Cartier’s image and heritage director, Pierre Rainero, talks us through the brand’s latest novelties and explains how the French house has maintained consistency over the years
In his role as Cartier’s image and heritage director, it’s fair to say that Pierre Rainero has got rather a tough act to follow. “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,” Rainero explains.
“My role is to ensure that this is carried out consistently across all Cartier’s products. 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.”
Rainero’s task is far from straightforward, especially when one considers the vast array of products in Cartier’s watch and jewellery collections. “We have numerous and very different creative expressions—for example, abstraction and figurative designs,” he says. “We also have pure shapes like the Tank, and more figurative and expressive shapes like the Roadster, a collection inspired by the car industry.”
Among this year’s new novelties, Rainero is particularly pleased with one timepiece in particular. “This year’s Santos Dumont is certainly something to be proud of,” he says. “It’s an exercise of restraint, elegance and creativity while being faithful to the original design.”
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And design is what the new Santos Dumont is all about. With steel, two-tone and full 18-karat rose-gold options to choose from, the square case and thin profile of the watch (it’s just 7mm thick) mean it looks elegant whichever material is used. The simple dial displays just hours and minutes in the classic Roman numeral format, with visible screws around the outside of the case. Crucially, the beaded winding crown is slightly bigger than in previous iterations of the watch, making time changes quick and painless.
Not that there’ll be much need for those, since the Santos Dumont is powered by a quartz calibre—a bone of contention for mechanical purists. However, this is not any old quartz movement. Cartier’s manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds has tinkered with it to reduce its energy consumption, and when combined with a new high-performance battery, it means the movement has an autonomy of approximately six years—twice as long as a standard quartz calibre.
The Santos Dumont isn’t the only new novelty that Rainero is pleased with. He also takes great pride in Cartier’s new Privé Tonneau collection. “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 aesthetics,” he says of the watches’ distinctive barrel-shaped case.
Particularly impressive among Cartier’s tonneau-shaped offerings is the brand’s new Tonneau Watch Extra-Large Skeleton Dual-Time. While the original Dual-Time model featured two independent movements that powered two different time zone displays, the 2019 version still displays two different time zones, but crucially powered by just a single movement.
The reason the single movement is so significant is that due to the case’s elongated form, all the wheels of the gear train had to be arranged in a straight line in between 12 and six o’clock. But that’s not all. Again owing to the shape of the case, the shape of the entire movement had to be modified with angle cutting in its barrel and escapement wheel, allowing it to fit within the curved profile of the case.
With such a strong heritage and a design language that dates back to the early 1900s, it would be easy to assume that Cartier is restricted in how far it can take its new designs. However, according to Rainero, that couldn’t be further from the case.
“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.”
It may sound a complicated process, but as Rainero so eloquently explains, the Cartier ethos is a very simple one. “At Cartier, elegance is always the end goal,” he says. “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 what is paramount.”