Since his arrival at the historic New Bond Street site in London in 1992 as Managing Director of Cartier UK Ltd, Arnaud Bamberger has become a well-known and respected figure on the social and sporting scene. In April Arnaud Bamberger was awarded with The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) for significant contribution to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance by France Minister of Culture.
Arnaud was born and brought up in France shortly after the end of World War II into a branch of the famous Lumiere family – inventor of cinema. He studied both Philosophy and Economy in Paris and was noticed by Alain Dominique Perrin, then the President of Cartier. Arnaud spent several years as Cartier’s Export Director, based in Paris, but his command of the English language prompted a move in the early 1980s to New York. Here he took up the role of Vice President, Retail and opened up an impressive 15 stores during his time stateside. In 1987 he was tempted back to his homeland to head up the retail operations worldwide and in 1992 to London. Under his successful management this important market for Cartier has more than doubled it’s turnover and sales continue to thrive. The most enterprising of people, in addition to his Cartier role Arnaud is renowned for his superb organisational skills. Races at Goodwood, polo at Windsor, spectacular parties at Cartier – he’s in charge of them all.
Have you noticed a change in the jewellery market during the economic crisis?
I think a slowdown in the luxury world is inevitable. Some companies will survive. Cartier has been living for 165 years, and I know that in 165 years we will still be there. Other companies that were creating lots of expensive bling-bling will disappear. People will go back to companies with values – they still have money to spend but will rather choose the real thing, buy something that they can pass on to their children. People who have money will come back to us because we are creative, and simply are the best in jewellery.
Will Cartier goods become more affordable?
Maybe we have to revise our price policy – we still have very expensive products but now there are more and more people who are happy to buy something with a more accessible price but still tasteful. Maybe it can be a watch made of steel instead of gold, but still a classy one and in the style of Cartier.
Luxury brands wanted Russians with their new money which they wanted to spend, before there were people from the Middle East. Who are your next big buyers?
I think Russians will still spend, like the Middle Eastern people did before – they still do – they know their jewellery better now. China is a big market who will, I think, replace Japan in spending power in this region. We have started opening stores in China to make ourselves known. There are 25 now. In Russia, we are opening more stores but Cartier was known to Russians before through collaboration with Fabergé. We are not too snobbish about the new money. Even if parents aren’t very educated, they will educate their children well. It is better to have new money than no money. We want to provide them with our services and show our goods. As they managed to earn the money, they are very clever, successful people – yes, some don’t have manners. And if a rich but bad-mannered person comes to my dinner, his manners are a concern to me. Sometimes at dinner there is a person with three phones, yelling on the phone, and not speaking to the people next to him. If a person cannot behave socially at my dinner, he is out, even if he is very important. It’s not my role to teach people how to behave. I want to entertain my clients and friends, which is sometimes the same thing. I have to be careful – I can’t be seen with the wrong people. My difficult task is to build a bridge between old and new money.
Do you change your collection to suit people’s tastes in different countries?
No, we don’t follow the fashion – we create it. We take into consideration obvious things, like the fingers of people in Japan are smaller than Russians’, so the rings are a different size. We think worldwide and give everyone an opportunity to buy from whatever we create. We do try to understand people’s mentality in different countries. We might choose the materials that people prefer in various countries, like the colour of gold, but the rest is up to us. We think Cartier is strong enough to do it.
I’ve been doing different jobs. I started as an Export Director in France, went to the Middle East, then became Cartier’s worldwide Export Director, was sent to America where I opened 15 stores, came back to Paris to be retail director to all the stores worldwide. It was very tiring. I remarried, had a child and was never there. I needed to see my family more – otherwise there could have been another divorce. My president suggested I came to London. It was in 1992, when they wanted to put the Cartier group on the stock market, and we needed to raise our profile in the UK. I am still here and very happy. I think I will die here – I love the town, love English people. This is home for me and my family. My two kids from the second marriage are English – one was born here, the other came at a very young age. They speak English and went to English schools. For both of them, English is their mother tongue, though they also speak French – my daughter better, my son’s learning. My wife and I – she’s American but we met in Paris – speak English at home.
Does your wife like gifts of jewellery? What are her tastes?
I know her and her tastes very well – we have been married for 20 years. She always enjoys a good piece of jewellery. Sometimes I buy her gifts not from Cartier, though I think, naturally, everyone expects her to wear Cartier. I recently gave her a beautiful ring from Van Cleef & Arpels. Whatever I give is from my heart and what I can afford to buy – not always a big thing, but something that I know she will enjoy.
How has your name become almost synonymous with the London social season?
I know how to do public relations. First I was asked to come here to raise the profile of the brand. I started to think how I could promote it, increase awareness among English people and people of other nationalities who live in London. I realised the things the English liked most were the countryside and horseracing. Cartier sponsored a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show – we won some gold medals. Then, on the first day of the show I started organising a small dinner for 100 people – eventually, I had to stop as too many people wanted to be there. But I was pleased that this dinner was recognised as a curtain raiser for the summer social season. As for the horses – I decided to do a trophy and have a big party with people involved in the horseracing business. We created a Racing Award. Apart from the best horses, we needed to recognise people who did a lot for horseracing, so the Racing Award was created. I had the pleasure of presenting it various years to The Queen, and to the Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed. On both occasions they couldn’t be present at the ceremony but allowed us to visit them and have the occasion filmed. These events were very high-profile and worked well for our name. Polo was the next step – I met the Queen through polo – her husband, son and grandsons played. We became friendly. I have known her for 17 years now.
Do you think in the current climate you will still do big events?
We can give big parties – I know very well how to do it. But we don’t do it in a flashy style – we prefer style. I have been trying to keep standards very high – Cartier is still synonymous with the best. I need to be a little quieter now – I don’t need to overdo things.
Do you think you could put some of your stories in a book?
I have many interesting stories from my years of travelling all over the world for Cartier. Travelling was my business, and when you travel and you are a proactive person like me, you always have fun. But I haven’t thought of putting them in a book yet. During the past three decades I have written some chapters of the history of Cartier and done it with passion. I have always been proud to work for this company and have been trying to install this feeling in other people who work with me.
I invited friends of Princes Harry and William to the Cartier Polo in order to rejuvenate the crowd. Prince William also came with friends, and then wanted to celebrate his eighteenth birthday at the polo. William wasn’t a public figure at the time – I welcomed him but asked to get the approval of his father and The Queen who were going to be there. Next day we got the front page with him celebrating his birthday with champagne at the Cartier Polo. But many young people still didn’t see it as a fun day out, so I teamed up with Chinawhite nightclub. We organised a Chinawhite tent with DJs. Now I have too many young people, actually (laughs). I have to make sure there is a balance, and there is a focus on the polo, celebrities and royalties.
The tastes of young people are different from those of the older generation. Do you think when they get older they’ll like the things we do?
The time of big tiaras is gone. We don’t need big jewellery, and there aren’t too many occasions to wear it – I have occasionally a big wedding order that takes over a year to do. But, generally, we have to create things that are easier to wear, more fun, but still beautiful and superbly crafted.
Many beautiful women have represented Cartier. Who’s your favourite?
Our ambassador at the moment is Monica Belucci. She was a perfect choice – not too young and not too old, not too thin, not too big, clever and with great personality – she is just gorgeous. But I wouldn’t associate Cartier just with one person. We try to have universal appeal, be you blond or brunette, Russian or American. Our advertising campaign is focused on the products, not faces.