Insider: Cartier’s Regional Managing Director Grégoire Blanche Shares Insights on an Over-Centennial Legacy

MAKING A LEGACY. Grégoire Blanche, Cartier’s regional managing director, shares great insights on watch designs and an over-centennial legacy, writes Chris Andre

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Grégoire Blanche

Meeting Grégoire Blanche in person can be a quite intimidating experience. His sleek hair, faultless posture and engaging smile render a false impression that he had dabbled in professional modeling before. But the moment he opens his mouth, it’s apparent that this man is not only capable of wearing many hats but also well suited to taking on the huge responsibility of maneuvering the 167-year-old brand in Southeast Asia and Australia. Asked why he still remains loyal to the French haute jewelry and watch after 18 years so far, Blanche’s eloquent answer sends an empowering message of unyielding passion to create a lasting legacy for the future. that and his admirable characters define him suitable as a representational figure of a 21st century Cartier man who embodies elegance, savoir-faire and luxury.

Chris Andre: Hi Grégoire, let’s cut to the chase. This year Cartier has been focusing on its first dive watch, Calibre de Cartier Diver. However, many other Swiss brands have already produced a number of dive watches. So, do you think now is the right time or a bit late?
Grégoire Blanche: Actually, the way we (Cartier) look at the development of our timepieces is not linked to what we see on the market. What we do see is that each of the timepieces we create is destined to be timeless. that’s one big difference and should be a main point of difference between fashion and watchmaking or jewelry, for that matter: the ability, capacity and desire of being timeless.

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Tank Louis Cartier (1922)

“It’s empowering to know what you’re doing celebrates the important moments of someone’s life”

CA: How long did it take to develop the Calibre de Cartier Diver?
GB: the time needed to develop a watch could go anywhere from two years to far more than that. For the Calibre de Cartier diver, the first prototype I saw was when I was working in Paris around two years ago. A lot of thoughts and ideas went into the development of the piece, because once we make a statement with new timepieces, we need to make sure that it’s consistent with our history, DNA and style. Most importantly, the level of attention to detail that’s being brought into this creation must be at par with the rest of what we’ve done so far. We’re carrying 167 years of history on our shoulders; we need to be extremely consistent with everything we create. So, again, it’s not about the market.

CA: But in terms of market, how’s Asia right now?
GB: I say that Asia, in particular Southeast Asia, is a very discerning market. There are a lot of collectors in the region who have very keen eyes and have collected many different types of timepieces over time. So when we come with the proposition of timepieces for the haute horlogerie collection, such as the perpetual calendar this year, the types of clienteles who will be looking at those are probably the ones that are seeking to complement what they already have. they may have two or three perpetual calendars already, but the new perpetual calendar that we unveiled is so original in its way of presenting the calendar, the months, dates and years, that it would excite the imagination of many people. At the same time, the skeletons are generally a good entry point for someone who is starting to build a collection. They are a good entry point in terms of affordability and in terms of understanding of the complexity that goes into the design of those timepieces. So, any good collector always has a good unique skeleton watch in their collection.

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Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon

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The Tortue Ladies

CA: Which is the bestselling piece in Southeast Asia?
GB: I’d say Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious double tourbillon watch that was unveiled last year was definitely a strong piece with a lot of buzz around it. the skeletons have been very popular with the collectors and, at a larger scale, watch enthusiasts would be adding them to the collections.

CA: Since Cartier now has a dive watch, will there be more tool watches in the future? A pilot watch perhaps?
GB: I think the most important thing today is that we have a very broad range in front of us. this is made possible because of the case. Cartier’s round case is such a versatile case. If you think about it, it is not easy to find the right proportion of a case that would fit with the constraints of a dive watch—that can go up to 300 meters underwater and is ISO-certified—and a chronograph—with the 1904 movement that was unveiled last year—and a high complication watch—with the Astrotourbillon version as an example. These are three different extreme examples of one round case being used in three different types of directions. it says that it’s a unique and a very successful design, because it gives us enough room to express and play with our creativity, which is exactly what we want with the case.

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Louis Cartier sailing on a lake

“The main difference between fashion and watchmaking is the desire of being timeless”

CA: Out of all the Cartier watches, which is your favorite?
GB: it’s a difficult question because I am extremely fortunate to have quite a large collection. Every morning I have this hard question of which watch I am going to wear. I think it all depends on the type of day I’m going to have. Is it going to be a very formal day or a very casual one? It also depends on what type of memory I want to have in the back of my mind throughout the day, because all those pieces I have relate to specific moments in life. I have a Tortue piece that I love with passion and was given by my wife for a special anniversary. I have a tank Americane, which is my first tank watch. Now I have a Calibre de Cartier Diver and I’ve been wearing it religiously every day. What I love about it is that this morning I was doing laps in my pool with it; now I’m wearing a suit and it still fits me pretty well; and tonight I’m going to a party and I know I’ll be completely in the best of style with it on my wrist.

CA: You have been with Cartier for 18 years. What is it that keeps you very loyal to the company?
GB: Why not? I mean Cartier is a very passionate maison, and that is what really drew me from the beginning. Having such a huge history, sometimes it’s intimidating, but it’s extremely empowering at the same time. I like to see my time with the company as being given the opportunity to write maybe a word, a sentence or maybe a paragraph in this wonderful history book. And I know that this history book will keep on writing itself way after I’m gone, but being able to participate in it is extremely exciting. So, I wouldn’t see myself doing anything else at this point.

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Ballon Bleu de Cartier Floral-Marquetry

CA: It’s more about legacy then?
GB: It’s definitely about legacy; it’s about passion. It’s also about the people that are in this maison. A lot of my colleagues have been with Cartier for a long time, and I think one of the common points among all of us is that we’re extremely passionate about the world of Cartier, about all the histories that are linked to it. So yes, very empowering. At the Grand Palais in Paris last December, there’s an exhibition of Cartier collection, and there were Louis Cartier’s books. He was a major designer and past owner of the brand in the beginning of the 20th century. He happened to have toured Southeast Asia a century ago, obtaining a royal warrant from the Kingdom of Siam in 1903, and then he went on to Penang and, I believe, to Singapore afterwards. When you read through his book, it’s extremely empowering to think that somebody a century ago was already trailblazing throughout Southeast Asia telling the Cartier story, engaging with the clients and ultimately creating pieces for them that would commemorate important moments of their lives.

CA: It sounds similar to your own story, since you travel quite extensively, right?
GB: Before Southeast Asia, I spent a couple of years in Paris and before that I was in the United States, in Miami where I was overseeing Latin America, the Caribbean and the duty free market. It’s been an adventure and it keeps on being an adventure, and I’m very excited about it.

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Four variants of Cartier Mystery Clocks shown at Grand Palais in Paris last December

CA: Having seen various markets, how do you view Indonesia?
GB: Indonesia is already a discerning market. Indonesians have a very keen eye for high jewelry and fine watchmaking. We have opened our second boutique in Plaza Senayan recently because we believe that it is extremely important to keep on engaging the Indonesian clients by showing them our latest creativity.

CA: Last question, do you have any specific life motto?
GB: A sentence that sums up what I do every day, what my passion is and what I’m trying to achieve is “the creation of today is the treasure of tomorrow.” The treasure is for the people who’re going to be investing in our timepieces or jewelry pieces, or the people given those timepieces or jewelries. It is extremely empowering to know what you’re doing contributes to celebrating the important moments of someone’s life. So, the creation of today is the treasure of tomorrow. Definitely.

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