Following the direction of so many brands in recent months, for 2018, Cartier has chosen to update, refresh and reissue one of its most iconic timepieces: the Santos de Cartier. And, as it relaunches a classic, opening up one of its signature collections to a new generation of buyers, Cartier is also testing the waters of a new way of buying by allowing a solely online retailer to sell its new watches for the first time.

First launched in 1904, the Santos was created to satisfy the demands of Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, who wanted a watch to wear while flying. The development of the Santos allows Cartier to lay claim to producing the first dedicated pilot’s watch and, indeed, the world’s first true wristwatch.

The new version Santos features a QuickSwitch and SmartLink system – allowing strap changes and bracelet adjustments without the need for tools – as well as Cartier’s new in-house 1857 MC automatic movement. The watch comes in various metal combinations and in two sizes – medium (35.1mm wide) and large (39.8mm).

Mr Porter will launch with large and medium model Steel on Black Grained Leather Strap (exclusive pieces), large and medium model Pink Gold Automatic on Grey Leather Strap, large model Pink Gold Automatic on Pink Gold Bracelet, large model Yellow Gold and Steel Automatic on Steel Bracelet, large model Steel Automatic on Steel Bracelet.

On the announcement we reached out to Toby Bateman, Managing Director, Mr Porter with a few questions regarding Cartier and their venture thus far, listing luxury watches for purchase on the website. The following is a transcript from that chat.

The QuickSwitch and SmartLink system – allowing strap changes and bracelet adjustments without the need for tools
The QuickSwitch and SmartLink system – allowing strap changes and bracelet adjustments without the need for tools
Mr Porter now sells 16 fine watchmaking brands. How open are you finding people to buying luxury timepieces online?

You definitely have to offer something extra and Mr Porter has a number of advantages as a watch retailer. Firstly, as an online destination for men’s style, we talk about watches as part of a man’s outfit, not simply as a standalone item. Our customers appreciate this context because it reflects the way they are thinking. When you but a new pair of shoes, you make sure you try them on with the suit you are thinking of wearing them with, so why should advice on a watch be any different?

Then there are the more technically orientated stories and videos that we produce, which again give our customers a different experience, to be able to effectively research a brand or a watch and then purchase from the same site. We also have a large database of existing clients and we are able to profile them and share directly with them the brands and styles that we think will appeal to them as individuals – effectively offering them a personalised service.

Are there any specific problems related to selling new timepieces online and how does Mr Porter overcome these?

We appreciate that the information people require about watches differs from fashion, so we go to great lengths to create bespoke images and to convey all of the relevant technical information on the product pages. Our main focus is on service. All fine watches are hand-delivered, which gives customers piece of mind – and of course we handle any returns in an equally secure way. We handle all aspects of service requirements for our customers too – collecting and re-delivering their watches from and to them at times that suit them. Recently we have offered our EIP clients an @home service, where we will visit them with a selection of watches for them to try before they buy, or indeed, if a regular delivery method then our delivery drivers will wait for the client to inspect the watch and try it on before they decide to keep it – if not they can return it immediately.

How did the retail partnership with Cartier come about?

We have built a lot of trust with Richemont and the different maisons within the Group over the past year or so since launching IWC. We also had a very successful launch on Net-a-Porter last year for the Cartier Panthere watch, so they saw first-hand how we deliver on a project and what both the commercial and communication results are. However, I would stress that whilst we have seen a number of Richemont companies launch in the past year, we have also seen brands such as TAG Heuer and Bell & Ross debut too – and I also like to give credit to Bremont who were our very first fine watch brand back in 2013.

Mr Porter is forming a key part of Cartier’s global launch campaign, being the exclusive only online partner for the new Santos line and we have been able to reinforce this position by securing complete exclusivity on the Santos with the black leather strap. We will be promoting this launch through all of our channels, from site through to social.

The Jewel Crown
The Panthere de Cartier fine jewellery collection launched on your sister site Net-a-Porter last year. How successful has that been? 

Net-A-Porter had a huge success with the Panthere de Cartier launch, including selling a £113,000 piece! Naturally this kick-started the partnership with the Group.

How do you see the fit for Cartier among the other luxury watch brands that are available on Mr Porter?

I think Cartier has its own place in the luxury watch world but, at the same time, will sit nicely alongside our other brands. We know that our customers have had Cartier on their wish lists for a long time, so we are very happy to be fulfilling this for them.

Santos is a signature collection for Cartier. Was it important to launch the collaboration with something iconic?

In short, yes. The Santos specifically evokes masculinity and a sporty nature which is a perfect way for us to start with Cartier. Excitingly, we will be launching an edited selection from all of the iconic Cartier watch families this year.

You say the debut of Cartier is a result of customer demand. How wide has this calling been and why is it such a good fit for your clients?

Our Personal Shopping and Customer Care teams work with our clients every day and thus gain key feedback from them on what brands we currently stock, alongside those they would love to see on Mr Porter. Cartier has certainly been one of those over recent times and it’s natural that curiosity has been heightened following Net-a-Porter’s successful launch with the brand. Cartier’s iconic collections, attentional to detail, and blend of traditional watchmaking with a contemporary feel are all reasons we know it will be a success with Mr Porter customers.

There is one model, which will be unique to Mr Porter. How important is this exclusivity to your marketing strategy?

We always try to work with our brands on exclusive products, as we know this resonates with our customers and in the marketplace. Communicating this exclusive piece is our way to further engage and bring awareness to the Mr Porter experience, both for existing and potential new customers.

Editor’s Note: Mr Porter customers can sign up and register their interest here, ahead of the Santos de Cartier global launch on Thursday 5 April 2018.