The Panthère de Cartier watch.


PARIS — Cartier is bringing back its Panthère de Cartier women’s watch, originally launched in the Eighties, signaling a strategic return to its jewel-making roots as the watch industry struggles with weak demand and excess stocks.

The Paris-based house, owned by Swiss luxury group Compagnie Financière Richemont, is due to present the timepiece at the SIHH watchmaking fair in Geneva, which runs from Monday to Friday. It will go on sale in June.

Its reintroduction represents a turnaround from recent years, when Cartier courted the men’s market with timepieces such as Drive de Cartier and the Calibre de Cartier Diver.

“Panthère de Cartier is definitely the most important launch for us this year,” Arnaud Carrez, international marketing and communications director at Cartier, told WWD in an exclusive interview. “We are placing women as our number-one priority, because we are a feminine maison and when we create watches, there is this feminine spirit.”

The core collection consists of 14 references in two sizes, small and medium, in materials including steel, yellow gold, pink gold, white gold and black lacquer, with or without diamond paving. Cartier will also present three high-jewelry versions at the SIHH  fair.

Prices range from $4,000 for the small steel model to $141,000 for a medium fully paved high-jewelry version. The original design, with its square case on a supple chain-link bracelet, has been left virtually unchanged.

The panther has been a theme in Cartier’s collections since the Thirties, when Jeanne Toussaint was director of fine jewelry at the house.

The Panthère watch was launched in 1984 and became a quintessential watch of the decade, popular with both women and men like Pierce Brosnan, who wore one in the television series “Remington Steele.” Discontinued in 2004, it remains in demand on the vintage market and has been spotted in recent years on the wrists of reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian and blogger Leandra Medine.

“It was quite interesting for us to see that even if this watch was no longer visible in our boutiques, there was still a very strong appetite for it,” Carrez said. “That’s why it felt very obvious for us to relaunch it.”

Watchmakers have been grappling with challenges including dwindling demand in Hong Kong, the world’s biggest market for luxury timepieces. In the last year, Richemont has bought back millions of dollars’ worth of unsold Cartier watches from retailers and, in some cases, dismantled and recycled them.

Carrez said the relaunch of the Panthère was a response to an oversaturated market. “I really feel that the overall watch market has been obsessed about launching too many products and creating a lot of confusion for the clients,” he said.

It also addresses critics who have accused Cartier of straying from its origins by introducing a series of high-end complicated timepieces for men.

“I think it created an amazing momentum, but we still see this overall fine watchmaking business as a service for our high-end clients. I see it as a niche segment. Cartier being first and foremost a jeweler, by passion and by birth, we should address the overall watch market differently, and that’s what we are doing,” Carrez said.

The launch will kick off with a party in Los Angeles in May, to be followed by a multiplatform advertising campaign focusing on the watch’s fashion credentials.

“The overall communication platform will be very impactful and will be very different from traditional campaigns on the watch market,” Carrez said. “Rather than doing another watch campaign using the same recipes, we really wanted to communicate on the jewel, which means including an accessories-inspired campaign.”

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