Place Vendôme was originally laid out in 1702 as a monument to the successes of the army of King Louis XIV, one of the most celebrated monarchs in French – if not international – history. Much of the imposing square’s baroque architecture was the creation of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the style reflecting the grandeur of the French empire and monarchy in the 18th century.
France’s political culture may have moved on from the pomp and extravagance of its kings, but the exclusivity associated with the square, and the adjoining rue de la Paix, remains. Leading luxury brands from across the world call the area home, especially those from the world of fine jewellery and timepieces. From the most established French brands to the best international names, there is no better location in Paris for sheer opulence.
In 1899, Cartier opened its Parisian flagship on the rue de la Paix, an historic street that runs from the iconic Opéra Garnier to place Vendôme. The boutique has become an icon of the brand, its elegant grandeur helping to secure Cartier’s place as one of the world’s leading names in haute joaillerie. It was one of the first shops in the world to sell wristwatches, and Cartier’s pioneering spirit has not dimmed over time. Look out for its most noted ranges, such as the Panthère jewellery line or the iconic Tank collection of watches.
Making its Parisian home nearby is Buccellati, a brand as distinctly Italian as Cartier is French. ‘Buccellati jewellery stands out from the rest because it is full of details dating back to goldsmithing techniques of Italian Renaissance times,’ explains president and creative director Andrea Buccellati. Using the finest precious stones and metals available, Buccellati presents exquisite jewellery, timepieces and even home accessories. The latest releases from the Opera collection add bold coloured stones – lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, onyx, pink opal and jasper – to the house’s signature Renaissance-inspired line.
Tiffany & Co
Not far from Buccellati is Tiffany & Co, the American jewellery specialist that has become famous for its diamonds, as well as its instantly recognisable blue boxes. Perhaps the most famous ring of all time, the legendary Tiffany® Setting has become synonymous with luxury in engagement rings, and this store should be first on the list of anyone looking to propose to that special someone.
Bulgari is known across the world for its dramatic, glamorous pieces, and its place Vendôme boutique – 20 years old in 2016 – offers the entire Bulgari collection, with accessories displayed alongside its fine jewellery and watches. Bulgari’s timepieces combine Swiss horological excellence with the distinctly Italian flair for which the brand is known; the use of the finest metals and precious gems makes them the perfect choice for a special occasion. Another highlight is the distinctive snake-inspired Serpenti jewellery line.
Boucheron has been a respected name in Parisian fine jewellery since 1858. One of the first jewellers to make place Vendôme home, founder Frédéric Boucheron opened his doors in 1893, and the boutique remains as popular as ever. With over 150 years of expertise, Boucheron’s haute joaillerie is considered among the finest in the world, and its exquisite timepieces carry this quality into the world of horology.
Van Cleef & Arpels
Another brand with an impressive history on the square is Van Cleef & Arpels, which opened at number 22, opposite the Ritz, in 1906. The boutique has recently been expanded, and is now spread across numbers 20 and 24 as well as 22. A modern space realised in cool creams and beige tones, it is home to Van Cleef & Arpels’ distinctive take on high jewellery, which takes inspiration from the natural world and presents visions of dreams and enchantments.
A few steps away is the worldwide haute joaillerie flagship of Piaget. The French brand’s most ambitious store to date is a celebration of human craftsmanship, both the unrivalled skill that went into creating the boutique itself, and the world-class talent that is behind each stunning necklace, bracelet, ring and earrings. As well as Piaget’s signature fine jewellery, there’s also a resident watchmaking expert.
No watch lover should leave Paris without stepping into the place Vendôme outpost of Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe. Both men’s and women’s timepieces can be found here, and experts are on hand to guide you through your purchase. Patek Philippe has been keen to explain that it chose the location because the square is one of the best showcases in the world of fine watches and jewellery. With such a selection of brands of the highest pedigree, there is no excuse not to pay a visit.