There really is no brand quite like Cartier, and Pierre Rainero is here to explain why

In spite of the vastness and diversity of its offerings, one can almost always immediately tell if a watch or a jewellery piece is by Cartier. We sat down with Image and Heritage Director Pierre Rainero at SIHH last week to find out how the French brand has managed to maintain this consistency throughout the decades.

Tell us about your role as Image and Heritage Director for Cartier.

My role is very much linked to the specificity and uniqueness of Cartier, in particular its style. When Louis Cartier came in as the head of the company at the very end of the 19th century—which we refer to really as the beginning of the “modern Cartier”—he had the vision and ambition for a very specific style for the house. My role is to ensure that this is carried out consistently across all Cartier’s products.

Tall order given Cartier’s prolific product offerings in both watches and jewellery!

Yes, we have numerous and very different creative expressions—for example, abstraction and figurative designs. We also have pure shapes like the Tank, and more figurative and expressive shapes like the Roadster, a collection inspired by the car industry—a very specific external inspiration but translated into a shape but still very much in the style of Cartier.

This is a huge responsibility which I don’t take lightly. Every decision I make—from approving (or disapproving) a new design, to adding novelties to existing collections—is made in the name of keeping with the Cartier style.

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When there is this clamour for something “new, different, modern,” do you feel that Cartier is confined by this specific style?

Not at all! When Picasso was asked: “What is your style? You keep changing!” He answered: “Did God have a style?”

Of course, we are neither Picasso nor God, but we have our own language that’s very specific. However, when it comes to creativity, we are completely free. We have free rein when it comes to expressing our ideas, but we make sure that it is communicated using a specific language, making our designs very recognisable.

Would you say that Cartier’s style, though established, is still evolving?

Absolutely. Though its style is founded on Louis Cartier’s vision, it’s still changing. We’re adapting to the times, as you will see in the history of our collections. From the pioneering spirit of neo classicism just at the end of the 19th century, to the beginning of the fragmentation of geometry, and the stylisation of nature, and the configurative phase of the 1930s, transitioning to the art-deco style.

We also have wealth of inspiration from past civilizations—the fields of expressions are many! For one field of expression can turn up so many designs so while the language remains, its inspiration is immense.

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Having said that though, is there a line Cartier will never cross?

At Cartier, elegance is always the end goal. Our main mission is not only to create beautiful objects, we also need to ask ourselves: is the piece sufficiently elegant, or will it make the person who wears it look and feel elegant? At the end of the day, that is the what is paramount.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face?

Coming up with new shapes, as well working on existing shapes and their evolution is a challenge.

But really, working at Cartier is a challenge in itself—it’s a huge responsibility given its enormous assets and history, which we have to preserve and at the same time further develop. We are responsible for the future of Cartier. One day, they will look at we did in 2018 and see what were able to bring to the table.

Looking at this year’s novelties, any in particular collection that impressed you the most?

There are many, but if I had to pick a few, this year’s Santos Dumont is certainly something to be proud of, an exercise of restraint, elegance and creativity while being faithful to the original design.

And most certainly the tonneu-shaped watches—how we conceived the movement based on the shape of the case is a testament to the kind of work we do in watchmaking, where everything is done in the name of aesthetic.

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