The short film "L'Odyssée de Cartier" celebrates the maison's 165 years of history. It was premiered on 4 March 2012, on TV, digital channels, and on cinemas all over the world. The three-and-a-half-minute movie is an incredible achievement, with remarkable special effects that summarize the maison's history. Our guide in this whirlwind trip around the world is the panther, which has become an icon for the brand, who starts from the Paris address where the Cartier story began, and visits different locations and highlights before meeting top model Shalom Harlow at the Grand Palais. The movie was made by a team headed by advertising film director Bruno Aveillan, with a 60-strong crew on location, and another 50 special effects technicians who worked on post-production for six months. The score was composed by Pierre Adenot. Shalom's red dress was designed by Yiqing Yinwith from China. Three panthers were used for filming. Victoria Gill from LUXOS spoke to Arnaud Bamberger, Executive Chairman of Cartier UK, and François Le Troquer, Managing Director at Cartier UK, in this exclusive interview. Click below to watch an edited version of the interview online, with excerpts from the Cartier movie.
LUXOS: So the premise of the film is this extraordinary creature, the panther. Could you tell me something about the journey it goes on in the film?
François Le Troquer: Everything starts at 13 Rue de la Paix. It starts at the iconic store where almost everything started for Cartier, in the 18th century. The brand is 160 years old, and the panther has long been an iconic animal for Cartier. The Cartier family, grandfather, father and the three Cartier brothers, travelled round the world, which means that the panther starts from Paris, from where Cartier began, and then going to China, coming face to face with a dragon, and then going to India, with this wonderful palace where you can imagine the Maharajahs living. Then it meets Alberto Santos-Dumont in Brazil, and returns back to the Grand Palais in Paris, and to our maison on Place Vendôme.
LUXOS: What is it about the panther that relates so much to Cartier?
François Le Troquer: It's an iconic animal for our maison. It is an expression of femininity. It was Jeanne Toussaint, the creative director of Cartier, whose nickname was "la panthère" because of her character! You know that it became a favourite of many of Cartier's famous clients, including the Duchess of Windsor who asked for many panther creations, including an amazing panther in diamond on a sapphire cabochon. Also Barbara Hutton, and many other women with very strong characters who really loved the panther. It's still an icon, and still a living legend.
LUXOS: Can you tell us something about the making of the film? It took two years, and it looks like a feature film - we'd love it to go on for two hours! How did you make it?
Arnaud Bamberger: Well, it's a complicated process. As you said, it took two years to complete the research and production, which for a movie like this is very complicated. We're not afraid of showing the result to Steven Spielberg, because as you can see, there's a lot of action, a lot of fantastic effects. Our objective was to try to show the romance that lives in the world of Cartier, and all the things that have been important over the course of the 160 years for which the brand has existed. I hope that people will have a better idea of the passion that flows through the veins of the people who work at Cartier.
François Le Troquer: It starts in Paris, and then you go to St Petersburg. Why St. Petersburg? Because it's the imperial city, where Cartier has so many links with the Tsars, and where we have had so many Russian clients. Then we go to China, with the Chinese inspiration. Then on to India, where we see this palace on an elephant. So it's an amazing fantasy for Cartier, to be travelling around the world in three minutes and thirty seconds.
Arnaud Bamberger: It's a link between the old world, which is us, and the new world. For instance, you see the Great Wall of China, in a dramatic sequence. This is where a lot of the business is. I think it's important to show that.
LUXOS: The journey goes through the so-called BRIC countries, the emerging economies. How are they influencing the world of high jewellery today?
Arnaud Bamberger: They don't influence the world of high jewellery, because we don't do something for the emerging countries. We have a style, something that hopefully the people of the emerging countries will like and hopefully buy. These are new markets for us, where there's a lot of potential, and we hope that we will be the favourite luxury brand for them, so that they appreciate our creations.
François Le Troquer: It's true that Cartier has always been inspired, in its creations, by the culture of other countries, such as the Islamic culture with so much blue and green, which at the time may have been considered as not in good taste, but which Cartier really wanted to introduce. Inspiration also came from Russia, enamels, and China where we produce the mystery clock with Asian inspiration. This is one of the reasons why the brand is so rich and contemporary.
LUXOS: So this international culture is not actually influencing the design?
Arnaud Bamberger: No, it's not. We have a style, and we change from time to time, but this is not due to a certain civilization.
LUXOS: Do you think that the tastes of those markets are the same as European tastes, or are you seeing demand in a certain direction?
François Le Troquer: I think that we have to think in terms of clients, and not in terms of nationalities or countries. I think that some countries may or may not like a creation, but it's about individualism. What is important about Cartier is the Cartier style. You may like the Trinity, the Love, the Panther, but I don't think that this is connected to nationality. You can't define clients by where they come from. We have to define them in terms of taste, what they like. Cartier's objective is to produce beautiful and elegant pieces of jewellery, of fine watchmaking, to celebrate the happy moments of life. And happy moments can be anywhere and everywhere!
LUXOS: In the film we see Alberto Santos-Dumont taking the panther from Brazil to Paris. How is he linked to the house of Cartier?
Arnaud Bamberger: It's very simple. Alberto Santos-Dumont was the person for whom the first wristwatch was created by Louis Cartier, at the beginning of the last century. He didn't know how he could control his beautiful aeroplane, this crazy machine, the Demoiselle. So one day he asked his friend Louis Cartier to make something different, because in those days there were only pocket watches. That's how Louis Cartier created the first wristwatch, which was named the Santos-Dumont watch in his honour.
LUXOS: What are the other milestones in the history of the house of Cartier, the world firsts and the iconic pieces?
Arnaud Bamberger: There are plenty, including all the Duchess of Windsor's pieces. As François said, the first Panthère was created specially for her. That was before the Second World War, and the piece quickly became iconic. And so we use that animal as a fetish, the Cartier animal. But there are many instances. The Tank watch, for example, is synonymous with elegance, and it has been worn by all the major personalities, heads of state, movie stars, industry magnates and so forth, all over the world. So there are many things for which Cartier was first. We are used to saying that we are inventors and creators, not followers. And that's why there are so many people who are trying to copy us, which is not always that pleasant, but it shows our popularity.
François Le Troquer: We have already discussed how we accompany the happy moments of life, and Mr Bamberger spoke about the Tank watch, and recently there was the Elizabeth [Taylor] auction, which was a huge success. She was a big fan of jewellery and a big fan of Cartier. The beautiful story of the ruby and diamond necklace that she received from her husband just out of the swimming pool, this is one of the love stories that we cherish at Cartier.
LUXOS: We've talked about Panthère; could you tell us about Bestiare?
Arnaud Bamberger: Bestiare means anything to do with reproductions of animals. One of the best stories would be that of Maria Felix, Mexican movie star, who came to our main store in Paris. She was carrying a bag in which there were two baby crocodiles. She said, "I love them so much, I want you to create a necklace for me, that looks like these two crocodiles." The person at the store said, "But we will need to keep those crocodiles so that we can see exactly what they look like and make exact copies of them." She said, "Yes, that's OK, you can keep them, but you'd better hurry, because they grow very fast!" That's a true story, how this magnificent necklace for Maria Felix was designed. It started the Bestiare series.
François Le Troquer: The Bestiare is not just part of the past, it is part of the present. What is unique about Cartier is the way we can create a panther or another animal that really looks like the animal. The craftsmanship at Cartier is about being able to shape it with diamonds, gold and platinum, so that the animal really looks like an animal. It's not a fake animal, but it looks like a living animal. When you look at it, you almost see the panther ready to jump.
Arnaud Bamberger: We're now in the year of the dragon, so maybe you'll see some dragons in our collections over the next few months! That would also be part of the Bestiare.
LUXOS: What is it about animals that so fascinates you? Their movement, the colour, the fact that the colour of wild animals is so hard to capture? Their savagery and wildness?
Arnaud Bamberger: Obviously, if we choose the panther, it's due to its femininity, its feline appearance of a cat. It's important, but it's difficult to reproduce. But we have succeeded in achieving this in many animals, and birds, such as the flamingo. The famous flamingo once again takes us back to the era of the Duchess of Windsor. There is a lot of material in the Bestiare.
LUXOS: Let's talk about your heritage, and how this relates to your world-beating position on the market?
François Le Troquer: We want to keep Cartier as a living legend, so heritage is not something that you keep, it's something that you grow. For example, we began developing the Cartier collection, which comprises more than 1,400 pieces, many years ago, long before any other brand started thinking that it would be a good idea to collect their patrimony. It was a unique way of showing the beauty of Cartier and the strength of the maison's creativity. Throughout the years, it has grown with the Mystery clocks, the pieces for the Duchess of Windsor that we bought back, with all these wonderful stories and timepieces that are part of our history. Just keeping the heritage and growing the heritage is not sufficient. You also have to show the heritage. You need to travel. We have touring exhibitions. We've had them in London, New York, Moscow, China. It's amazing how many people are attracted by a Cartier exhibition. This year we will have a beautiful exhibition in Taipei, and one in Madrid. Every year, the number of people seeing Cartier's history is growing more and more.
Arnaud Bamberger: Heritage is hugely important to all of us at heritage, but it is more important to perpetuate the heritage. We don't live in the past, we use the past at lot, we're very proud of it, of all the creations and all the wonderful things that have been made. We hope that one day, people will say that we have perpetuated the heritage and that we are the heritage today. Because what we do is still imbued with the same love, passion and creativity, the same wish to achieve high quality standards in everything that we do.
LUXOS: You've mentioned the Duchess of Windsor a few times. How does she resonate with the Cartier woman? And who else might be a Cartier woman?
Arnaud Bamberger: Hopefully you are a Cartier woman! We speak about the Duchess of Windsor, because she's so famous. Everything about her has been publicized so much, the sale of her jewellery, and that's why we were so grateful to her husband, who once said that Cartier was the jeweller to the king, and the king of jewellers. That's something we always keep in mind. But our focus is not purely on the Duchess of Windsor. The Cartier lady today is equally the Duchess of Cambridge, for example, and she was wearing a Cartier tiara when she got married to Prince William. But in addition to royalty, there are many other people as well, exclusive, feminine people who like quality linked to creativity, and like unique pieces with a certain style, a certain subtle style that we have advertised.
LUXOS: In the film, who is the Tsarina depicted on the sled?
François Le Troquer: The Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. At the very start of the movie, when you see the scene of St. Petersburg, it features the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, wife of Grand Duke Vladimir, who was a great patron and client of Cartier. Cartier was one of the first jewellers that succeeded in penetrating the Russian market and the royal court, and we know so many of the famous stories. For example, a famous British spy escaped from Russia with part of the collection of these Cartier pieces before the revolution.
LUXOS: Then there are the Maharajahs and Maharanis as well...
Arnaud Bamberger: They were big clients, huge clients for us. Every single Maharajah has been involved with Cartier in one way or another. We created the most magnificent parures, sets and necklaces and so forth. That was wonderful. Can you imagine being a jeweller and having a Maharajah wearing these huge necklaces dripping with diamonds or other precious stones. It was like they were never enough, they always wanted to add some more. We created some fantastic pieces for old Maharajahs, Nawanagar, Patiala, all the big Maharajahs.
LUXOS: Mr Bamberger, could you tell us something about your background in cinema?
Arnaud Bamberger: I grew up in cinema, in the sense that my great-grandfather Louis Lumière invented the movie, so my mother is a Lumière and is a grand-daughter to Louis Lumière. I'm very proud of that origin and that heritage. That may be why I love movies so much, and likewise photography.
LUXOS: What was it like growing up in cinema?
Arnaud Bamberger: Great, of course, nothing special, they were normal people, but unfortunately I never met the two Lumière brothers, because they died when I was very young. I don't remember them, but the spirit was there. My mother told a lot of stories about them.
LUXOS: How were you involved with this Cartier movie?
Arnaud Bamberger: I was not involved at all, but I'm very proud of it. I think that they did a wonderful job, and it's a fabulous movie. It is the first time that we have made a movie, one that is not really advertising. It tells the story of Cartier, it's a nice way of showing the romance of Cartier, showing all the iconic scenes of Cartier, and we're very happy about it. We hope that people will love it.