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Cartier - Queen panther

Cartier Queen panther

It is Cartier’s most recognisable icon; its emerald eyes glow and its spotted pelt adorns countless jewellery pieces and watches. But how did the panther become Cartier’s emblem?

The story dates back to 1914, when the panther first appeared on one of Cartier’s creations. It was a ladies’ wristwatch, with a generous round case enclosing a square dial studded with onyx and diamonds, reproducing the creature’s dappled coat. As yet, there was no head, no piercing gaze or lithe body; just the beginnings of a panther motif, which would continue to be developed over the following hundred years and beyond. Also in 1914, Louis Cartier, who was head of the company at the time, commissioned an invitation card from illustrator Georges Barbier, representing a woman in a very Art Deco style with a black panther lying at her feet. He was so taken with this “Panther woman” that he began to use it in advertisements. It was an age hungry for the exotic; the mystery and grace of big cats found favour with high society, and came to embody the image of the femme fatale. Louis Cartier thus used a fashionable symbol to create the Femme Panthère. And it was a woman who brought the beast into the Cartier universe, with a depth of imagination and creativity that went beyond Louis Cartier’s classical inspiration.

Queen panther

 

Jeanne Toussaint, La Panthère

Louis Cartier met Jeanne Toussaint on the eve of the First World War. Their relationship was a sensual and intellectual meeting of minds, and generated an incredible creativity. She was a friend of Coco Chanel, and Parisian society couldn’t get enough of the bags she created for Chanel. However, she was also what a previous generation would have called a “demi-mondaine”. Her Bohemian lifestyle meant that the Cartier family, “Jeweller to Kings”, vetoed any idea of marriage. So Louis and Jeanne had to be content with working together, a situation that Louis embraced by appointing his muse as artistic director of the family firm. In La Panthère, le fabuleux roman de Jeanne Toussaint, joaillère des rois (The Panther, the incredible saga of Jeanne Toussaint, jeweller to kings) author Stéphanie de Horts describes this strong, independent, talented, creative woman whose feline elegance was legendary: “She replaced the love for the man she had lost with an extraordinary creativity that endowed her company with the prestige we recognise today.”

Queen panther

Jeanne Toussaint

With the input of Jeanne Toussaint, assisted by designer Peter Lemarchand, who spent countless hours in the Vincennes zoo, sketching the big cats, the panther began to take off in Cartier’s collections. 1948 saw the creation of an emerald cabochon brooch weighing 116.74 carats, featuring a panther picked out in diamonds with onyx spots, which acquired notoriety through its owner, the Duchess of Windsor. The animal’s sinuous body also inspired Jeanne Toussaint to design a new, less rigid and more flexible kind of jewellery. Her invisible gem-setting technique, which dispensed with the use of claws, was the subject of a patent application.

Movie star

In 2014 Cartier celebrated the centenary of the Panthère de Cartier. The wild animal is omnipresent in Cartier’s watches and jewellery, and has even inspired a perfume. The panther is also inseparable from the company’s PR efforts, and is a frequent star of the stories created by advertising executives to inspire the dreams of consumers. A panther guides the dream sequence in the 2012 film L’Odyssée de Cartier, an allegory of Cartier’s history created to celebrate the Parisian company’s 165th anniversary. 

Queen panther

Film L’Odyssée de Cartier © Cartier

 

Panthers and watches in 2018

Where are this year’s panthers to be found? First, in the Montre Panthère de Cartier collection, which this year comes with double- or triple-wrap bracelets in white, yellow or rose gold. The collection features a jewellery version with a figurative motif studded with diamonds and black enamel, and a more stylised variant in rose gold and black lacquer.

Queen panther

Collection Panthère © Cartier

There is also the Révélation d’une Panthère watch, a new model in three different colours that features an innovative technique for portraying the head of a panther, with gold microbeads forming an ephemeral design on the dial.

Queen panther

Révélation d'une Panthère © Cartier

But it’s in the jewellery watches that the feline beauty is at its most triumphant. The Rencontre de Panthère watch has a rotor decorated with two panther’s heads in diamonds and black lacquer on the dial itself; the Panthère Lovée watch features a splendid panther’s head adorning the oval “baignoire” case; and the Montre Tortue Regard de Panthère, a 30-piece limited edition, has a dial set with diamonds and yellow sapphires with black enamel accents.

Queen panther

Montre Rencontre de Panthère, Montre Panthère Lovée,Montre Tortue Regard de Panthère © Cartier

Cartier’s signature animal also appears on the Pendule Mystérieuse Panthère Losange table clock and the Montre Pendentif Panthère Hypnose pendant watch, which has a skeletonised movement in the shape of a panther’s head.

Queen panther

Montre Clé de Cartier Marqueterie de Paille et Montre Ronde Louis Cartier Marqueterie de Bois et de Feuille d’Or © Cartier

Cartier’s signature animal also appears on the Pendule Mystérieuse Panthère Losange table clock and the Montre Pendentif Panthère Hypnose pendant watch, which has a skeletonised movement in the shape of a panther’s head.

Queen panther

Pendule Mystérieuse Panthère Losange et Montre Pendentif Panthère Hypnose © Cartier

 

Fine jewellery also plays a part in the Montre de Joaillerie Panthère Savane, which contains the ultra-thin mechanical Calibre 101; the Montre de Haute Joaillerie Panthère Duo, whose dial is clutched between the paws of two felines; and the Montre de Haute Joaillerie Panthère Line, completely paved in diamonds and black lacquer, like the very first panther watch of 1914.

Queen panther

Montre de Joaillerie Panthère Savane, Montre de Haute Joaillerie Panthère Duo et Montre de Haute Joaillerie Panthère Line © Cartier

The brand

Characterised by audacity and inventiveness, Cartier’s watchmaking history reflects a unique state of mind: “jeweller of kings and king of jewellers”. Its renown is bound up in the tradition of excellence to which it is heir. Cartier was a forerunner in the use of platinum in jewellery and one of the pioneers of watchmaking.

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