Cartier looks to L.A. — and a few famous friends of the house — to help relaunch its Panthère watch

Deputy Fashion Editor

Paris-based luxury brand Cartier decamped to Los Angeles last week to launch (well, technically relaunch, but more on that in a minute) its Panthère de Cartier watch collection with an over-the-top fete at Milk Studios that saw Thomas Keller in the kitchen, Alicia Keys on stage performing several of her hits, Mark Ronson deejaying late into the night, and an arrivals red carpet trod by the likes of Marilyn Manson, LL Cool J, Kirsten Dunst and Sofia Coppola.

Coppola was one of the evening’s co-hosts (along with Cartier International Chief Executive Cyrille Vigneron and Cartier North America’s president and chief executive, Mercedes Abramo) and, it turns out, the filmmaker was one of the main reasons the City of Angels was picked as the place to stage the global launch party.

“Sofia Coppola is a friend of the house, and we had asked her to write and direct a short movie” for the marketing campaign, Vigneron said. “The young woman in the film is free-spirited and fearless and has a look [of] California style, and [Coppola] set the film and filmed it [in Los Angeles], so the first [inspiration] came from her.”

Filmmaker Sofia Coppola, from left, chef Thomas Keller and Cartier International Chief Executive Cyrille Vigneron at the May 5 Los Angeles event.
(Willy Sanjuan / Invision / Associated Press left, Cartier right)

If Botticelli painted ‘The Birth of Venus’ today, she would be [emerging from the sea] in Avalon, not Cyprus.

— Cyrille Vigneron, Cartier International chief executive

But Vigneron said there was a second very compelling reason to come to California to celebrate a watch that was offered from 1983 to the mid-aughts before being discontinued. (We told you we’d get to the “relaunch” part.)

“It’s a rebirth,” he said. “So, in the current world, where do things begin? There are two parts of the world where I think things begin — in Asia and in California. If the U.S. is the New World, then California is the new New World.… If Botticelli painted ‘The Birth of Venus’ today, she would be [emerging from the sea] in Avalon, not Cyprus. So we thought for a rebirth, L.A. would be the perfect place.”

The quartz-movement watch at the center of the celebration is elegant, feminine and sturdy-looking. Its square cases are on the small side (the small is 22mm and the medium is 27mm) with screwed-down bezels and octagonal-shaped crowns. The links of its metal bracelet evoke the look of reptile scales, particularly on the leopard-spot versions. According to Vigneron, a tiny tweak in the bracelet was the only change from the original version.

“They’re the same links as in the past,” he said, “but the old ones were a little bit looser, and when they’re looser, they can twist and break. People now have a more active lifestyle so it needs to be a little tighter, more like a second skin.”


He also explained why Cartier decided to revive a style that, in its heyday, graced the wrists of such notables as Keith Richards, Pierce Brosnan and Grace Jones before being mothballed.

“There’s always a question about a collection. Should you evolve it or replace it?” he said. “At the time, the decision was made to evolve it.” That watch, a hybrid between the Panthère and a style called the Santos Demoiselle (which Vigneron described as, “Something close but different”), was eventually discontinued.

In an effort to refocus on the women’s side of the watch business (“Cartier had gone too much on the masculine side,” said Vigneron), the Panthère presented an opportunity just waiting to be pounced on.

“Looking back in [the archives], we found that the shape and proportion [of the Panthère] were perfect,” he said. “Watches are generally bigger now than they were 25 years ago, but these are the same proportions as the original. It’s timeless. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t age. It means you don’t know [when] it was born. It doesn’t matter.”

Although the official worldwide launch is June 1 (Coppola’s short film will premiere online around the same time), the Panthère de Cartier collection is already available at the Beverly Hills boutique as well as online at Net-a-Porter. Prices range from $4,000 for a small version in stainless steel to $123,000 for one blinged out in 18-karat white gold and diamonds.


For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn.


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