Last year I wrote a post on Cartier’s L’Heure Promise, a fragrance I discovered in Harrods of London. When the counter staff took me through the range I narrowed my selection down to two fragrances. The first was I L’Heure Promise, a luxurious scent of iris, musk and precious wood. The other was decorated with the Roman numeral VIII, a number associated with good fortune in many eastern cultures. My decision was swayed by another discovery in the form of Parfums MDCI Rose de Siwa, a perfume that contains similar notes, which is sold a few floors above in Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie. That trip I left Harrods with I L’Heure Promise but I have always remembered my encounter with Cartier’s eighth hour. This year I decided to revisit the range and add VIII L’Heure Diaphane to my collection. Perfumer to the Maison Cartier, Mathilde Laurent compares this eighth hour to early morning light when everything seems new, fresh and joyful.
“Radiant and shining, a gentle light fills the air, like the dawn of life.”
This is emotive language from the perfumer who launched her career with Guerlain, masters of bringing impressionistic light into their creations- L’Heure Bleu, 1912. L’Heure Diaphane is a fresh dewy garden of the most delicate roses.
“All the wonderful simplicity of flowers.”
Simplicity and light are two important characteristics in fine jewelry. Too heavy or too embellished will look garish and excessive. This may have been accepted or even desirable in the 1980s and 90s but for today’s aristocrats, they seek style symbols instead of status symbols. Discreet wealth is much more tasteful and jeweler’s perfumes follow suit remaining demure yet still with an element of playfulness.
Discretion in perfume is often communicated with transparency. Diaphane or diaphanous, in English means light, delicate or translucent. Mathilde Laurent creates this emotion with soft, transparent roses that are nothing short of angelic. Cartier’s Les Heures de Parfum follows in the footsteps of other maisons such as Chanel and Hermes who both created an exclusive perfume line that is not sold at every point of sale. Like the others, Cartier’s exclusive collection comes at an exclusive price. Given this fact, you would expect L’Heure Diaphane to be brimming with costly rose oils from Grasse, the birthplace of French perfumery. Instead, Laurent constructs a transparent rose using a selection of rose molecules to achieve a much simpler flower. Natural rose oils and absolutes contain hundreds of molecules, which add a beautiful complexity that is normally desirable. By selecting from a limited palette of rose materials, Laurent creates a watercolour bouquet of rose and peony accented with lychee fruit and based with white musk. The overall feeling is like a delicate sorbet garnished with candied rose petals.
When I purchase women’s fragrances, I am often conscious of whether I am buying because I simply like the smell, or I am buying because it is a fragrance I want to associate with myself on my skin. L’Heure Diaphane is one of those soft floral perfumes I can see working on a man who is a fan of this perfume genre. It is not highly diffusive and sits nicely around the collar providing a subtle floral aura. It communicates clean and works well with a tailored business suit and crisp white shirt.
Parfums MDCI Rose de Siwa, Comme des Garcons Series 2: Red Rose, Diptyque Eau Rose, Frapin Esprit de Fleurs
Perfumer: Mathilde Laurent
Bottle designer: Studio de Creation Cartier
Release date: 2010
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Floral