The envy of many, the possession of so few; a brand boutique with the charm and heritage of 13 Rue de la Paix, ancestral home of Cartier. Although not the first location where the brand resided, it is actually quite difficult to fathom the importance of this location, not only in the history of Cartier itself, but also in the history of watch making. This was the place where some of the first wristwatches in history were designed and sold, initially to a somewhat reluctant clientele.
When you walk from the spacious Place Vendôme on to the more intimate Rue de la Paix you realize that you are in the heart of Paris. A historical place where so many have walked before you and so many will walk after you. Cartier is located in the middle of the street and cannot be missed. It is impressive in size because compared to its neighbors, Cartier has quite a wide store front. Although Cartier has updated both the store front as well as the interior, it still seems to have maintained the same grandeur as when it opened its doors in 1899. While window shopping is a true pleasure, a trip to Paris is not complete without going actually inside, and allow the doorman to welcome you into the world of Cartier, and into history. The list of notable people who have entered through these doors in near endless, and reads as the who-is-who in history, regardless of the field they were in.
The inside might surprise you, not so much in appearance but perhaps more so in function. 13 Rue de la Paix has not turned into a museum, but is still in every aspect a fully functional Cartier boutique. Perhaps even more so since Cartier uses these historical grounds as the training grounds for new boutique employees world wide. What better place than where some of Cartier’s finest moments have taken place, to educate those who have joined the ranks and will represent Cartier around the world? Being a fully functional boutique also means that they can help you with any need in regard to Cartier’s collection; from a modest pair of cufflinks to a custom made diamond necklace, while for watch aficionados the near entire collection of Cartier’s wristwatches is on display, including a large portion of the Fine Watchmaking Collection.
Most customers will only enter the main room, with its elegant stair case and window displays of Cartier’s finest offerings, but there is more. Those who are invited further into the premises will discover that the office of Louis Cartier is still there. An elegant yet modest desk, with brown leather top, embossed in gold leaf with Cartier’s old logo. Behind the desk one of Cartier’s mystery clocks, which were in the past also crafted on the premises.
Upstairs one cannot only admire the Cartier leather collection, but here, although not open to the public, is also the domain of Jeanne Toussaint, also known as “La Panthère”. Model, world traveler, pinnacle of Parisian society, and life companion (although they never married) of Louis Cartier, it was her extravagant yet very stylish taste that was the source of inspiration for many of Cartier’s famed collections. Her particular passion for big cats help build the legacy of Cartier. For this she was not only the inspiration, but also a driving force. From 1933 until 1970 she served as Cartier’s creative director of jewellery. She retired at the age of 83, and passed away in 1976. Yet her legacy, just as that of Louis Cartier himself, is still prominently present in Cartier’s current collection.
The boutique also still houses the service department. Here (complicated) watches and jewelry piece get the care and craftsmanship they deserve. An important part of not only the boutique, but also of Cartier, because it allows for the continence of its heritage and legacy, while at the same time contribute to those of its owners. And with this even items that where originally crafted here return home; 13 Rue de la Paix, the heart of Cartier.
All images courtesy of Geo Cramer
Eclectic taste in Haute Horlogerie, passion for diamond set watches, loves the classics