Watches & Jewellery

Cyrille Vigneron: “Reinventing Itself Freely Allows The Cartier Brand To Remain Strong”

Cristina D’Agostino

By Cristina D’Agostino06 juillet 2023

At the end of May, Cartier unveiled its new high jewelry collection titled "Le Voyage Recommencé" (The Revisited Journey). Set against Tuscany and the Renaissance backdrop, the brand showcased a fresh perspective on its rich array of stylistic expressions. It was an opportunity for the world's leading jewelry company to demonstrate its unwavering ability to reinvent itself.

A fashion show was held at the Giardino Corsini to celebrate the presentation of the Cartier Le Voyage Recommencé high jewelry collection (Nikita Shubnyia)
Cyrille Vigneron, President and CEO of Cartier (Jean-François Robert)

Villa Reale di Marlia, Villa Antinori, and Villa Medici – the chosen palaces serving as the settings for Cartier's new high jewelry collection, "Le Voyage Recommencé" – held symbolic significance, representing both vital rebirth and unrestricted reinvention. In a joint interview, Cyrille Vigneron, Chairman and CEO of Cartier, and Patricia Urquiola, architect, and exhibition designer, emphasized the importance of rejuvenating styles. "The work of reinvention involves daring to see anew that which is not, with humility and without fear," explained Vigneron, who has led Cartier for seven years. The three-dimensional constructions of necklaces, the asymmetrical cuts of precious stones, the rare colors exemplified by the gray-violet fancy diamond adorning the Ondule ring, and the remarkably realistic portrayal of the "frosted" panther head all showcased the jewelry giant's capacity for reinvention. Patricia Urquiola's scenography, traversing the salons of Villa Reale di Marlia, successfully demonstrated how recycled materials, combined with 3D printing techniques, could contribute to rejuvenating the inherited aesthetics of these historic venues.

What were the sources of inspiration for the Le Voyage Recommencé collection?

Cyrille Vigneron. Geometry, architecture, nature, and imagination were the sources of inspiration for this collection. We reinvented them to offer a new dimension. Cartier's style's foundations are respected and expressed with freedom, so they appear authentic, consistent, rich, and personal to each individual.

Patricia Urquiola is a designer, architect and scenographer. She founded Studio Urquiola in 2001 with her partner Alberto Zontone (Jonas Unger)

Patricia Urquiola. A rare refinement can be found in this high jewelry collection. I was struck by Cartier's ability to reinvent itself. The combination of emeralds and turquoise, yellow diamonds and coral, is truly contemporary. In line with this concept, our scenography designed to present the Le Voyage Recommencé high jewelry collections offers an exploratory approach, focusing on the regeneration of materials and techniques.

Cyrille Vigneron. The Villa Reale di Marlia, the exhibition venue for the collection, seemed ideal for this exploratory work. It was interesting to integrate ourselves into its aesthetic, appreciate its beauty, and reflect it throughout our high jewelry creations. To capture this process, Patricia Urquiola's scenography serves as the bridge, the mental connection between architecture and our perception of beauty.

What was the nature of your dialogue?

Patricia Urquiola. The dialogue between us was very rich and fluid right from the start. Cartier was interested in our research capabilities in materials, and we implemented them in several executions, including a transparent, color-changing upcycled, and regenerated material printed using 3D techniques. We also reworked clay and combined concrete with natural stones using new techniques. The idea was to establish a connection between our most recent explorations and the timeless beauty of these locations.

Cyrille Vigneron. Sustainability was a central focus of our shared reflection. We wanted to occupy these spaces, immerse ourselves in them for a few days, and restore them without causing any damage, all while using reusable materials. This resonates with the jewelry world, constantly reshaped, resized, and remounted. Think of gold, platinum, and gemstones – they are infinite materials.

The Le Voyage Recommencé, a high jewelry collection, was presented at the Villa Reale di Marlia, the former home of Elisa Bonaparte, sister of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, in the Tuscan province of Lucca, where each piece offered a different scenography custom-designed for Cartier by Patricia Urquiola. The materials chosen, all sustainable, featured new manufacturing techniques (DR)

In Le Voyage Recommencé, what was your approach, and how did you echo it?

Ondule ring in white gold, with 0.92-carat cushion-cut Fancy VS2 violet-grey diamond and half-moon and brilliant-cut diamonds (DR)

Patricia Urquiola. Firstly, it was essential to experience the Villa Reale, as everything is always connected to the Genius Loci, the spirit of the place. This location witnessed two significant periods marked by two incredible women, including Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon Bonaparte's sister. She was a revolutionary woman who magnificently transformed the place during her eight-year reign, bringing about extraordinary changes. My role was primarily to enhance the jewelry. The renowned Italian architect and designer, Ettore Sottsass, who collaborated on scenography for Cartier (Editor's note: Cartier design viewed by Ettore Sottsass 2002), once said that "jewelry is like our monuments," meaning that we must establish a connection with it and center our work around its essence. In our respective roles, each of us pushes the boundaries of exploration to the highest degree.

What is your definition of Le Voyage Recommencé?

Cyrille Vigneron. We find ourselves in Tuscany, the birthplace of the Renaissance, which symbolizes a return to antiquity. The premise was to draw inspiration from that time's architecture, sculpture, thinking, and philosophy. Through a fresh perspective on the arts, what was old becomes contemporary again, embodying an ideal humanistic approach. This is what we aimed to explore with the Le Voyage Recommencé collection. Consider precious gemstones; they are much older than us, just like the architecture of the Villa Reale. Our work as jewelers involved offering a new journey towards beauty, a process of reinvention, regeneration, and the rebirth of Cartier styles.

Distrysia necklace, in white gold with 13.78 carats fancy VS2 hexagonal asymmetrical cut brown-yellow diamond and sapphires, amethysts, lapis lazuli, obsidians, and pink, white, and brown diamonds

In recent years, Cartier has reinvented itself by revisiting its iconic creations...

Cyrille Vigneron. Over the past five years, our work has been an extraordinary immersion into the elements of Cartier's style, its attention to detail, and perspective on the world. We have reinterpreted them with absolute freedom. When they are freer, they become Cartier even further. Jewelry serves to enhance precious stones and metals, aiming to make them as beautiful as possible. High jewelry is a process of reinvention; it is about daring, with humility, and without fear.

The word "freedom" seems to be very important. Does Cartier feel more liberated today?

Cyrille Vigneron. Yes. In order for the brand to remain strong amidst its competitors, it must stay true to itself and constantly reinvent itself with confidence. The collections are becoming increasingly liberated while remaining distinctly Cartier. However, freedom does not mean doing whatever we want. We need to immerse ourselves and work within constraints when we serve a purpose. Freedom lies in respecting limits and expressing ourselves within their framework as freely as possible.

French-Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, at the gala evening held at Giardino Corsini, a vast estate in the heart of Florence (Jonas Unger)

Patricia Urquiola, do you also feel a greater sense of creative freedom today?

Yes. I don't believe in perfection; I believe in a sensitive journey. Like Ettore Sottsass, our work is not about perfecting the practical aspect. The design begins when we enter another space, a magical space connected to culture and ritual. When I enter that dimension and feel comfortable, I can start discussing design. At the Villa Reale, Paganini used to play and create scenography for Elisa Bonaparte. This place is a tribute to the dialogue of the arts. Luxury allows for these high-quality encounters. It is the very definition of experience, the most beautiful and cultivated way of giving.

Patricia Urquiola, what role does nature play in your scenography here?

Nature is not just a backdrop. We are an integral part of nature, and it is within us. This idea is also reflected in the jewel, which originates from nature and is connected to its surroundings. Cartier symbolizes this aspect, being both at ease and in harmony.

Cyrille Vigneron. When things are in harmony, they become evident. Collectively, this sense of harmony is expressed through balance. However, to grasp it, one must have a certain awareness of the world and time. We are space and time. The moment we think we can separate ourselves from them or possess them, they slip away from us. To be in harmony, we must integrate ourselves into our time. Le Voyage Recommencé is about questioning what is right today. Being timeless is not about aging well; it is about being consistently right at all times. In jewelry, we have just relaunched the Grain de Café collection, and it is suitable for today because it resonates with current desires. It's the reconciliation of Chronos and Kairos, as they say in English, timeless and timely.

So, there is a responsibility for what is right, just as there is a responsibility for beauty at Cartier?

Panthère Givrée necklace with three aquamarines totaling 20.33 carats, cushion-cut aquamarines, lapis lazuli, onyx, emeralds, and diamonds (Cartier)

Cyrille Vigneron. Yes, exactly. There is both rightness and justice. However, there is more than one right way. The collection we are presenting is polyphonic. The mistake would be to create in order to resemble what works elsewhere. That would be a total impoverishment. On the contrary, we must constantly strive to reinvent ourselves and regenerate. We are our own fountain of youth. The more luxury understands this, the more it can be sustainable in what it offers. Responsibility in jewelry, as well as in watchmaking, involves respecting creation and working conditions. The way we act upon the world must be responsible. The luxury industry must grasp this to avoid discrediting. The value chain leading to beauty must be fair. Le Voyage Recommencé is also a message of reinvention in these aspects. It is about contributing to the world's positive energy, giving back rather than just receiving.

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