(Aug 12): These heritage companies, which are as old as Singapore, continue to wow luxury consumers with their timeless designs

Cartier

Think Cartier and images of diamonds — the Love bracelet, the Santos and the iconic Panthère — come to mind. From its founding in 1847 as a Parisian jewellery boutique to the global powerhouse it is today, Cartier continues to evolve, carefully mixing its haute joaillerie and horlogerie with timeless everyday jewellery, timepieces and accessories. 

If there was ever any doubt that the luxury label could find new ways to surprise style mavens, the new Clash de Cartier collection would silence all critics. The collection deconstructs and reimagines its heritage of using studs, beads and clous carrés in its designs. The last time Cartier made even the most jaded of fashion critics sit up and take notice was when it nailed (pun intended) its Juste un Clou (“just a nail”) collection of gender-neutral bracelets and rings, turning an everyday necessity into highly coveted arm candy. 

In Singapore, the maison reopened its three-storey flagship boutique and homage to the country at ION Orchard just under a year ago. Designed by Parisian architect Bruno Moinard, the boutique marries the French joie de vivre with elements of Singapore’s rich, beautiful and diverse cultures. It is also home to the ultra-exclusive Le Salon Cartier.

Patek Philippe

“You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”

It has been more than 20 years since that line was written for Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe, and it still rings true today. A Patek Philippe is so much more than just a timepiece; it is an heirloom to be passed on from one generation to the next.

The same can be said of the Patek Philippe business, as it is one of the last independent, family-owned watch manufacturers.

Patek, Czapek & Cie was founded in 1839 by Antoine Norbert de Patek and Francois Czapek. But it was French horologist Jean Adrien Philippe’s invention of the keyless winding and hand-setting system in 1844 (patented in 1845) that eventually led to the establishment of Patek Philippe & Co in 1851. 

Since then, Patek Philippe has had many other firsts, acquiring several patents, which include its precision regulator, the perpetual calendar mechanism and the first double chronograph. The watchmaker also pioneered Swiss wristwatch making in 1868. 

This year, Singapore will play host to Patek Philippe’s fifth Watch Art Grand Exhibition. The two-week-long free exhibition will include 10 themed rooms showcasing antique collections and limited-edition pieces alongside its current collections. Visitors will also get to meet the artisans behind some of the techniques used to decorate its watches. As Singapore is celebrating its bicentennial year, the exhibition will also include a special Singapore Room, which will pay tribute to the nation and Southeast Asia.

Find out more at www.patek.com.

Van Cleef & Arpels

The Van Cleef & Arpels name has always been associated with love, as the wedding of Alfred Van Cleef and Estelle Arpels in 1895 catalysed one of the greatest unions in jewellery history. In 1906, Alfred and Estelle’s brother, Charles Arpels, opened the doors to the brand’s first boutique in Paris’ Place Vendôme. They were later joined by Estelle’s other brothers, Julien and Louis.

In the course of just over a century, the maison has created a unique identity for itself, with much-loved motifs inspired by nature, couture, the opera and ballet. Its delicate craftsmanship can be seen in all its pieces, from the signature Zip and Butterflies fine jewellery collections to its more accessible Alhambra, Flora and Fauna collections.

Innovation has always been at the heart of its design philosophy. In 1933, Van Cleef & Arpels patented the Serti Mysterieux (Mystery Set), a complex technique of setting stones in a way that its prongs are not visible. Setting just a single clip in this way can take more than 300 hours of work. Mystery Set pieces are very rare and Van Cleef & Arpels only produces a few of such designs each year.

 

Louis Vuitton

Today, luxury label Louis Vuitton is renowned for some of the boldest collaborations in modern fashion history. But at its core lies a spirit of innovation that started with Louis Vuitton himself when he first set out to be a trunk master. 

Vuitton began his artisanal journey in 1837 when he was a 16-year-old boy. After almost 20 years of working as a craftsman at Parisian atelier Monsieur Maréchal, Vuitton eventually set up his atelier at Asnières, just northeast of Paris. This was where Vuitton found commercial success, and today Asnìeres continues to be a workshop for the luxury house’s craftsmen. 

In 1896, Louis Vuitton introduced the now-legendary monogram. Although the luxury label has evolved far beyond luggage to be packed into horse-drawn carriages in the late 1800s, its iconic monogram has become a design necessity, continually reimagined through the luxury house’s artist collaborations.

While the brand has a long history of working with celebrated artists, it was Marc Jacobs who first dared to reinterpret the Vuitton monogram in 2000 with his Stephen Sprouse collection. Since then, the monogram has been a canvas for the likes of Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama and Richard Prince.

Louis Vuitton is celebrating its collaborations with a three-month exhibition called Louis Vuitton X in Beverly Hills’ 468 North Rodeo Drive. The exhibition includes more than 180 pieces from its archives, including collaboration pieces by the likes of Cindy Sherman, Frank Gehry and the late Karl Lagerfeld. Also look out for the new Louis Vuitton x Alex Israel Textiles collection with vibrant pop colours on scarves, shawls and blankets — even a bandeau. 

Find out more about Louis Vuitton X at www.louisvuitton.com. 

Stacey Rodrigues is a freelance editorial consultant who believes that every great story starts with a glass of wine