Inside the revamped Cartier Old Bond Street boutique

LONDON — It’s been a good year for Cartier’s London business.

The jeweler opened the doors to a completely revamped New Bond Street flagship, where sales of its Crash watches have generated three-year waiting lists; its new VIP space La Résidence has hosted more than 50 events, from intimate dinners with actors to movie premieres and book launches, and the presentation of its Magnitude high jewelry collection last June drew customers from across the globe and generated high sell-throughs from Day One.

Adding to that momentum, the brand has just reopened its Old Bond Street boutique, located a few minutes walk from the flagship, or “temple” in Cartier lingo. The boutique offers a host of exclusive new services for the U.K., ranging from the introduction of vintage watches to bespoke design services.

To mark the occasion, the jeweler spent the last two days celebrating in its usual way, and pulling out all the stops to impress guests. The celebratory program began with a series of talks at the revamped Cartier New Bond Street boutique, where some of London’s best-known creatives got together to discuss what the city means to them.

Designers Roksanda Ilincic and Grace Wales Bonner; artist Es Devlin; photographer Mary McCartney, and Twiggy all took part in the panel talks, moderated by Caroline Issa.

Caroline Issa and Es Devlin

Caroline Issa and Es Devlin  Courtesy Photo

“If you’re born in London, it’s part of your bone marrow. I’ve traveled all over the world for work, but I always come back. London gave me that chance, as a working class girl, to live my dream. I still laugh about it because it shouldn’t have happened — I was from the wrong side of the tracks and too small, too thin. But everything is possible here,” said Twiggy, who spoke alongside her longtime friend and fellow Londoner Mary McCartney. “When it happened for me in the Sixties, London was the epicenter of the pop culture revolution and I still think it’s one of the most exciting cities.”

McCartney described London as “an adventurous city. I could just take pictures here and never go anywhere else.”

After the panel discussions, guests headed to Chiltern Firehouse for a dinner party that had London written all over it. There were red telephone-booth shaped salt and pepper grinders and red vintage-style phones, which guests had to pick up — and speak into — to get their table number.

Invitations to the dinner arrived a few days earlier via a surprise delivery of a record player and vinyl discs dropped off by the brand’s famous bell boys, in full vintage attire. There were intimate performances by Rita Ora, Mark Ronson and rising star Grace Carter.

The series of events summed up Cartier’s ongoing efforts to build a vibrant, creative community around its name that involves up-and-coming singers, quirky designers and fashion personalities as well as the typical celebrity ambassadors.

“The key word for me here is desirability. Being associated with, or influenced by, such personalities is extremely critical for our maison. It’s a question of having a circle of friends, not just traditional ambassadors,” said Laurent Feniou, Cartier U.K.’s managing director.

Feniou has been gathering Cartier’s wide circle of friends and engaging with the brand’s top clients on a much more regular basis throughout the year, pressing into action the New Bond Street store’s new VIP space, La Résidence, and using the store as a testing ground for experiential retail formats for Cartier stores worldwide.

“This has changed the way we work, the way we think about retail and the organization of the boutique. We now recruited a whole new team who is in charge of events, logistics, concierge and we’ve had to shift our mind-set to cater to the customer joining [the VIP events], who is very different from the customer coming to the boutique,” Feniou said. “The objective is to be in a position where we can keep reinventing the Résidence every year.”

The reopening of the Old Bond Street boutique — a smaller space — aims to amplify the customer experience even further, by focusing on offering exclusive services.

There’s a whole floor dedicated to customer service, as well as bespoke services.

Inside the revamped Cartier Old Bond Street boutique

Inside the revamped Cartier Old Bond Street boutique.  Courtesy Photo

“We want the two boutiques to be complementary. It’s not about one competing with the other, they have to work together,” Feniou said. “We decided to create a customer service heaven for Old Bond Street and dedicated the first floor of the boutique to that. The level of welcoming and organization is now extraordinary, even if you come to replace a strap or a battery on your watch, you really get to enter into the world of the brand.”

To take the personalization services of the boutique a step further, customers will now also be able to work with designers in the Old Bond Street workshop to design their own engagement rings. The service, dubbed “Set For You” is available worldwide and was introduced to the U.K. this month. “It’s a complimentary new service that is really helping anchor ourselves in the U.K. because we can offer this special feeling of a product that was physically made on Bond Street and in the workshop,” Feniou added.

The new boutique has also been designed to have a more transparent facade from the street, to encourage more walk-ins, and a less intimidating atmosphere — a relatively uncommon feature for jewelry stores on the street. “There’s this almost see-through element in order to be inviting to clients who might be a bit intimidated by New Bond Street, where you have to go inside to discover the products. So the clientele would be by nature different,” Feniou said.

The brand has also been working to broaden the scope of its product offer in the U.K., beyond the current jewelry collections and adding limited-edition vintage watches to the mix.

This seems to be a clever response to the constant high demand Cartier has been experiencing for some of its signature pieces: Sales of the Crash watches introduced on New Bond Street earlier this year generated a three-year waiting list, with customers across the globe now fighting to even get on the waiting list.

“You can have this mix of an instant purchase or instant repair, but at the same time you can look longer term and buy from the waiting list, that’s an important direction for us. We love that people are happy to wait three years to buy the watch. Now it’s just the privilege of being on the waiting list,” Feniou added.

Inside the revamped Cartier Old Bond Street boutique

Inside the revamped Cartier Old Bond Street boutique.  Courtesy Photo

In the same spirit, a small selection of vintage watches, including versions of the famous Tortue Minute, Tank and Cloche, will be made available to give customers new reason to visit the Bond Street boutique.

Other exclusives include a new version of the brand’s Guirlande bag in navy crocodile and a Jacques Cartier cocktail shaker and flask.

“We went back into our archives and in the Twenties and Thirties we used to do much more accessories and gifting, which is something we’d love to do more of, so to start we selected a cocktail shaker and flask which take you back to the Twenties,” added Feniou, also pointing to a Bond Street cocktail created for the occasion.

While the brand has been hard at work transforming its own retail channels and taking customer entertainment to new heights, Feniou said its department store partnerships remain essential and there was a strong response to the brand’s pop-up at Selfridges’ Corner Shop, to showcase the new Clash collection.

“Our clients are dealing with us in many ways and these channels are all completely interconnected. We don’t look at them in isolation,” said Feniou, also pointing to the growth of Cartier’s e-commerce, where clients are now starting to purchase high jewelry pieces, as well as its airport business in three Heathrow terminals, which have all been recently refurbished.

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