Cartier traces its history to 1847 in Paris. It’s Fifth Avenue Flagship mansion (below) was originally built in 1905 and bought by Pierre Cartier in 1917 after having moved to the United States in 1909. The jeweler has catered to royalty from around-the-world, Hollywood and Bollywood stars, billionaires and heiresses in its glittering history. Many visited the store on the corner of 52nd Street in midtown Manhattan. Today owned by Geneva-based Compagnie Financier Richemont SA, with sister brands such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc, IWC, Panerai, Dunhill and Vacheron-Constantin, a stop in the flagship might still have seemed a bit like an official visit to a palace or presidential residence, with an imposing layout from its history as a private residence.
That will change in more ways than simply design.
Mercedes Abramo recently took the helm of Cartier’s North America operations, the first American CEO in nearly a quarter century and the first woman to head the brand here. With a background in high-end hotels and managing boutiques, Abramo chose Bastille Day to host a reception to meet the press.
The casual rear garden of upscale bakery Laduree in trendy SOHO was the venue. Champagne and mint iced teas got the media in the mood for game with considerable history, but more favored by workers than princes. Petanque is the French version of bocce, dating from 1907, particularly popular with watchmakers in the valleys of Switzerland as a lunchtime diversion.
While Abramo isn’t giving interviews yet, she is already deep into the major project of renovating the flagship boutique closed this spring. Corporate offices have been permanently moved to the nearby Olympic Tower in space occupied by other Richemont brands. The mansion has been completely gutted. The result with the new layout opens up a significant amount of additional area to showcase its watches, jewels and interesting but often hidden accessories for home and business as well as host events and workshops. A report by The New York Times stated retail space is increasing from 8,600 square feet on two levels to 21,500 square feet on four floors. Abramo said design will take into account the changing profile of today’s luxury customers.
If her elevation to one of the company’s most important posts is putting her under pressure, Abramo was keeping her cool despite the humidity, although she left petanque duties to her Vice President of Marketing Huges de Pins and various journalists.