Showing posts with label cartier. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cartier. Show all posts

Friday, 12 November 2010

Le Temps de Cartier (1989)

  It takes a particular type of connoisseur, hobbyist or aesthete to procure a horological tome. So, I'm fortunate that my mother owns a copy; I'm not refined enough, nor in possession of a classic Cartier such as the Tortue or the Tank - both featuring from their Edwardian-era guises onward - to have obtained this alone

   In the terms I couch the word "luxury" in, rarity, creativity, fineness, exquisiteness  and beauty perennially loom large, which is why it's so edifying to delve into some of the delights that the house of Louis-François Cartier built. In the age of mass luxury, it is gratifying that maisons like Cartier and Hermès maintain not only their pedigree but their quality controls (as long as the recent stake in the latter taken by Bernard Arnault, chairman to LVMH, does not become too ineluctable, I suppose). Throughout the book, one sees the exhibition-worthy works produced for, or inspired by, gilded clients with influence and/or royal warrants such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (who was presented with the highly aureate Cartier Imperial Egg that now resides in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art), Alberto Santos-Dumont - whose need for aviation comfort, of course, influenced the creation of Santos, the first men's wristwatch - and King Farouk of Egypt, whose commissions tended to be sexually themed; apposite, of course, for a royal connoisseur of erotica and pornography

   But Giampiero Negretti, Jader Barracca and Franco Nencini, who authored the book, also elicit interest in their historical coverage from the reader, transcending the superficial gratuitousness of Timepiece Porn as they do. Of course, there are a great many double page spreads and money shots contained, for this is a history that stretches back deeply into elegant, diamond encrusted and monogrammed fobs with clever shutter mechanisms, utterly covetous platinum wristwatches, elaborate automatic calendars and the ne plus ultra accessorial decor of la Maison Cartier's pendules mystérieuse ("mystery clocks") - so named because the inner workings of those home, desk and travel clocks were concealed under the skilled artisinal artifice that makes such things desirable. Throughout the decades, Cartier's craftsmen would decorate these latter creations with carved jade, sculpted precious metals and artfully arranged jewels in intricate manners that oft drew on au courant themes in artistic movements - Egyptian, Oriental, Indian and animalistic motifs were all explored at one time or another

La Chimère (Chimera) pendule mystérieuse, 1926, comprised of substances such as topaz, agate, platinum

This pendule mystérieuse, dating from the early 1980s, is based on the original Buddhist temple-motif model circa the 1930s, which is featured in the publication

   Fundamentally, this is a social history of Cartier's horlogerie designs as they related to the whims of the market, the events of the passing days (the Viennese Secession, Art Deco, Modernism, World War II), its constant successes in jewellery creation and the exponential development of the firm itself, with the life and innovations of Louis Cartier - grandson of Louis-François - and the company as its foci. Those deeply involved in Louis's personal and professional orbit - his brothers, Jacques and Pierre, who operated and grew Cartier's businesses in London and New York, respectively; Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier's graceful, panther-obsessed Director of Fine Jewellery with an eye for gemmed and sculpted figural pieces based on creatures, as well as Louis's muse and love; Charles Jacqueau, the independent and ornately-minded legend of jewellery design; and Edmond Jaeger, whose legacy is contained not only within the famed Jaeger-LeCoultre firm of watchmakers but also in the exacting movements that he provided for Cartier during his exclusive 15 year-partnership with Louis. Working in such tandem, it would have been impossible not to have ensured Cartier's prepotency in its fields

   Covering the mid-to-late 19th century through to the establishing of Le Must de Cartier in 1973 after the company had passed from the hands of the family into a private group - today it is part of Richemont - the book concludes with a look at the then-contemporary state of auctioned Cartier timepieces, artfully tracing the high value the maison's works have come to command over the decades. But even in this pricey arena, it is the craft, the aesthetics and the sheer invention of these pieces that transcend mere lust and displays of status

   For at the end of the day, it is taste and appreciation that make a Cartier worth having

   Cartier Tonneau ladies wristwatch in 18k yellow gold circa the 1920s