There are watershed years in practically every field, and in perfumery, 1912 was the year of grace. It is one hundred years since Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue, Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs, and Caron’s Narcisse Noir were introduced, amazingly, all three are with us up to the present day. They are all classics and are all, in their various ways, ground breaking.
It’s hard to conceive of a time when fragrances weren’t launched with the outsized caution and undersized budgets of our own era, and yet those pre-war years were the time of Francois Coty’s rise, and his competitors were responding to the market dominating successes of La Rose Jacqueminot (1904) and L’Origan (1905), especially the latter. On the strength of these blockbusters, Coty built a factory complex outside of Paris capable of producing thousands of bottles a day, and he was in the process of conquering overseas markets as well.