Industry / Podcasts / Retail / Watches

The Jewelry District, Episode 79: Antwerp Diamond Conference, Visiting Cartier, The JA Show


You’ll hear JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates discuss the Dubai Horology Forum in New York, the Facets 2022 conference in Antwerp, and Victoria’s tour of Cartier’s watchmaking facilities.They talk about some futuristic concepts, such as digital twins, that are being implemented in the Cartier facilities. They also talk about the old craftsmanship that endures, and what the future might hold as things continue to change in the jewelry industry.

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Show Notes
00:30 Victoria is heading to the Dubai Horology Forum in New York City
03:30 Rob recaps the Facets 2022 conference in Antwerp
09:20 Victoria went to Lausanne to do a press tour of Cartier’s headquarters
21:35 They talk about the end of the JA Summer show

Episode Credits
Hosts: Rob Bates and Victoria Gomelsky
Producer and engineer: Natalie Chomet
Plugs: @jckmagazine

Show Recap

Horology Forum in New York
Victoria is heading to the Dubai Horology Forum for the first time. It’s been going on since 2015, and attracts the world’s top watchmakers and brands. Styled as an educational platform, the show isn’t focused on selling. It will have lectures, panels, and thought-provoking conversation. The forum is taking its traveling edition to New York City this year, so Victoria will be in attendance. (The event will have already taken place since the podcast has aired.)

Facets 2022 Show in Antwerp
Rob virtually attended a conference in Antwerp called Facets 2022. It was one of the first big industry conferences since COVID-19, and a good opportunity for the industry to share some of the lessons learned.

The prime minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, spoke, giving a strong endorsement of Russian diamonds coming to Antwerp. Though the stance may be controversial, he reasoned that it would hurt Belgium more than it would hurt Russia by not letting these diamonds in—they would just end up going to Dubai.

De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver also spoke. He was asked about the company’s contract with Botswana. His reasoning for why it hasn’t been signed yet was nuanced: It’s not just about the diamond contract but also about the question of mine leases. This is how De Beers negotiates the rent it pays for the land. It’s an important technical thing that takes time, and something they don’t want to get wrong.

David Kellie of the Natural Diamond Council was also there. He reported that because Alrosa has left the council, they will experience a loss of nearly half of their funding in 2023.

Sustainability and Gender Gap Issues
Iris Van der Veken also spoke at the conference. At the first Facets show she attended 12 years ago (also in Antwerp), she had to ask the moderator to do a session on sustainability. It had been a tiny panel attended by a handful of people. Now sustainability is front and center. She drew attention to how much mindsets have shifted since then. She also pointed out another problem in the diamond industry: The marketing is “all about her,” meaning the consumer, but the panels at the show were mostly composed of men. She underlined the gender gap that remains an issue in the industry.

The Magical Watchmaking Tour
Victoria went to Copenhagen for both work and pleasure. The food was delicious and the weather was beautiful. She went on to Switzerland and was treated to a VIP greeting at the Geneva airport, thanks to Cartier, the benefactor of the press trip, which was many years in the making. Victoria was driven to Lausanne and stayed right on Lake Geneva.

There weren’t a lot of American editors on this trip—some from Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong; an editor from Hodinkee; and a large press team from the Cartier headquarters in Paris. The point of the trip was just to introduce them to the watchmaking facilities. (Cartier has five.) One was in a village in a sub-Alpine range called Cuvee. It was surprising to see a massive, modern facility in such a small, quaint village with winding roads. They devote this one to experimental technology and have never showed it to journalists before. It’s where Cartier dreams up the technology that they eventually implement in their production facilities. It seemed as if Victoria was getting glimpses of the future of watch and jewelry production.

A Glimpse Into the Future
When Rob and Victoria interviewed Scott Lachut, partner and president of strategy at PSFK, on the podcast last year, they talked about the concept of digital twins. The idea is that one day in the future, every product you buy will have a digital twin that lives in the cloud and sends you alerts when repairs are needed, etc.

Though this hasn’t become a reality yet, in terms of production, Cartier is already using that kind of technology. Originally, everything they did had a paper-based system, with a massive paper trail for every change that needed to be made to a watch. Now that this system is digital, they’re able to be very responsive in addressing consumer issues and bringing those changes to market very quickly. A lot of these advances came as a direct result of the pandemic.

Victoria describes seeing a robot talk to someone on a screen at a different facility. On the other side of things, she also visited a facility in an ancient farmhouse where Cartier practices its craftsmanship in stone-setting and marquetry techniques. Victoria was amazed by the seamless marriage of high tech and high craft. Seeing a robot deliver things across the floor to help make timepieces based on technology hundreds of years old brought that home for her.

Victoria also admired Cartier’s transparency and how much the company was willing to share. Luxury used to be opaque—delivering a perfect product without revealing how it was made. And now that has turned 180 degrees. Rob notes that it’s important to let people know how things are made. It helps answer the question “Why does it cost so much?”

“The Future Is Present”
Victoria ties what she saw on the Cartier press trip to an art exhibit she viewed in Copenhagen called “The Future is Present,” which presented a lot of thought-provoking questions and ideas about the future. These futuristic-sounding ideas are not far off—they’re happening now.

The End of the JA Summer Show
Rob and Victoria touch on the end of an era: The JA Summer show in New York has been discontinued. The hosts remember the excitement of the JA Summer shows of years past. They have a lot of good memories of this feature of the summer that took place during a whole week of jewelry events. Things are changing in the industry, so they’re very grateful for their yearly gathering in Vegas.

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By: Natalie Chomet

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