(Bloomberg News) Cartier, the jeweler whose customers have included the tsar of Russia and actress Elizabeth Taylor, says it's pulling ahead of luxury rivals with watches that match the tenor of the times for less ostentatious displays of wealth.

Cartier is gaining "a lot" of market share, in part because the economic slowdown is steering consumers toward more discreet timepieces such as the brand's best-selling Ballon Bleu collection, Chief Executive Officer Bernard Fornas said in an interview in Geneva. He declined to estimate how much share the Paris-based unit of Cie. Financiere Richemont SA may capture.

"Bigger watches are losing a bit of ground today," he said. "When you are in crisis periods you show off less and you have shapes that are more discreet and more ergonomic. The feel- guilty factor is very important."

Cartier is ensuring it maintains geographical reach and is also benefiting from growth in the branded jewelry market, Fornas said. The luxury icon may open 20 to 30 boutiques this year, many of them in Asia, Europe and South America, adding to a network of 310 outlets. The company is expanding development of its own movements, or the motors inside watches.

"Cartier's advantage is that it's not just a jewelry company and, if you were to do a breakout of sales, watches are more important," said Rene Weber, an analyst at Bank Vontobel in Zurich. He estimates the brand is responsible for almost half of Richemont's sales and about 70 percent of earnings before interest and taxes.

Revenue Report

Richemont doesn't disclose the brand's sales, though the whole jewelry business, which also includes Van Cleef & Arpels, had revenue of 3.48 billion euros ($4.41 billion) in the last fiscal year. Overall sales rose 24 percent to 2.62 billion euros in the third quarter ended Dec. 31, fueled by demand for watches in China, the company said today. Revenue beat the 2.54 billion- euro average estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Cartier's revenue may grow 25 percent in the fiscal year ending in March, compared with 20 percent for the group, according to Weber. About 45 percent of the brand's sales may come from watches, 35 percent from jewelry and the rest from accessories, he said.

Richemont shares rose 2.8 percent to 52.10 Swiss francs, extending their gain this year to 9.7 percent. The Stoxx 600 Personal & Household Goods Index is up 2.3 percent in 2012, while LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the only luxury-goods maker larger than Geneva-based Richemont, has advanced 7 percent.

Diamonds And Gold

At this week's SIHH watch fair in Geneva, Cartier will show complicated timepieces and watches decorated with jewels. It also will introduce the Tank Anglaise, adding a model to a range first sold in 1919. The watch, available in three colors of gold as well as a gold and steel version, will be Cartier's biggest introduction since the Ballon Bleu, according to Fornas.