PARIS — Retooling its virtual world, Cartier has bulked up a digital brand platform for showcasing new timepieces dubbed “Watchmaking Encounters,” with a launch to coincide with the start of the Watches and Wonders show.
This story first appeared in the April 7, 2021 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The international site aims to emulate real-life experience — say, that of an in-person watch fair — drawing users into a clean, white room where the new models look like they’re hovering over their pedestals, echoing the style of a recent advertising campaign featuring house icons.
“More than ever, the current context calls for digital experiences allowing us to tell the story of our new watchmaking creations to all our audiences — clients, retailers, journalists and members of the general public,” said Arnaud Carrez, marketing and communications director of Cartier International, the star label of Compagnie Financière Richemont.
“The platform itself is very pure, essential and it is focusing on the accuracy of shapes and the precision of proportion, the attention to details,” Carrez explained.
All contents will be available in English, French, Chinese and Japanese.
The Tank watch features prominently — the brand is introducing several new models, including a modern rendition in the form of the Tank Must, with a photovoltaic movement and non-leather strap, made of apple waste, discarded by the food industry. The watch’s Roman numerals are perforated to allow light in for power. The so-called SolarBeat movement took four years to develop, with the help of a Richemont innovation center in ValFleurier, and Cartier has a two-year exclusivity on the technology, which should last 16 years without maintenance, according to Carrez.
The house is also presenting the Pasha in a prominent chronograph version as well as a smaller, diamond-encircled model with a more delicate look for women.
When the physical show of Watches and Wonders was canceled last year as the coronavirus swept across the globe, teams at Cartier scrambled to draw up a digital alternative, seeking to produce engaging content for a range of audiences — trying not to strike a heavily marketing tone or veering too far into technical details.
“Last year was quite a challenge — we had to do it in about one month; this year we had a bit more time, so the platform itself will be richer, nicer, with an outstanding visual quality,” the executive said.
The brand has accelerated its move into digital spaces with a more integrated approach, he added, citing “all the touch points,” like stores, e-commerce and other points of sales.
There is a broader shift from physical selling ceremonies to “data fueled, personalized interaction with clients,” through both digital and physical meetings, he explained.
“Our boutiques have become a place of interaction, I would say from a 360 degree overview,” Carrez said.
Detailing the blurred frontiers between the different channels, he noted that when it comes to events, they think of them in both terms.
“A lot of work is being done also developing retail as a media — we have a more dynamic programming, we are building some content curations to engage our clients in a richer manner so we have digital livestreams, physical and digital pop-ups,” Carrez said.
The idea is to build content that can be used on various digital platforms, and deployed around the world.
“I think we are creating more and more content,” the executive observed.
“The objective is really to have much more relevant connections, interactions with our clients thanks to more data that is leveraged internally,” he said, noting the role of client marketing platforms powered by Salesforce as the brand deploys new tools around the world.
“A lot of progress has been made over the last year and we will continue to accelerate in that direction,” he said.
Asked about the brand’s performance, he struck a positive note.
“I would say it’s been quite a long and challenging year and I think overall Cartier has shown a tremendous resilience during the lockdown and strong performance throughout the crisis, and we are coming out of this period — even if it’s not finished — stronger,” he said. The executive cited the Pasha watch launch and the cult collections advertising campaign, which he said was making “a lot of buzz on the market.”
Reflecting on the label’s overall strategy, Carrez noted recent brand image studies and analyst reports indicate that the brand equity of the house has been “revitalized.”
“We see the brand equity reinforcement is taking place at Cartier so it shows that our ongoing strategy is successful,” he asserted.
“We are also seeing that our iconic collections…continued to be very strong and resilient,” he said. Carrez singled out the Love and Ballon Bleu collections, as well as Juste un Clou, as particularly successful, while it’s more recently added Clash “continues to install itself as an important pillar.”
The Ballon Blue collection being shown at the Geneva fair this week is offered in pink gold or steel, in 40 mm size, with new, interchangeable straps. The interchangeable straps will be offered on Ballon Blue timepieces of all sizes, except 28 mm, starting next year, as part of an upgrade service on the model.
The house began offering complementary services on certain key models in recent years, starting with the Panthère and Santos pieces, and adding the Pasha watch last year.
“When we can upgrade services we want also to add some new services, when we can upgrade services to our most important collections such as Ballon Bleu, we will do it,” he said.
Angling for the collector crowd, the label has revived the sideways-bell shaped Cloche watch from the 1920s, offering it in limited edition skeleton versions, as part of its Cartier Privé offer.
Over the past five years the house has been launching some of its Privé collection pieces in limited series — like the Tank Asymmetric, for example, which quickly sold out, Carrez said.
“We have seen over the last year a growing appetite from collectors for these legendary watches,” he said, linking the enthusiasm to a broader interest in the brand as a whole.
Cartier will again take part in the Watches and Wonders Shanghai event, which immediately follows the Geneva leg, drawing on experience from last year to build what he described as a more immersive, higher-quality experience. A “Super Brand Day” for Richemont is scheduled to take place on Alibaba’s Tmall, with livestream events. Cartier will relaunch a Ballon Blanc model as part of the event.
Cartier signed on to Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion last year, adding a prestigious, hard luxury label to the platform, and quickly using it as a springboard for launching a new Santos-Dumont watch model.