‘Cartier watches are among the most sought after luxury pieces on the market. Since its foundation in 1847, the firm has been the favourite jeweller and watchmaker of the international elite.‘
Cartier watches are among the most sought after luxury pieces on the market. Since its foundation in 1847, the firm has been the favourite jeweller and watchmaker of the international elite. They offer a unique merge of French sophistication with top quality Swiss mechanical engineering. Over the years, Cartier has confidently established itself among the very best of haute horlogerie. It continues to astound us with its new interpretations of its classic models and tasteful application of luxurious materials and precious gems.
The early days of Cartier extend back to 1847. The jeweller Louis-François Cartier founded a small boutique and workshop in 29 Rue Montorgeuil, in Paris. He specialised in producing exquisite and highly exclusive handmade jewellery, quickly gaining an honourable reputation that spread across the city. Within barely a decade, he was producing jewellery for eminent French men and women. His clientele included such names as Princess Mathilde, niece of Napoleon I and cousin to Emperor Napoleon III.
In 1874, Louis-François bestowed the company to his son, Alfred Cartier. He continued his father’s legacy of producing finest quality accessories fit for the most stylish and demanding Parisian clientele.
A significant breakthrough for the company occurred in later years. When Alfred’s sons Louis, Pierre, and Jacques took over the company, they transformed it into a global empire. By 1900, royals and aristocrats from around the world sought Cartier’s jewellery.
The History-Making Santos
Out of Alfred Cartier’s sons, Louis proved to be the visionary. He demonstrated not only a passion for craftsmanship but also remarkable entrepreneurial skills. It was he who established a network with many influential individuals across the world. Among his close friends was the Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont. This friendship would soon transform the watchmaking industry and position Cartier at the forefront of watchmaking innovation. In 1904, Cartier received a commission from Santos-Dumont for a practical timepiece suited for his daring flying adventures. In response, Cartier devised a watch with a leather strap, specifically designed to be worn on the wrist. At the time, this proved to be a highly radical concept, which triggered a departure from men’s pocket watches. Just like that, Cartier transformed the way people thought of wristwatches, marketing the ‘Santos’ as a desirable symbol of man’s adventurous lifestyle.
The Expansion of Cartier
Soon, Cartier became known for the personal approach he gave to his clients. It was arguably one of the primary tactics that helped to position the company among the favourite brands of the most affluent members of society. Amongst his most notable clients was, of course, the Russian nobility, who was attracted to Cartier’s lavish ‘objets d’art’ and beautiful Art Deco designs. The company’s royal connection with the Russian aristocracy has effectively engrained Cartier’s name in public consciousness as the most magnificent jeweller and watchmaker of the time. Synonymous with palatial style and opulent luxury, its reputation quickly travelled to Great Britain. Here, King Edward VII of England was equally eager to purchase the most spectacular jewels from the brand. In 1904, Cartier received its first royal warrant as the official purveyor to the English king. Pleased with the sumptuous products, he made a famous declaration, proclaiming Cartier the ‘King of Jewellers, Jeweller of Kings’.
This commission also triggered the company to expand abroad. In response to the King’s wish, by 1909, Cartier opened a branch at 175-176, New Bond Street, London. Later that year, the company once again expanded as Pierre Cartier opened a subsidiary in New York at 712, Fifth Avenue. However, they soon relocated to 653 Fifth Avenue, where the boutique exists to this day. By the following year, Cartier opened two additional branches in Moscow and the Persian Gulf.
Other Notable Models
Another significant milestone for the company occurred in 1917, following the launch of the ‘Tank’ model. Alongside the ‘Santos’, this is now among the brand’s cult timepieces, revered for an understated sophistication. Its conceptual origin stemmed from the battlefields of the First World War. It was there, where Louis Cartier became inspired by the robust design of the Renault tanks that he saw on the Western Front. Over a hundred years later, the Tank continues to be among the brand’s bestselling pieces and an all-time classic.
Over the last decades, Cartier has widened its watch family by introducing unforgettable pieces such as the Panthère, Tank Francaise, or most recently Drive de Cartier. The brand maintains its prestigious position among the world’s best watchmakers not least for its stunning designs. Their unique combination of mechanical ingenuity and beauty makes the brand particularly appealing to fashion-conscious individuals with a taste for French style and admiration of Swiss craftsmanship.