Last January, Jean-Marc Mansvelt took over as chief executive of Chaumet International, after ten years at Louis Vuitton as Leather Goods Marketing Director. Mr. Mansvelt had joined Louis Vuitton in 1994 following 16 years at L’Oréal in the marketing division of the cosmetics giant, notably at Lancôme. He succeeds Thierry Fritsch who, in turn, had led the Maison Chaumet since 2001.

Do you have prior experience in the area of jewelry and watchmaking?
I came from within the Groupe LVMH, having worked ten years in the Leather Goods division of Louis Vuitton. I have no experience per se in jewelry or watchmaking, but that is not distressing at all. When I arrived 10 years ago at Louis Vuitton, I had no experience in leather goods either. It is rather an exciting opportunity and there is so much to learn. There are many persons in this beautiful maison with great knowledge, and you must immerse yourself to understand fully the essentials and culture of the house.

Why then were you selected as chief executive of Chaumet?
You would have to ask Mr. Arnault that question. Within LVMH, there is a long-term outlook for those who are faithful to the group. An element of trust is at play. Mr. Arnault has known me quite well for 10 years. We have seen each other every week for a decade, and he must have thought this was a good choice. He does not leave things to chance.

Jean-Marc Mansvelt. © DR

How did you begin to familiarize yourself with the watchmaking and jewelry traditions of this historic maison?
It was a mix of many things. First, obviously, by looking at the history and working with the archives of the house. We have done extensive studies of the drawings, the archive photos and the creations of the house. I have taken great care to meet people in every sector of the company, since everyone contributes to making the Maison Chaumet what it is. With 500 employees around the world, it was not an overwhelming task. It was also important for me to leave Paris and to get an insight into what Chaumet offers around the world. Finally, I spent time in our ateliers with the artisans who contribute to the beauty of Chaumet. I still have much to do.

What have you identified as the challenges of this job at this early stage?
I know that you cannot substitute your views for those who know and do their job well.  But you must be able to establish a dialogue. That is a clear challenge as much in watches as in jewelry. I am still working to forge my opinions and decide where we want to drive the Maison Chaumet. Each maison in the LVMH group carves its own destiny, with the consent and support of the group and Mr. Arnault.  Also, I have not been a chief executive before, and that is a job I must learn as well.

What is your immediate strategy with respect to Chaumet?
In 1780, when it was founded, Chaumet invented the concept of Parisian jewelry. It is not a coincidence that we are situated in the center of the Place Vendôme. Our priority today is to put Chaumet back at the top. That means reworking the narrative of the house, enabling a better understanding of what Chaumet is about through its 235-year history, its exceptional heritage, its unrivaled longevity, and to connect that history to its contemporary creations.

What was the idea behind the new “Joséphine” collection?
There was a first season for the Joséphine collection in 2010. That collection was very symbolic of the house and well received by our clients. This second season offers new facets and interpretations of the Empress Joséphine. Jewelry maisons must keep alive their historic narratives for the benefit of clients who have trusted us with their orders and appreciate a product that endures and becomes perennial.

Joséphine Montre Éclat Floral. © Chaumet

What is Chaumet’s global position today?
We are already very global. We are present in Europe, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, the Middle East. We have been in the U.S. only episodically, on two occasions. All of the big American families have been clients of the maison, and we have been present through both our products and clients. We will inevitably establish a physical presence there one day, but in due time. Time in “haute joaillerie” is long. We have been here for 235 years and will still be here in another 235 years.