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Cartier: A Story Of Tradition, Elegance, Innovation And Creativity


Soft-spoken Alessandro Patti, managing director, Africa and Israel, Cartier speaks with conviction as he narrated the Cartier story on his working visit to Nigeria at The Polo Luxury Limited head office, Victoria Island Lagos. The meeting was for a select media men and women to have a private chat with him. I could tell, it is a story he loves to tell. His eyes glitter with excitement in the well-lit meeting room.

Cartier Africa, MD
Alessandro Patti, managing director, Africa and Israel,Cartier

Since 1847 (171 years ago) Cartier has been in the business of designing and selling luxury items worldwide, including wrist watches, jewellery among others. Everything started in Paris in 1847 when Louis-François Cartier founded Cartier in Paris after he took over the workshop of his master. In 1874, Louis-François’ son Alfred Cartier took over the company, but it was Alfred’s sons Louis, Pierre and Jacques, the third generation of Cartier, who established the brand name worldwide.

These three brothers between 1890-1940 travelled all over the world to find inspiration for new creation for jewellery and watches, to meet potential clients and buy precious stones like diamond, ruby and others. The spirit of travellers and partnership is part of Cartier’s brand.

It is not surprising Cartier’s staying power for over 171 years is long time vision.

“From the time of our founders, we want to create the style that is timeless, he says. We have sustained the business over 100 years now by always sharpening our creativity, keeping the style, being timeless, and focus on clients always. As well, we have been this long in business because we offer products and services in the best way possible to our clients all over the world just to have them satisfied.”

Cartier is regarded as one of the most prestigious jewellery manufacturers in the world. In 2018, it is ranked by Forbes as the world’s 59th most valuable brand.  As a brand that has been in existence for more than a century, Cartier has built strong brand equity that makes it a darling of its exclusive collectors globally, most of whom pass it on from generation to generation.

“These elements come through the brand equity, which is basically our promise to our customers. The important thing is to keep these promises of quality in production and quality in services for years and centuries. This is the secret of Cartier. Our strong brand equity with the best product, best service and long-term vision has been our strength all this while.”

Cartier has a long history of sales to royalty. King Edward VII of Great Britain referred to Cartier as “the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers. For his coronation in 1902, Edward VII ordered 27 tiaras and issued a royal warrant to Cartier in 1904. Similar warrants soon followed from the courts of Spain, Portugal, Russia, Siam, Greece, Serbia, Belgium, Romania, Egypt, Albania, Monaco, as well as the House of Orleans.

Cartier’s strong presence in Africa dates to 55 years but it has only been in Nigeria for 15 years with Polo Limited as its exclusive representative. And it is easy for its cult of collectors to resonate with the brand for its exclusivity and creativity.

“The Polo Luxury Group; our credible partners here and one of our long-lasting relationships in Africa. We are happy working with Polo. I can say that the values of Cartier and the values of Polo Luxury Group are very well connected; we all share creativity. Cartier has a contemporary art foundation in Paris and when you enter the Polo Luxury building you will see a lot of arts, creativity and passion for luxury goods. These are common values we share.”

The strength of Cartier is in its very wide and distinguished collections. It means Cartier doesn’t create specific products for specific markets but according to the taste of its customers. “The Nigerian client will prefer for example the generous dimension. For example, in the Santos collection we have two sizes; the big and the small.”

Also, Cartier is looking at expanding its marketing strategy to engage with the millennials, the new money and Cartier finds a worthy ambassador in Jennifer Obayuwa, the managing director, Polo Luxury Limited. “We will focus on advertising and engage with millennials on the big size in order to make a proposal on the correct product they want to wear. On the other side, from our point of view, we will try to engage with them more with local events, client experience in the new stores, and more international services. We want to be the first luxury brand in terms of service, quality and engagement. Cartier is among the top brands for Nigerians.”

Alessandro Patti, managing director, Africa and Israel,Cartier
Aleessandro Patti, managing director, Africa and Israel,Cartier

The values of Cartier are anchored on tradition, elegance, innovation and creativity. Hence in its collections, one will find a unique balance of watches designed over 100 years ago, but with a contemporary touch. For the brand, it isn’t about showing off; it is about being elegant and stylish.

“We want to differentiate with styling elegance because we need to keep our promise; our famous brand equity. There are other brands out there to please specific clients, they do very sparkling products, but that is not the case with Cartier because it is not part of our promise. So, the Cartier experience is elegance, style, timeless and contemporary, as well.”

It is in the spirit of elegance that Cartier designs its collection with the individuality of its clients in mind. “Luxury depends on the client. Luxury starts when the need stops. The essence of luxury is to reward oneself, reward someone you love, celebrate success among others.”

Patti says there are two types of clientele; the ones who want to be inclusive and the others who want to differentiate themselves.

“The inclusive ones are the “me too” syndrome. They say, all my friends have nice cars or nice watches and they say, “me too”, I want the “me too” watch or luxury item. We see these as typical reactions in the growing luxury market like in China. Everybody has this trendy bag, or jewellery, so, “me too”. I want to be part of this elite group through this product, so, I have it, and so I am.

“Then we have the ones that want to differentiate themselves, these happen more in Europe. Since everyone has this Cartier steel, I don’t want that. I want to show that I do not belong to this class, I will take the plain gold or another variant to differentiate myself. So, how luxurious Cartier is depends on the type of the clientele; the inclusive or those that want to differentiate themselves.”

Patti attributes Cartier’s partnership with Polo Luxury Group to the sense of style of its founder John Obayuwana, who he describes as “truly the master of this company.  He likes art, he has a sense of luxury and a sense of style. He is truly passionate about nice things; it can be a nice piece of art, luxury item or unique experiences.”

He adds that Obayuwana has been able to transfer his personality into his business. “Whenever you go out with Mr Obayuwana you will experience a taste of good things. He is successful, but the blend of being a businessman and have a sense of beauty, which he has transferred to Jennifer; and both are transmitting to their team, is very rare. So, it is a blend of vision, sustainable business, good investment, sense of beauty and the passion for a good thing.

He is satisfied with the very best, and so is Cartier. He is living this experience with a very simple spirit because he believes in it and not for the sake of showing off.

“I have met very few businessmen with his blend of business vision and passion for beauty. Whenever I come here, he takes me to contemporary African galleries where we experience wine and food; it is a blend of experience. You cannot do this business only focusing on profit because you cannot transmit your passion. When we hosted the private viewing the previous day, clients were asking: ‘John, what do you think about these products, since you know me, what is good for me?’ He is really a guide to his clients. He is elegant and the way he talks to people is very formal.  When you enter the Polo family, you feel a sense of beauty.”

To further strengthen its presence in Africa, Cartier has identified five key countries on the continent as important and Nigeria tops the list. “The uniqueness of Nigeria is that you are a huge population. Though the ones who can afford luxury are limited, we know that these few travel a lot and have become ambassadors of Cartier. When you go to London or New York, my colleagues over there keep telling me we have specific Nigerian clients for this and that. You can see that the Nigerian client has a sense of beauty, sense of art, most of them are art collectors, they are very refined, and they look for unique pieces. They are really looking for the top and the best and that is why they are simply satisfied with the best.”