Yves Saint-Laurent once said, “Fashions fade, but style is eternal”. When it comes to Cartier’s watches and jewellery, the brand’s historical and antique pieces, regardless of when they were made, are still enthralling today just as they were back then. Collectors from all around the world can now have a part of Cartier’s legacy for themselves through Cartier Tradition.
The company’s Art of Cartier Collection includes a subsidiary called Cartier Tradition that looks up, buys, and, if required, repairs the brilliant pieces from the brands glorious past. Exhibitions are staged in just a few of Cartier’s premium jewellery boutiques across the world, and the collected works are then made available to a small set of VIP clients.
Cartier Tradition which was conceived in 1996 by Pierre Rainero, longtime director of image, heritage and style at Cartier, has expanded from a small collection spread among its stores to a collection that could occupy a whole exhibition wing.
Finding the right materials that are of high quality and historically accurate can take months because of the house is so meticulous when it comes to restoration. Rainero says, ““The objective is always to propose a piece at the closest stage to when it was sold the first time—or, I should say, the last time—because sometimes the same piece has been modified by Cartier at the request of a client”. When it comes to jewellery, the quality, colour, and cuts of any missing stones must match those of the remaining stones in the piece. The same applies to watches, every component of a watch is hand-made, including the movement. Cartier acquires the stone or will replicate the parts exactly as they were when the item was first produced. In order to do so, they dive into their archives of era- specific stones or watch materials to replicate the original.
Now how does Cartier Tradition work? Well, usually, items are returned by past customers, though Rainero points out that occasionally, antiques are bought from dealers, and sometimes but not often from auctioneers. From the standpoint of the customer, the benefit when it comes to purchasing a restored piece is in the authenticity of design, materials, and restoration method used. Each piece comes with a thorough documentation on the components utilized, the background of the design, and each stage of the restoration techniques applied. However, the origin of the piece is never made public in order to respect the privacy of prior owners.