For centuries, watch makers and fine jewelers have designed one-of-a-kind pieces for royalty and nobility. And while this trend continues at the high end, this year custom-order programs are being revisited, and it’s no longer just for kings and queens.
Companies such as Cartier, Piaget, Movado and Judith Ripka, among others, are creating pieces that are limited in production and can be personalized for that one-of-a-kind aura.
“There’s something in the overcommercialization of the shopping experience,” said designer David Yurman. “Probably the most important element of shopping in luxury is for a customer to find something that looks a little different and special and new, and if you can extend that to unique, well, how special is it when there’s only one?”
For Cartier’s new limited-edition rose gold Santos-Dumont watch, for example, clients choose the dial from three graphic variations. The dial is then mounted onto the watch and it takes less than a month for the watch to be delivered to the client. There are only 80 dials for each of the three versions worldwide. The retail price is $9,500.
“It’s part of Cartier’s DNA. We have always been here to listen to our client’s needs,” said Stanislas de Quercize, president and chief executive officer of Cartier in North America.
De Quercize added that while custom orders are typically more common in fine jewelry, Cartier can customize any watch, as long as it remains within Cartier’s design aesthetic. In fact, next month, Cartier is hosting an event at its Manhasset, N.Y., boutique and for the occasion, a Cartier designer from France will be flown in to help special clients personalize their purchases.
“This is a place where you want to feel unique,” de Quercize said. “Louis Cartier said he wants every client to walk away from the boutique three inches taller, because they have been treated as royalty, and that’s what we want to create for clients.”
Piaget, meanwhile, is launching a new made-to-order concept in its Limelight collection as part of its 130th anniversary this year. This September, Piaget boutiques in New York and Palm Beach and Bal Harbour, Fla., each will receive a box featuring a loose, plain bezel; a pavé-diamond bezel; six different dials in colors from turquoise to onyx, fire opal, pink, white and meteorite, and six different straps. Clients can easily move around the dials and straps to create their personal favorite, in essence, creating their watch from 72 variations. Once they have made their choices, Piaget will deliver the complete watch within four weeks. The custom-made watch retails from $12,000
for a nondiamond bezel to $26,000 for the all-pavé bezel.
“What we encounter more and more is the demand for customized, personalized, unique creations,” said Thomas Van der Kallen, president of Piaget North America. “People now like to design their own piece, which goes with their wardrobe and their jewelry.”
Watch lovers will stumble across a similar concept at Movado’s 20 boutiques. Next month, Movado’s Museum Automatic watch will be available as a made-to-order piece.
“The whole importance of individuality with consumers is growing,” said Mary Leach, senior vice president of marketing at Movado. “You see it in different categories, from bike aficionados who want to put together their own bicycle to people who want to personalize their chinos. So we came up with a way to do that in our boutiques.”
Customers can walk into any Movado boutique, choose from seven dials, including a white and a silver dial, and pick from 20 straps, from alligator to lizard and patent leather. The price starts from $850. Movado developed a special display case with four drawers featuring the various options.
“Consumers are much more sophisticated and retailers understand that and come to the table with something the consumer wants,” Leach said.
Jeweler Judith Ripka has been making special pieces for clients for more than a decade, but this spring, the company offered the made-to-order Lola ring. Those interested in the Lola will face a bevy of choices from which to pick in order to create their perfect ring. Among them are the 18-karat gold, which is offered in white or yellow gold, and the stone, which can be a milky aqua cabochon, fire opal, peridot, garnet, green amethyst or cognac quartz. The Lola ring ranges at retail from $3,100 to $7,800, and it is available at Ripka’s nine boutiques.
“People want to be a bit more playful with jewelry and more personal,” said Janice Winter, president at Judith Ripka. “The world today is just an influx of everything. There is so much available and so many options. The customer today is looking for a shopping experience, looking for a way to connect in a more emotional way, perhaps with themselves. It’s also fun….It’s jewelry.”