Stanislas de Quercize took over as the chief executive of Cartier in January 2013. At SIHH this year, we spoke to him about the core values of Cartier, how this translates into watches and the fundamental difference between a brand and a maison. Edited excerpts:

I’ve heard you say that the two core value at the heart of the house of Cartier are timelessness and universality. How do those two values translate into the watches you make? Is there a way of taking those two emotions and organically transplanting them into watches. Is that a process?

Well, it’s a process. It’s a creation where we want every timepiece we are creating to be audacious, to be recognized from far away. You say it’s Cartier like you say it’s Picasso. It is timeless because its design will make it desirable 50 years from now. Look at our pieces this year.

This year, in haute horlogerie, we have the Astrocalendaire with a tourbillon in the centre, on the one side. This has never been done before. The way to show the dates, the months and the day. It’s unique. It’s audacious. That’s the audacity of our haute horlogerie.

On another side, you have for the first time the marquetry with Petales de Rose. This is something new. You know what I find fascinating? That we can easily say that this is the golden age of haute horlogerie and jewellery.

And much of what we do is craft and art. The more experience you have, the better you are at your trade or your craft or your art. You’re pushing the envelope; you’re pushing the limit. You’re coming with something which is even more audacious, even more desirable. You create dreams.

Do you think you’ve achieved what you wanted to with that journey, or is that journey ongoing?

Oh, this journey is still ongoing. This is no end to this journey.

Are you happy with where it is right now? We’ve followed Cartier very closely for the last three years, especially at high-end watchmaking. Every year, you’ve taken it one step further. Do you think Cartier has now achieved the legitimacy as a high-end complication watchmaker?

I think there’s always a gap between le savoir faire, knowhow, and the faire savoir. Faire savoir is to make people aware. I think this is your job. Our job is to make objects that reveal to people the potential of the state of the art. To bridge the gap between what is possible and the market. Instead of lingering on the past, as many brands tend to.

Cartier seems to have achieved a transformation that not a lot of brands have done successfully, which is to go from being an emotional creative brand to a technical high-end brand. Everyone keeps trying to do that. You’re one of the few brands that straddle that gap. How do you do that, and how difficult is it?

I think first we are not a brand, we are a maison. There’s a big difference between a brand and a maison. A brand could be five years old. A maison has always many generations behind it. A brand could be local; we’re universal. A brand could be interested by two days of business or trends; we are interested by our roots and our fruits. Here, you have 104 fruits from the house of Cartier, the new creations we are sharing with you today.

A brand would not be interested by the archives, by the process.

The difference is the long-term value. I think there’s always more long-term value with a maison because we look at the auction prices. It’s been built with the idea to be universal. Timeless. What we want to say to people is it’s as beautiful inside as outside. It’s true for watchmaking. It’s beautiful outside and it’s as beautiful inside. It’s true for haute joaillerie also. You can take a necklace and look inside and outside.

It’s part of our journey of this maison to be sure that, like a human being, your soul is as beautiful as your face. There’s a unity. There’s a correspondence. It’s style and substance.

Do you think this has now become a signature Cartier approach to making watches? Do you think you’ve established that signature approach?

I think the signature approach has been since Louis Cartier and Alberto Santos-Dumont. Surprising? Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian pilot, saying it was difficult to fumble into his pocket for the pocket watch and Louis Cartier creating the first wristwatch for him.

It’s hard to not ask you this question. How much of India is in Cartier?

A lot. You know, a lot. We remember the trips of the Cartier brothers to India. We remember in the exhibition in Paris, the necklace with the Maharaja of Patiala. You’ve seen the tutti-frutti jewellery, an inspiration of the maison. I think there’s a lot of India in Cartier, and I think there’s a lot of Cartier in India, too.

You know that every two years we come to India with a Concours d’Elegance. We believe that in India, there is a love for jewellery. A love for design. A love for craftsmanship. A love for art. And a lot of transmission from generation to generation.

You in India are experts in jewellery and gold, and in transmitting this expertise from one generation to the next.

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