For New York’s Cartier Mansion, a sense of major transformation is in the air. After a lengthy two and a half year renovation (during which the iconic jeweler kept a temporary space in the General Motors building on 59th Street), Cartier’s Fifth Avenue home will reopen this week.
The Italian Renaissance-style building located at 653 Fifth Avenue (between 51st and 52nd) was built in 1905, and traded to Cartier in 1917 for a string of pearls—perhaps the most genteel real estate agreement in Manhattan’s history. These days, business transactions are a bit more high-tech, with sales associates accessing tablets, digital store directories popping up on customers’ smart phones, and wi-fi available for all.
The first floor of the modern mansion welcomes visitors with the feeling a grand home, and smaller rooms display different categories of products throughout. The second floor houses fine jewelry in salons named for iconic clients such as Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor; the entire third floor is devoted to watches; and handbags, leather goods, scarves, and eyewear are up on four.
The Andy Warhol Salon on three features classic men’s watch collections; another area is named for aviator Santos Dumont (who inspired Cartier to create the first wristwatch); and a room, named after Gary Cooper, features highly complicated timepieces.
Iconic watches like the Tank, Santos, Clé de Cartier, Ballon Bleu, and Tortue are on all display, along with recent introductions for 2016 like the ladies Hypnose and Drive de Cartier. Introduced this year in Geneva, the ladies Hypnose is an elliptical watch that represents the natural evolution from the historic 1906 oval shaped Cartier Baignoire. Hypnotic rings of pink and white gold intertwine spirals of diamonds, with various models increasing in levels of stones from pavéd dials to bracelets fully set with brilliant cut diamonds.
An in-house movement powers the Drive de Cartier, a new men’s watch inspired by vintage cars. The rounded cushion-shaped watch is inspired by radiators, with the nuts and bolts giving the octagonal crown its distinct look; dial details, including small seconds, are lifted from the car’s dashboard. It’s available in gold and steel, with a silvered or black dial, with more complicated versions featuring a large date, retrograde second-time-zone, day-night indicator, even a top-of-the-line flying tourbillon.