Interview: Cyrille Vigneron, Philosopher King of Cartier | SJX Watches (2023)

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After a quarter century at Cartier, Cyrille Vigneron was tapped for the top job in 2016, becoming President and Chief Executive Officer of perhaps the grandest name in jewellery. Under his stewardship Cartier’s lustre has only grown. Not only is the jeweller the second-largest watchmaker by sales, it is such a coveted marque that LVMH chief Bernard Arnault recently commented in the Wall Street Journal, “Cartier is a fantastic brand [but] it’s not for sale.”

During Watches & Wonders, I met Mr Vigneron for an interview that ran longer than expected, but we barely touched on watches or jewellery. Dressed in a grey turtleneck, Mr Vigneron possessed the air of an intellectual, very much atypical for an industry where leaders are often big personalities and dressed to match.

Yet Mr Vigneron is actually something of a social media influencer, albeit a professional one with over 82,000 followers on LinkedIn. His latest post on the professional social media platform posed the question, “What is true beauty?”, accompanied by a photo of a fallen autumn leaf. It received over a thousand likes and almost 100 comments.

His posts on the network usually discuss abstract concepts while offering sharp insight, which is why I decided to leave out the watches (which we have already amply covered) and instead seek his perspective on bigger topics.

The interview was edited for clarity and length.

SJX: I follow your LinkedIn posts and find there’s always a philosophical, reflective aspect to them. You reflect on topics related to the industry, but also go well beyond it. How do these philosophical musings relate to your role as CEO of Cartier?

Cyrille Vigneron (CV): Well, that’s a good question. Maybe, I should ask the others… [laughs]

We are in the world of luxury, which is a confluence of a few things. There is the world of art because we create things that are not necessary. And especially in our case, we create things which are objects of beauty – an act of artistic creativity. Another other part is sociology. It’s a world of aspirations, of how people define their identity, how they represent themselves to others.

So the leader of a maison like Cartier has to come from philosophical, artistic, aesthetic, and sociological roots. It’s being both an artist and a shrink. In this role, you have to understand things rather deeply. Part of my role is to think, to encourage others, and to be a source of inspiration. In fact, I think the CEO should be a chief inspiration officer, not an autocrat or merely an executive.

SJX: I remember another of your posts described successful luxury brands as achieving universality and asked the question: once you’re universal, how do you remain an exclusive brand?

CV: That’s a paradox I would say. We talk to people who want to express their personality. It doesn’t mean we talk to everyone, but we can talk to anyone, of any age, in any country, in any period can be touched by our message.

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My two Love bracelets for example: one was for my tenth wedding anniversary and the other for the 20th. They say something specific to me. There are hundred of thousands of people around the world who wear Love bracelets, each of them for a different reason. Some wear it just because they think it’s cool, others for status, and yet others to bond with someone special. For each person the Love bracelet means something for their own history. That’s why it can be both universal and unique.

The same thing for a wedding band. A wedding band is something probably the most common piece of jewellery. It says I’ve committed to someone. And you celebrate the ritual with the ring. The ring is a tangible object that is the same for millions of people. But each ring represents something special to someone.

SJX: You touched on different cultures earlier, and you spent several years working in Japan?

CV: Twelve years.

SJX: That is quite a long time. Do you think exposure to a very different culture from where you come from has influenced your approach to the business? The floral arrangement behind you looks Japanese by the way.

CV: [The floral arrangement] is just one piece of flower or plant, but it represents the entirety of nature.Having just one element that allows you to bring the entirety of what you are – this aspect is very Japanese.

The second aspect is relation to time, which is very different in Asia. In the West, we to see time on a linear dimension where you move from the past to the present to the future. But in East Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, time is instant but also cyclical.

If you think in a cycle, there’s no difference in past and future. Now it is spring, so winter was before, but in a year there will come another winter. You place yourself on a moving pendulum oscillating between past and future, which are one and the same. So the most important is to enjoy the present. When it comes, you live it fully.

If we think about that for a maison like Cartier, it is an enormous difference. People ask from a European point of view, how you balance the preservation of tradition with the preparation for the future? How much do you innovate and how much do you respect tradition?

But you think from an Asian perspective, tradition is constantly alive and present. You live in the present, which you have lived before. And this prepares you for the future.

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SJX: Reincarnation.

CV: It’s reincarnation, reinvention, or regeneration. It’s the same you and it’s a different you.

It’s like the paradox of a Japanese garden, probably the oldest element of humanism, some 1,200 years ago. They were imagined then and now they’re basically the same as they during that period. But yet they change every day. You have to take care of every detail every day so that it will be calm and harmonious – you pay attention to your present to ensure something that changes all the time can continue unchanged.

The third element of the Asia culture is impermanence. We in the West tend to think some things that are permanent, like real estate, when in fact, that’s wrong. Everything just moves at a different speed.

For a luxury maison, being in this continuous flow of change means that in order to be constantly relevant, something has come from a period before and constantly changed to be constantly the same. The more we create new things, the more they look Cartier.So, we have to constantly refine them one by one, little by little, to redefine a style which is timeless.

SJX: We talked about cultures and brands. Do you think it is important or even relevant for a luxury brand to have a national identity like say, French jeweller, German car maker, Swiss watchmaker?

CV: I would say yes and no. Whether you like it or not, we have some projection of what a country can be good at. There is a perception of Swiss watchmaking. But does “Swiss made” distinguish a Swiss watch brand or is the Swiss watch brands that create the value of “Swiss made”?

I think it’s more of the reverse. The more the brands work on collective values which are similar, the more they create a generic value for “Swiss made”. This means if your watch “Swiss made”, it will tend to have more value than if it is French made, for instance.

For Cartier, we have multiple identities because our watches are made in Switzerland, but we are a French-cultured brand. Being a French and Swiss maison carries something special in the imagination, something that can travel across the world, to Japan, Korea, to Singapore, and to others.

France has different facets – art, culture, and fashion so forth –but I think to the most interesting part of France is the one that tries to be universal. It is universal in welcoming talent. If you think about the fashion houses in France, they have many designers coming from everywhere.

When I was in Japan, I asked myself, what is the character of a French design house? Name the designers and see how many were born in France. Karl Lagerfeld, Azzedine Alaïa, Marc Jacobs, Phoebe Philo, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano – they come from everywhere but France. But they can be welcome in France, because France loves culture.

Interview: Cyrille Vigneron, Philosopher King of Cartier | SJX Watches (2)

(Video) The Tank Cintrée According to Eric Ku

A Swiss-made watch from a French jeweller

SJX: Now, I’m going to ask you a difficult question about countries and cultures. Politics is increasingly intruding on the world of business. Some luxury brands have suffered boycotts. Even Disney got in trouble recently. What are your thoughts on this?

CV: As a brand, we have to have a social consciousness of what we think is right. It is not politics, but a return of ethics. It used to be that the companies were not supposed to do that. Instead you respected the rules and regulations, and you were just supposed to serve the shareholder.But now with all the complexities of the world, there is the return of ethics in business.

Ethics defines what we think is right and what we think is wrong. Ethics doesn’t mean you have to be involved in political discussions. It’s not up to us to discuss about the validity of a government which has been chosen by its people in the way that is appropriate by its constitution. There is the United Nations [for that].

But it’s up to us to have our consciousness of what we think is right for our customers. So, through Cartier Philanthropy we help Doctors Without Borders with the refugees from Myanmar [settling] in Bangladesh – an entire population that has been pushed into the river in a very brutal way. That’s a crime against humanity.

We stopped buying stones from Myanmar. We can’t support people who are refugees while continuing to buy the stones. Of course, there are some stones we now have difficulties to source, but that’s okay as we can find alternatives.

We have contributed to and curated the women’s pavilion at the Dubai Expo. We are also working on the next one for 2025. This is a political commitment.

We think women are underrepresented in world affairs. And when women are more represented then the affairs get better – more cooperation and less conflict. So supporting women is probably a good way to support a better world.

SJX: That’s making a statement.

CV: There was some question, is Dubai the right place? I say any place is a good place to support women. As far as the country has the will to move forward, it’s good to be there.

Dubai has more equality and representation in government than France. On the gender gap, Japan is lower than Middle East. Each country has own issue and we should support from wherever we are.

Look at women’s rights in France 50 years ago, when my mother had to ask my father for his approval to sign a work contract.

SJX: That’s not that long ago.

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CV: One generation before me. Young ones now think it is absurd only 50 years ago women were not authorised to run a marathon in Europe and in the United States. The first woman ran the Boston marathon 50 years ago. The UAE has evolved faster in women’s rights in ten years than probably Europe in 50. We should encourage this – that’s a political statement.

SJX: I really appreciate your perspectives. It’s clear that you spend time to think about issues beyond watches and jewellery…

CV: Cartier can be a universal player, so we have to bring our view to the world, belief in human rights, belief in universality. We have to create forums, encourage cooperation, build bridges. That’s why we have a bridge here in the [booth]. Because we are a visible brand, the more we do it, the more it gets echoed.

To my surprise, when I started to write my posts [on LinkedIn], I thought only people in the company would read them. Now I have 75,000 followers and some of my posts reach 300,000 people.

Interview: Cyrille Vigneron, Philosopher King of Cartier | SJX Watches (3)

The Cartier booth at Watches & Wonders 2023 with a bridge at its centre. Image – Watches & Wonders

SJX: If you want a bigger audience, you should do TikTok videos… [laughter] I noticed your LinkedIn posts are quite regular. Once one or two months, you, you make a post.

CV: The next one will come in 10 days. The theme I am thinking of is the part of the moment where beauty reveals itself.

When you see photos of products and you think they might look nice, then you look up close and it’s different. When you put on your wrist, it’s a moment of truth. The beauty always existed, but now it reveals itself.

That’s the interesting part: does beauty already exist before it is seen?Sometimes we don’t have the eyes to see and sometimes, it has to reveal itself. Our role is also to reveal beauty.

SJX: You summed up the rationale for a watch fair like Watches & Wonders.

CV: A watch fair is the moment of truth when beauty reveals itself.

(Video) Zooming In With Karl-Friedrich Scheufele of Chopard

SJX: That’s a good slogan for the fair – the moment of truth.

Back to top.


Who is the head of Cartier watches? ›

Cyrille Vigneron has had a long career with Cartier and has been the brand's CEO since 2015, a period during which Cartier has enjoyed remarkable growth.

Where is Cyrille Vigneron from? ›

Born in 1961, French national and a father of four children. Cyrille Vigneron is a music lover and a devotee of Japanese culture translated in the writing and publication of a book, De geishas en mangas: Chroniques du Japon d'aujourd'hui (Editions Albin Michel, 2009).

What watch did Princess Diana wear? ›

Over the decades, the Cartier Tank in its various iterations has been coveted and acquired by the most discerning style-setters. Princess Diana had two, Jacqueline Kennedy was gifted one, Andy Warhol was never apart from his because it was “the watch to wear”.

Which Cartier watch did Jackie Kennedy wear? ›

Despite the fact that Jackie Kennedy had hundreds of jewels and several watches in her massive collection, her classic gold Cartier Tank watch is among her most signature accessories.

How much is Cartier worth? ›

Global brand value of Cartier from 2016 to 2022

In 2022, the Cartier brand was valued at approximately 12.4 billion U.S. dollars.

Who invented Cartier? ›

Cartier was founded in 1847 in Paris by the jeweller Louis-François Cartier, who in 1899 handed over to his three sons. They would establish the company internationally, not least by making the Cartier name a favourite among the crowned heads of Europe.

Who is the owner of Cartier LinkedIn? ›

Cyrille Vigneron – President and CEO – Cartier | LinkedIn.

Does Meghan have Diana's Cartier watch? ›

The watch, priced at £17,800 at the time but now likely worth a lot more given its history, has been worn by Meghan frequently, stacked with a matching gold Cartier Love bracelet. This certainly isn't the first time Meghan has worn her late mother-in-law's jewellery.

What kind of Cartier watch does Meghan Markle wear? ›

It is reported the Duchess of Sussex was gifted Princess Diana's yellow gold Cartier Tank Française Watch by Prince Harry.

Which Cartier watch does Meghan Markle own? ›

The Duchess of Sussex wore her late mother-in-law Princess Diana's Cartier watch. The timeless piece is approximately priced at Rs 16,66,519.

What watch does Melania Trump wear? ›

Like her husband President Donald Trump, Melania is a fan of Vacheron Constantin. It's no surprise she owns a reference that is maxed out in diamonds; the Kalla Duchesse features a tonneau-shaped case that, along with the dial and bracelet, is completely drenched in diamonds.

What Cartier watch does Michelle Obama wear? ›

First Lady Michelle Obama's Cartier Steel Tank Française

I was more focused on the fact that she was wearing a classic double strand of pearls and studs and a medium model, steel Cartier Tank Française watch.

What is the most famous watch by Cartier? ›

Cartier Tank

Debuting over a century ago in 1917, the Tank watch is Cartier's best-seller, known for its infamous square/rectangular interface. Louis Cartier designed the watch after finding inspiration in the tire tracks of tanks during World War I.

Is Cartier better or Rolex? ›

There may be some that debate this, but a fact is a fact. Rolex is superior to Cartier in terms of build quality. The stainless steel frame and rigid water resistance of its timepieces are unrivaled. On the other hand, Cartier isn't too far behind in terms of build quality, but Rolex has the slight edge.

What's better than Cartier? ›

If you are looking to invest in a brand that holds the same prestigious value as Cartier, it's Boucheron. Boucheron makes high quality, timeless, elegant pieces that will hold their value. What I love about Bourcheron is the understated elegance that is associated with the brand.

Does Cartier hold more value than Rolex? ›

Cartier watches do not hold their value as well as Rolex does, however their resale value is still competitive vs other high-end watch brands. While Cartier produces their models in various metals, and uses embellishments like diamonds and types of gold, they don't have nearly as many models available as Rolex.

Is A Cartier watch worth it? ›

The short answer is yes, Cartier brand watches hold value and may even increase in value. The longer answer is that it depends on several factors. Vintage Cartier watches may go up in value more than a newer model. Trends may change as time passes and value may increase or diminish accordingly.

What does Cartier mean in English? ›

Cartier is a splendid modern-day gender-neutral name that has its roots in Britain. It may not come as a surprise that the meaning of this mean is quite literally “one who transports goods.” Though often associated as a surname, Cartier has become an up-and-coming first name in its own right.

Is Cartier less expensive in France? ›

The short answer is Yes, Cartier is cheaper in Europe!! The Cartier Love Bracelet is cheaper in Europe by $267!! Meaning, if you travel to Paris and you buy the same Cartier bracelet you would buy in the USA you'll save $267!

Which family owns Cartier? ›

Founded by Louis-François Cartier (1819–1904) in Paris in 1847, the company remained under family control until 1964. The company is headquartered in Paris and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swiss Richemont Group.

Is Cartier family owned? ›

Cartier remained under family control from its founding in 1847 until 1964. Today it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Swiss Richemont Group, but remains headquartered in Paris, France.

What companies are owned by Cartier? ›

Lange & Söhne, Azzedine Alaïa, Baume & Mercier, Buccellati, Cartier, Chloé, Dunhill, IWC Schaffhausen, Giampiero Bodino, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Officine Panerai, Piaget, Peter Millar, Purdey, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels and Delvaux.

Who is the new face of Cartier? ›

It was hard not to love Vanessa Kirby's version of Princess Margaret in The Crown. Personally, I believe her performance outshone that of her co-star Claire Elizabeth-Foy, aka, the Queen.

Who is the director of jewelry for Cartier? ›

Brian Fernandes - High Jewelry Community Director - Cartier | LinkedIn.

Who is the CEO of Cartier North America? ›

Recent Articles by Thomas Waller. Mercedes Abramo, president and chief executive officer of Cartier North America, will be joining Cartier International as deputy chief commercial officer, effective March 1.

Who is the current designer of Cartier? ›

Cartier's creative director Jacqueline Karachi.

What does Cartier mean in French? ›

The name Cartier is primarily a gender-neutral name of French origin that means Driver Of A Cart. Luxury jewelry brand.

Who is the male ambassador of Cartier? ›

Austin Butler is the newest celebrity to sign on as a Cartier ambassador. The fine jeweler said on Wednesday that it has tapped the “Elvis” actor for the ambassadorship. Butler kicked off the appointment at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, walking the red carpet for the “Elvis” premiere wearing pieces from Cartier.

Who is the brand ambassador of Cartier watch? ›

Deepika Padukone becomes Cartier's new brand ambassador - Times of India.

Who wears Cartier jewellery? ›

Current celebrities that wear the Love include Katie Holmes, Angelina Jolie, Pippa Middleton, Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson.

Who wore the Cartier necklace? ›

Designed by luxury jewellery maker Cartier, the antique necklace originally belonged to Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, and features a De Beers diamond, which was once the seventh largest in the world.

What ethnicity is Cartier? ›

Jacques Cartier, (born 1491, Saint-Malo, Brittany, France—died September 1, 1557, near Saint-Malo), French mariner whose explorations of the Canadian coast and the St. Lawrence River (1534, 1535, 1541–42) laid the basis for later French claims to North America (see New France).

Who owns Cartier stock? ›

South African billionaire Johann Rupert owns Compagnie Financière Richemont. Richemont generated over €19 billion in revenue in 2022 and over €2 billion in profits, with the jewelry segment generating €11 billion in 2022. Richemont owns Cartier, Buccellati, and Van Cleef & Arpels in the jewelry segment.

Which country owns Cartier? ›

Cartier is a french luxury Maison within Richemont.

Why is Cartier so famous? ›

Cartier's focus on quality is evident in its designs and products. The company uses only the finest materials and the most skilled craftsmen to create its products. This attention to detail has made Cartier's jewelry some of the most sought-after in the world.

Is Cartier considered luxury? ›

Cartier is one of those iconic luxury brands that captures the heart of audiences worldwide. What started as a jewelry company has grown into a luxury brand that offers a wide range of products, including watches, fragrances, and leather goods.

Why is Cartier famous? ›

Cartier is perhaps best known for its jewelry and watches, but it has also forged successful niches in leather goods and perfumes. It became part of the Richemont Group in 1988 and still lives by the motto of its original driving force, Louis Cartier: “Never imitate, always innovate”.

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