Richemont Names New Cartier CEO

Vigneron led Cartier for eight years and boosted sales by reducing model lines and focusing on the storied brand’s best-selling jewelery collections and watch designs. That strategy, which cemented Cartier’s position as the top global jewelry house and second-biggest luxury watchmaker, isn’t expected to change under the leadership of Ferla, who previously spent 11 years with Cartier beginning in 2006.

The change marks “a very smooth transition at Richemont, which should reassure investors,” Vontobel analyst Jean-Philippe Bertschy said. The two brands are Richemont’s “sales and profit drivers,” with Cartier accounting for about 10 billion euros ($10.7 billion) in annual sales and Vacheron Constantin about 1 billion euros, Bertschy said.

Richemont shares were little changed in early Zurich trading Tuesday. They’ve fallen about 6% over the past 12 months.

Since his 2017 move to the top job at Vacheron — one of the so-called holy trinity of Swiss watchmakers along with Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet — Ferla has vaulted the watch maker into the top 10 Swiss brands by revenue. Sales at the brand, best known for its Overseas sports watch collection and the recent reissue of the 222 model in gold, increased by about 18% in 2023, according to estimates by Morgan Stanley.

Under Ferla’s leadership, Vacheron has reduced its dependence on sales to China, increased its presence in the top US market and sold more watches direct to consumers through its own boutiques.

The change announced Tuesday marks the latest executive shakeup at Richemont. The company in May named Nicolas Bos, previously head of Van Cleef & Arpels, its second-biggest jewelry brand behind Cartier, to be the new group CEO. That appointment clarified some succession questions at the company controlled by South African billionaire and Executive Chairman Johann Rupert.

Cartier is the crown jewel of the Richemont empire, and the brand’s watch and jewelry sales are the biggest single contributor to the company’s sales and profit.

Richemont’s stable of jewelry maisons, which also include Italian brands Buccellati and the recently acquired Vhernier SpA, account for about 70% of Richemont’s overall sales, according to UBS analyst estimates.

Richemont said Vigneron will retire and assume the position of chairman of Cartier’s culture and philanthropy arm while working with Ferla on the transition.

Vigneron was once considered a potential CEO candidate at Richemont before the May appointment of Bos, to whom the jewelry brands’ top executives will report.

The company has yet to name a new CEO for Vacheron or for Van Cleef & Arpels.

By Andy Hoffman

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