Epic of Style). On July 18, 2014, Cartier’s “Art of Time” exhibition opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai, hosted by the world-renowned maestro Yoshioka. Deren curated the exhibition. This has become the grandest haute horlogerie banquet held in China this year and the highlight of a series of cultural events marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and China!