Suzanne's Perfume Journal

On the perfume blogosphere and online forums, one doesn’t encounter many glowing reviews of L’Heure Convoitée—the carnation perfume created by perfumer Mathilde Laurent for luxury watchmaker Cartier, as part of its “Les Heures de Cartier” series of fragrances. In fact, it’s hard to find many reviews at all, even though the fragrance launched in late 2011, and most of the ones that surface convey an air of unimpressed disappointment, if not outright contempt. In some ways, I’m not surprised—L’Heure Convoitée isn’t groundbreaking and carnation isn’t exactly a note that has been trending—but by the same token, and for the same reasons, the larger part of my reasoning mind is puzzled. To me, L’Heure Convoitée smells like an homage to vintage fragrances (and to one in particular), and considering how many perfumistas are fans of vintage jus, I’m surprised it isn’t popular for that reason alone.

Ah, well. More for me, as the saying goes.

“The Coveted Hour” is the English translation of this perfume’s name, and the marketing material suggests that this is the hour when lovers meet—the hour when a woman preparing for such a rendezvous is inclined to rouge her cheeks, paint her lips, and strike a pose. I really like this description as it mostly lives up to what I smell; L’Heure Convoitée has a light lipstick-and-powder scent that gives it a retro-glamour vibe, and the sweet and spicy warmth of its carnation accord does indeed make me think of intimacy. Even so, for much of its wear time on my skin this perfume is more quiet than vavoomy, and wearing it alongside the vintage version of the iconic French perfume L’Air du Temps, I find a good bit of similarity between the two. To my nose, L’Heure Convoitée smells like a fuller, more fleshed-out version of L’Air du Temps that, nonetheless, also shares L’Air’s diffuse, airy and uplifting quality. While I suspect that the similarities I perceive between the two are purely coincidental, probably a figment of my imagination, and would likely be refuted by others, in writing my own review I can’t dismiss them.

Carnation, strawberry flesh and iris are the notes that the Cartier website lists for L’Heure Convoitée, and though this is obviously the shorthand version of what makes up the composition, it’s fitting and precise. The most unique aspect of this perfume—what accounts for it being not merely a copycat version of a vintage perfume, but a striking reinterpretation of one—is the marriage of its beautiful strawberry note to the perfume’s dominant carnation accord.  The sweet-and-green (flesh-and-stem) smell of strawberry is the first thing I notice when the perfume hits my skin, and its piquant freshness smells naturally youthful. A pretty berry smell often reminds me of lips and lipstick; thus, the strawberry note here becomes the symbol of a kiss. Aided and abetted by rose, it has longevity and doesn’t disappear in the way that top notes do; this strawberry adds dimension and feminine shimmer to the perfume’s spicy carnation.

Carnation, as any perfume lover can tell you, smells like cloves, and here the clove-like properties are written in the fine script of the flower rather than the heavy label of the spice rack. The carnation in L’Heure Convoitée has a low-key buzz that makes this not just a warm perfume, but a stirring one, in the same way vintage L’Air du Temps is stirring. In olfactory language, it speaks to me of private excitement: its vibration is both exuberant and contained, like something you can’t stop thinking about yet wish to keep secret, which is quite often how an intimate relationship is felt in my mind. Add to this the talcum-powder scent of iris that brings a distinct air of glamour to the perfume, making it obvious that L’Heure Convoitée is a perfume that speaks of a woman’s deliberate act of primping, and the picture is pretty much complete. The iris is subdued such that its powder never overtakes the carnation, and altogether this perfume has the same fluttery sensibility of vintage L’Air du Temps and smells remarkably similar in its drydown. L’Heure Convoitée’s drydown is sweeter—not as dry and gingerale-like as L’Air’s—but both perfumes retire on a sandalwood base that is lightweight, eschewing density.

Overall, the main difference between the two is that L’Heure Convoitée has a cosmetic emphasis, and coupled with the perfume’s name and its fluttery spice, I think of it in more romantic terms (though even L’Air du Temps strikes me as a romantic scent too, so I guess I’m saying that, by degree, L’Heure Convoitée is even more so). Trying to come up with a good literary, film or music analogy for the kind of “coveting” I think of when I smell this perfume has proved difficult, because the perfume doesn’t really speak of intimacy in outright sexy terms (it does so in a more classy, indirect way). My first thought was to reach for some passages from Anton Chekhov’s famous short story, “The Lady with the Pet Dog,” but despite the redeeming nature of the affair that takes place in that story, there is an air of sadness that is not in keeping with L’Heure Convoitée. After so much thought, it seems to me that the best representation for this perfume is the one that inspired the perfumer: French chanteuse Juliette Gréco’s performance of the song “Déshabillez-moi” (“Undress Me”). Though Ms. Gréco’s voice strikes me as being huskier than the perfume, there is a playful exuberance to the song that matches the delicious buzz of L’Heure Convoitée. Its vintage style of arrangement, and the sentiment behind its lyrics, is congruent with the scent, too.

L’Heure Convoitée smells like a woman putting on her lipstick and powder, while her head is spinning with thoughts of the man who will take off at least half of everything she’s putting on. If I didn’t get a whiff of that, I might not be impressed with this perfume, but I do get it—and for what it’s worth, I’m saying so.

To read my most recent posts, return to Home Page

June 15, 2013:

Cartier Les Heures des Parfum II, L’Heure Convoitée can be purchased at the Cartier boutiques, as well as online at Saksfithavenue.com; $260 for 75 ml/2.5 oz. My review is based on a generous sample I received from a blogging friend last year (thanks, Ann!).


Photo of models (now married to each other) Anja Rubik and Sasha Knezevic is from the February 2011 issue of Vogue Russia, photographed by Alexi Lubomirski.

Bottle image is from Fragrantica.com.




Cartier Les Heures de Parfum II, L'Heure Convoitée:
Not a Bad Hour at All