Innovation & Know-How

Cyrille Vigneron: “In jewellery, as in watchmaking, Cartier is increasing its production capacity”

Making the manufacturing base as flexible and versatile as possible is the main challenge of all the watchmaking brand executives. Cyrille Vigneron, President and CEO of Cartier has been working for five years in the optimization of all the brand’s industrial facilities. Investing in green energy is also a key strategic lever.

Cyrille Vigneron, President and CEO of Cartier (Jean-François Robert)

Forecasts for 2023 are looking good overall the watchmaking industry during the fourth day of the Watches & Wonders fair in Geneva, and it is also Cyrille Vigneron’s observation, President and CEO of Cartier.

Tank Normale watch, mechanical manual winding movement, calibre 070. Platinum 950/1000 case and beaded crown set with a ruby cabochon (Ryan Hopkinson © Cartier)

As Asia resumes its activeness, with China’s reopening to international travel, many clients have come back to admire new watchmaking collections of exhibiting brands. To Cartier, Watches & Wonders is “a general communications event on watchmaking, and a very significant measure of the industry as a whole.” In this landscape, the brand benefits in showing what it does and in measuring its impact. A way of observing what will guide the success or the readaptation of some models. For the one leading the brand since 2016, “it is important to gather intentions rather than take orders which will be delivered months later, as who can say what the world will be in 24 months.” It is therefore strategic to make the manufacturing base as flexible and versatile as possible, in order to quickly react to the world’s upheavals. In an interview dedicated to a few French-speaking journalists, Cyrille Vigneron talks about how Cartier is adapting its production facilities and is using A.I. to better tackle challenges.

What creates newness at Cartier?

Watchmaking is a market that requires to stand out, it is therefore important to have a clear brand image. And in this area, Cartier is the watchmaker of shapes. Everything stems from design. And in this scope, innovation can enrich the watch, such as with the sundial. The Cartier aesthetics are timeless. This year, the Tank Normale, the Cartier Panthère or the Baignoire are very identifiable and dateless. Innovation should not be seen as an ideology. Innovation and newness don’t generate interest as such, we must first ask ourselves whether aesthetic heritage is enough. The new look on an old creation can be both modern and innovative. Innovation should not be an obsession and the means to show we are living with our time. Living with one’s time is about doing right every day.

The new La Panthère de Cartier watch, 38.2 mm, quartz movement, in yellow gold and in white gold set with 936 brilliant-cut diamonds totalling 5.95 carats (Maud Rémy Lonvis © Cartier)

What is the price positioning strategy this year?

When revisiting icons, it is important to have a good offer in all price ranges. We have replaced the Tank Solo by the Tank Must, which has an older but stronger design. The French Tank has also been revisited. It is now available in steel, in gold and diamond set. This year, we have a visibility advantage on more sophisticated products, in gold or diamond set, as the entry-level part has already been well built. There is a slight price adjustment for raw material reasons, including for platinum, diamonds, as well as due to the strong Swiss franc.

How have you adapted your manufacturing base to be more flexible?

We went from an industry with between nine and twelve months of inertia to two or three months. When Covid hit China, the boutiques were empty. Then when the zero-Covid policy stopped, the opposite thing happened. The width of these phenomena was massive and difficult to anticipate.

How are logistics organized to tackle this pressure?

Cartier's Watchmaking Manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds (Yves André © Cartier)

We have setup industrial flexibility, allowing to have varying internal and external capacity. The variability is not based on employment, which remains fixed, but on production processes which can evolve. The more automated they are, the better things work, meaning we can go from one to two, even to three rotations. The future in terms of flexibility is found in short supply chains, to be able to change volumes quite rapidly, within the manufacture. This implies sharing technology with suppliers, for them to be able to work on the same cycles. We have also worked on synergies between watchmaking and jewelry, where production sites are not the same, and where we need to quickly be able to move from one site to another. In jewelry and in watchmaking, we are increasing our production means. Today, flexibility is about moving from one month delivery time to three weeks in terms of responsiveness. It is crucial to remain as close as possible to the timing of market orders as, longer delivery times can create stock clogging. All the sites are not hybrid, but the Glovelier, Donzé-Beaume and Couvet sites can produce both watchmaking and jewelry.

Will the major innovation launched two years ago on the sundial bring other similar evolutions?

Tank Must in steel with photovoltaic SolarBeat movement (Cartier)

Indeed. We had a production line dedicated to this product, and we will soon open another, with other components to strongly increase its capacity. The outcome is very positive. We will implement this innovation on other dials as soon as possible. The solar module implies you need to be exposed to light, as for all batteries, completely discharging it would cause an autonomy alteration.  We must therefore further increase the optimal use of this innovation. Young clients have in fact been very interested in this solar innovation.

To which means do you use A.I. in your systems?

We use it for demand planification, to understand warning signs when it comes to accelerating production and on product authentication, for counterfeiting and following the secondary market. A.I. also gives us a good overview of aftersales services and client data, by observing what key words are most used and therefore topics that can be concerning. This requires a visual monitoring and analysis. But we are not using it to predict desire. It is mainly useful to understand what should be improved.

What efforts are you putting into improving production sites in terms of sustainability?

The Fribourg site is silver Leed certified, all the other sites are gold Leed, and the one of our métiers d’art is Platinum. The gold Leed means not emitting atmosphere pollution. All the sites and boutiques have very high standards of certification, all fueled by green energy.

What is your policy in terms of buying carbon?

In the scope of our commitment to climate, our main mission is to reduce our footprint by -46% in absolute value by 2023, and afterwards, to compensate our incompressible emissions by purchasing carbon credit. Regarding our carbon footprint for scopes 1 and 2, which encompass all factories, offices, and boutiques, we have reduced our emissions by over 90% through buying renewable energy certificates. And to push the envelope further, we are also creating our own hydroelectric plant, which could bring renewable electricity certificates in these areas, including in Torino for example. We have bought the exclusivity on a hydroelectric factory which produces 3-5 GW. Regarding incompressible emissions, we have implemented a robust compensation strategy, through which the Maison is mainly focusing on sequestration credit allowing to support certified and verified projects. These impactful projects such as plantation restoration of mangroves for example, which allow to capture and sequester carbon, and play a much more important role in fighting climate change than conservation.

Would internalizing second hand be of interest?

We manage this market through Watchfinder and certification via Bucherer. It is important to have trusted third parties rather than do it ourselves. Of course, for jewelry, we do it through Cartier Tradition, with old pieces we restore and resell. The more timeless pieces we have, the more difficult it is to know the right price for buying back. A neutral trusted third party is more logical and credible than having a brand do it itself. But not seeing the secondary market solely as a business is a bit restrictive. We are looking to increase product sustainability, and transmission. It is important that models remain visible.

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