By  on March 15, 2010

Cartier is launching e-commerce in the U.S. today, a key initiative in the fine jewelry and watch industry, which until recently has been wary of the virtual marketplace.

Emmanuel Perrin, Cartier North America president and chief executive officer, said the demand for online selling is too great to ignore.

“We truly believe in being in sync with our clients’ expectations and reactive to our client requests,” he said. “The Internet has been a medium taking an increasing part in our client’s lifestyle and means of interaction. The decision to create the Cartier e-boutique was made in direct response to what our clients were sharing with us.”

Branded fine jewelry and watches are fairly new to the buying on the Internet, partly because a lot of the merchandise sold online in the U.S. involves counterfeit, diverted or gray goods offered at lower prices. However, advanced technology — Tag Heuer, for example, has created a special hologram to denote an authorized e-tailer — has enabled more brands to get in on the act.

In recent years, De Beers, Bulgari, Harry Winston and Boucheron began selling jewelry and watches on their Web sites. Cartier launched e-commerce in Japan in 2008.

Last year, Cartier tested a “call-to-purchase” service on cartier.us, which was a step on the road to an e-commerce presence. Perrin predicted cartier.us will be one of the firm’s top five producing stores in the U.S. by 2012. The Web site offers styles from the firm’s multiple categories including jewelry and timepieces. High jewelry, corrective eyewear and engagement rings are not being sold online.

The Web site offers accessories and fragrances with retail prices starting at $80 for a business card holder and ranging to as much as $16,000 for a piece of jewelry or a watch. The broad assortment of Cartier’s iconic Love, Trinity, Santos and Tank collections also will be sold.

The design of the site is intended to evoke a Cartier boutique, with its signature red background, and offers multiple views and colors for styles, whether it’s the Marcello bag in tan, white or black or the Pasha watch in stainless steel with a gold bezel.

Sales help is available by phone Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“It was very important for us to be able to translate aspects of our boutique experience into an online environment,” Perrin said. “We wanted a visit to cartier.us to emulate a visit to one of our boutiques and offer a fully integrated experience for our guests. Online visitors are invited to view our full collections, with both the online offerings and boutique exclusives presented together.”

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