New Cartier Chair Designed to Study Major Societal Changes
HEC Paris, ESCP and Maison Cartier formalized a groundbreaking partnership on January 29, 2021, by launching a Chair devoted to researching societal challenges and new business practices. The Turning Points Chair will be codirected by HEC’s Anne Laure Sellier and ESCP’s Ben Voyer who will provide the foundations for what is dubbed “a learning lab for Cartier and the two schools’ student ecosystems”.
Almost 400 years ago, scholars first coined the term “turning point” to describe “the point at which decisive change takes place”. To better gauge these “turning points” in the 21st century, Cartier International, led by its president and CEO Cyrille Vigneron, has created a Chair of the same name, with the subtitle “Aspiration to Inspiration”. It has mandated professors Anne Laure Sellier and Ben Voyer to explore topical subjects such as sustainability, the Generation Z, relationships to consumption and ongoing challenges all these pose to the business community. “This,” says Vigneron, “means further fostering dialogues between business and education, for a concrete and durable impact.”
To accelerate these dialogues, the international luxury Maison launched a Chair jointly shared by two leading business schools which will combine primarily research, but also education to encourage change in existing practices and models within the luxury sector. HEC Paris Dean and General Director, Eloïc Peyrache insisted on the common goals bridging research, education and industry: “For a world in constant evolution, research is key, and businesses are part of the solution. Together, HEC Paris and ESCP will encourage this Chair to develop responses to contemporary challenges.”
“Cyrille Vigneron incarnates the trademark open-mindedness of the Maison Cartier and its awareness of the major evolutions in society,” says Anne Laure Sellier. The associate professor is ideally geared to answer the Chair’s objectives: she specializes in judgment and decision-making, and has published major works on how time perception influences decision making and one’s subjective experience, how to manage creativity, cognitive biases and self-control. “My hope is that the Chair will provide yet another lens to Cartier employees, through which to view the social world a little differently; exchange, and generate fresh ideas and solutions to the challenges ahead.” One of the research projects Sellier will embark on, for example, examines how relying on the clock to schedule activities in an organization shapes the creativity of its employees and its customers, their feelings and their behavior.
The Chair was crafted over an 18-month period and will be the first-ever major collaboration between the two business schools. Its design is the fruit of a continuous discussion between the two academics and Cyrille Vigneron. The CEO has marked his five years at the head of Cartier with bold innovations to modernize one of the world’s most prestigious jewelry manufacturers. Vigneron is known for his sensitivity to environmental issues, ethical trade, social and societal injustices and what he calls “uncompromising sustainability”.
Uncoincidentally, the first program that Anne Laure Sellier and Ben Voyer will embark on centers on sustainability – what lexicon business men and women use to refer to the protection of the environment. “To help us,” Anne Laure Sellier explains, “we’ll be reaching out to the combined alumni communities in France – over 70,000 in all.” The academics will start with their schools’ French graduates and then expand to the thousands of international alumni who have gone through their ranks.
Other fields of research for the Chair include, but are certainly not limited to understanding how spatial deprivation influences consumer behavior, the attitudes of the Generation Z to luxury goods and what the optimal use of remote work is for organizations, following the pandemic.
Naturally, such research will be of significant interest to Cartier International, its 2,500 employees, and its 200 stores based in 125 countries. The Chair will mark the upcoming 175th anniversary of a company currently ranked the world’s 59th most valuable brand according to Interbrand, cited by Wikipedia. Throughout its long history Cartier has been synonymous with agility and audacity, as incarnated by its Cartier Tank watch. For its centenary in 2017, this is what The New York Times wrote about the watch’s creation back in 1917: “As a designer, Cartier deliberately rejected the sensual Art Nouveau style so popular at the time… The finished watch was rigorously linear, almost aggressively spare and androgynous. In short, it was instantly modern. ‘Cartier was so far ahead of its time,’ said George Somlo, a vintage watch dealer for nearly 50 years and owner of Somlo Antiques in the Burlington Arcade in London. ‘With so much upheaval in the world and all the terrible things going on, it’s amazing it could create something like this.’”
In these challenging times, with similar core questions being asked at all levels of industry and society, Anne Laure Sellier, Ben Voyer, Cyrille Vigneron, and the students of HEC and ESCP will be exploring cutting-edge solutions for a planet in 21st century upheaval.