The historic house of Cartier draws on its heritage to create a thoroughly modern new boutique.
Cartier on the Esplanade.
The house of Cartier has built its reputation on jewelry that feels absolutely current even many decades after it was introduced. Those just receiving their first Trinity ring may be surprised to learn that it debuted in 1924. That modern icon the Love bracelet was created in 1969, while the Tank and Santos watches were introduced in 1919 and 1978, respectively.
So when it came time for Cartier to renovate its Wynn boutique, the mission was as much about telling the story of the brand’s rich heritage as it was refreshing and modernizing its expansive space. The store’s clean lines and muted tones produce a sense of elegant, understated grandeur, punctuated by a few majestic focal points, like the massive Windfall chandelier—featuring 50 balances and silver-plated mouth-blown glass candles—that hangs near the entrance. There is an almost residential warmth to the space, which was designed by Bruno Moinard, who has worked on more than 350 Cartier boutiques worldwide, as well as apartments for the likes of Karl Lagerfeld.
The undeniably luxurious atmosphere, with a nod to Art Deco design, is especially appropriate for a brand that’s been selling precious jewelry since 1847, when Louis-Francois Cartier founded his namesake company in Paris. “When clients buy a piece of jewelry or a timepiece from Cartier, they are buying an object created by a house with almost 170 years of history,” says Mercedes Abramo, the brand’s North American president and chief operating officer.
18k white-gold and diamond Coup d’Eclat de Cartier ring ($36,100), from one of Cartier’s newest Art Deco-inspired collections, available at the brand’s Wynn Las Vegas boutique.
“They are looking for exceptional pieces that will withstand the test of time, as they are not just spending but making an investment.” company’s ethos applies not just to its jewelry and watches but also to the spaces in which those pieces will first be experienced. “They’ve had an uncanny sense of capturing the moment in time and being able to carry it through to today,” says Vivienne Becker, the author of the book Cartier Panthère, which explores the history of one of the house’s most beloved icons, the panther. “They were way ahead of their time. They anticipated the Art Deco trend—they were doing that decades before anyone. They more or less made the Belle Epoque style their own; they generated that whole movement. And they just hit the spot perfectly with the Love bracelet and the Nail bracelet, which have become real classics.”
“For Cartier, creation and innovation are both part of our tradition,” explains Pierre Rainero, the brand’s director of image, style, and heritage. “Our contemporary style is deeply rooted in our history, like a living language. All our contemporary creations are new and pave the way for the future and at the same time bear the seal of a very strong identity.” Cartier has always had an illustrious group of fans: royalty, industry power players, socialites, dignitaries, and many celebrities. Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor were well-known clients; in 1969, for example, Taylor’s then-husband, Richard Burton, gave her a diamond of almost 70 carats.
These days, photos of Kylie Jenner wearing her Love bracelets frequently appear on social media; her sister Kim Kardashian wears a Panthère gold bracelet, a gift from Kanye West. “They had exclusive clientele from early on,” says Carol Elkins, a senior specialist in jewelry at Sotheby’s. “When you’re talking about that level of clientele, you’re obviously presenting the finest in terms of quality of stones, exquisite craftsmanship, and excellent design that resonates throughout the ages. It just doesn’t go away.”
The Oak Room in the renovated Cartier mansion in New York.
This year has been a pivotal one for the brand. In addition to the Wynn remodeling, Cartier unveiled a major renovation of its New York City flagship mansion on Fifth Avenue a few months ago. (The property was famously sold to Mr. Cartier’s grandson Pierre in 1917 for the price of $100, plus a pearl necklace crafted from 128 perfect—and perfectly identical—natural South Sea pearls.) The mansion’s renovation maintains its magnificent bones but adds a warm, welcoming ambience throughout. In addition to rooms focusing on categories such as watches and pearl jewelry, there are spaces inspired by famous clients, like Andy Warhol and Gary Cooper.
“We knew it was time to give this wonderful building a facelift and that we needed to prepare for the future,” says Abramo. “We have created environments where you feel that you can come in, explore, and wander, but you can also take your time enjoying our creations and experiencing our story and learning about the history of Cartier as well as our current offerings.” “Pierre Cartier’s original visionary idea of making clients feel at home is very relevant today,” adds Rainero. “In this inviting space, clients can imagine themselves more easily wearing those objects that are represented. There is a degree of refinement in the objects. The immediate environment—the way we represent them, from the rooms but also to the furniture and the counters—has to be in line with the preciousness of the space.”
Elizabeth Taylor reveals the Cartier ruby and diamond jewelry given to her by husband Mike Todd in 1957.
In the renovated Wynn store, one of the most welcoming areas is a special VIP room decorated in homage to Jeanne Toussaint, who oversaw the creative direction of the brand’s fine jewelry from 1933 through 1970. “She’s only just beginning to get the credit that she deserves for her creativity and the role she played, not only at Cartier but in the design of 20th-century jewelry,” says Becker. Toussaint was responsible for creating many seminal pieces, like the bold panther brooches owned by socialites including the Duchess of Windsor and Daisy Fellowes.
While the store’s design is noteworthy, the real focus, of course, is the jewelry. In conjunction with its opening, the boutique will be one of the few Cartier shops in the world to carry the Ballon Bleu de Cartier Vibrating Setting Watch, whose 18k gold dial is covered with 123 diamonds uniquely mounted on springs to gently oscillate with even the slightest movement of the wearer’s wrist. (There are three patents pending on the design.) Available in a limited edition of 30 pieces worldwide, the watch features a bracelet with 985 brilliant-cut diamonds and a crown with a sapphire in a distinctive cabochon cut. Another star of the boutique at the moment is the new Coup d’Eclat de Cartier collection, five rings distinguished by their fluid shapes and bright pavé diamond sparkle.
One more collection of particular note is Maillon Infini de Cartier, consisting of 11 styles inspired by Art Deco pieces and classic Cartier details, such as the links of a Santos metal watchband. Abramo is thrilled at how the refashioned boutique—which offers the largest selection of Cartier high jewelry and precious accessories in Las Vegas—turned out: “The renovation within the space allows us to give our clients a warm welcome, while the boutique’s redesign and the addition to the VIP room has created an enhanced shopping experience.”