She opens her jewellery box. She sifts her hands through the trove of linked metals, fine-edged cuffs and smooth stones. She runs her fingers over the claws of tiny earrings and the rough of diamond clusters. She lets the weight of solid bangles dangle over her wrists and slides a leather-bound timepiece over her hand. She swings the chain of a pendant necklace in front of her like a delicate pendulum and circles the edges of a rose gold ring with the softest touch. Each piece is an exquisite treasure. Valuable beyond their value. Some are from old loves, some are passed down and one perfect piece was a gift to herself on a trip to Paris. She takes the necklace from its small felt pouch and clips it above her silky black dress. Her two bracelets clang together as she fastens the zip. She smiles into the mirror as she’s transformed. She presses her hand into the fine engraving of her ring and into the vintage band of her heirloom watch. Each piece has become a part of her – their history is her own.
It’s often said that when writing a perfect story, one should look for the symbolism later. That is, if a narrative is truly worthy, its many subliminal layers will be revealed upon conclusion. It should be an unplanned, organic serendipity of sorts. In the case of Cartier’s iconic gold bangle, this is especially true. In 1969 when Cartier designer Aldo Cipullo was crafting what would become the Love bracelet, he devised its lock-style-make to require two people to connect its pair of oval arcs together. Then, its elliptical form would be sealed by a tiny, purposely-shaped screwdriver. It was during this initial construction that the jeweller drew on opportunity and decided to leave its unique screws conspicuous. As it came to be, it was this visible utility that inevitably formed its individualism, one that would go on to be intrinsic to Cartier’s design heritage.
LEFT HAND: LOVE BRACELET IN 18K YELLOW GOLD, SHOP NOW, PANTHÈRE DE CARTIER RING IN 18K YELLOW GOLD WITH ONYX, SHOP NOW, PANTHÈRE DE CARTIER RING IN 18K YELLOW GOLD WITH TSAVORITES GARNETS & ONYX, SHOP NOW, PANTHÈRE DE CARTIER RING IN 18K YELLOW GOLD WITH EMERALDS, ONYX & DIAMONDS, SHOP NOW, PANTHÈRE DE CARTIER RING IN 18K YELLOW GOLD WITH TSAVORITE GARNETS & ONYX, SHOP NOW, CARTIER. RIGHT HAND: LOVE BRACELET IN 18K YELLOW GOLD, SHOP NOW, PANTHÈRE DE CARTIER RING IN 18K YELLOW GOLD WITH EMERALDS & DIAMONDS, SHOP NOW, PANTHÈRE DE CARTIER RING IN 18K YELLOW GOLD WITH EMERALDS, ONYX & DIAMONDS, SHOP NOW, CARTIER
Cartier’s 174-year history reads as an epilogue of how iconography can be the result of renegade design. Might it normally seem counterintuitive to engineer a classic from something momentarily avant-garde? Perhaps, but for the masterfully constructed pieces of Cartier’s catalogue it’s proven that icons are born, not created. Cartier engineers pieces that signal the moment yet equally magics them for the future. The Love collection emerged at the height of the 60s peace and love revolution (and now includes rings, pendants and earrings) and has become an artistic expression of sophistication ever since. Its design is instantly recognisable due to its circled insignia yet it remains devoid of passé pigeonholing. Its echelon of premium materials (18k yellow gold, white gold and rose gold as well as a brilliant-cut diamond edition), supreme craftsmanship and its subtle androgyny has seen it remain relevant and desired for more than fifty years.
The same can be said for the Tank. Cartier’s legendary timepiece, designed by Louis Cartier in France in 1917, was the first of its kind – a rectangular silhouette that revolutionised a formerly round-watch world. It’s been said that the original blueprint was based on an aerial image of the Renault FT-17 military tank (where the brancards are the tracks and the case is the turret) but since its inception Cartier has frequently regenerated its design formalities. With the passing of time, it has been reinvented for the generations (the Tank Cintrée in 1921, the Tank Asymétrique in 1936, the Tank Américaine in 1989 and the Tank Française in 1996 are all particularly notable) each adding nods to trend while retaining a fundamental integrity. Such lasting reverie for a piece of tangible chronology is not only a reflection of its mastery but a suitably happy irony – that a piece foremost designed to be a time-teller could offer such iconic periodic iterations that it now serves as an era-timestamp itself.
Navigating foreverness while also invigorating modern ephemera is saved for a rare few because, creating classic pieces for infinite adoration doesn’t always mean they will ignite the zeitgeist. However, when you become as famed for Grace Kelly’s 10.48 carat engagement ring in 1956 as for decorating Billie Eilish and Timothée Chamalet at the 2021 Met Gala it’s clear this is a Maison made to transcend the ages. The Tank, now over 100 years old, has been a covetable acquisition in all of its facades. It has honoured the wrists of Truman Capote, JFK, Clark Gable and Andy Warhol and continues to entice some of the most notable names in the world today – Michelle Obama, Jay Z and Angelina Jolie to name a few. And, while the Love bracelet was once seen on the arms of Ali MacGraw and Elizabeth Taylor, today it remains close to people like Jennifer Aniston, Drake and Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s not surprising that icons attract icons.
Cartier’s many iconic collections –Tank, Love, Trinity, Juste un Clou, Panthère – form a repertoire for the sophisticated collector. Each is an investment in timeless style while inviting in the moment. They are pieces that fashion alongside modern mode but never fail to eclipse it. And there has never been a more valuable time to relish in the romance of actual, lasting style. In a era of increasing faux-matter – NFT’s, cryptocurrencies – holding a piece of tangible design history is proven to be irreversibly worthy. The storied collections of Cartier’s most famous designs were meta long before the digital ether claimed its stake.
During a press conference in 1972, and while wearing a piece from his Tank collection, Truman Capote handed his watch to a journalist wearing an inferior make. He interrupted the interview to say “take that ugly watch off your wrist and put on that one. I beg you, keep it, I have at least seven at home”. There are few design houses with a bibliography that would extend to Capote’s life stories yet, for Cartier, this is just one of many infamous moments. Andy Warhol, circa 1960, once told an interviewer “I don’t wear a Tank to tell the time. In fact, I never wind it. I wear a Tank watch because it’s the watch to wear.” Perhaps, upon acquisition of a Love ring or a Tank timepiece or Juste un Clou bracelet they cease to be acquired things and instead take on an extension of your persona. Quite simply, they become important not only because of what they mean to culture but because of what they mean to you.
Creative Direction: Dané Stojanovic
Photography: Paul Morel
Fashion Direction: Anna Castan
Digital Technician: Julien Dauvillier
Makeup: Ossiel Ramos Abarca
Manicurist: Lora De Sousa
Model: Tobi Momoh / Woman 360