A favourite amongst the international elite, Cartier has become synonymous with exquisitely crafted timepieces adorned by lavish jewels. While maintaining top quality horological precision, Cartier watches are unique for their combination of horological expertise and timeless chic.
The company as it is known today takes its origin from 1847, when Louis Francois Cartier sprung the business to success by producing handmade jewellery in a small workshop at 29 Rue Montorgeuil. Quickly gaining recognition for the exceptional quality of his products, he was considered one of the finest jewellers in Paris. Although Louis established the brand in France, the company’s heyday was yet to come. It was not until 1874, when Louis’ grandsons: Louis, Pierre, and Jacques took over the company that Cartier was transformed into a global empire.
Essential to the brand’s development was young Louis Cartier, who proved to be not only an outstanding goldsmith but an exceptional businessman as well. From his early beginnings in the family business, he recognised the value of custom made products, prioritising the individual needs of clients. He created the so-called ‘objets d’art’, items highly sought after by collectors for their unparalleled beauty and elaborate ornamentation. Cartier’s focus on individualisation positioned the company as a favourite amongst the most affluent members of society, who desired products that were truly one-of-a-kind.
Cartier’s watches found particular appeal amongst Russian nobility and eastern aristocracy who were instantly spellbound by its sumptuous style. It wasn’t long until the brand’s fame reached England. Becoming a favourite also amongst British royalty, Edward VII famously proclaimed Cartier the ‘Jeweller of Kings and King of Jewellers’, and was one of the main agents who encouraged the opening of a Cartier branch in London in 1902.
In 1909 the company substantially increased its popularity by opening a shop in New York. An instant success, the brand was soon relocated to new premises at 653 Fifth Avenue, where it exists to this day. In 1910 Cartier once again expanded, opening new branches in Moscow and the Persian Gulf. This way it widened its clientele including not only European rulers, but also the maharajas of India, and Kings of Siam and Nepal.
Cartier’s popularity did not cease despite the raging of the First World War. It continued to prosper thanks to its original designs and uncompromising horological excellence. The inter-war years saw the opening of additional branches in resort destinations, Cannes and Monte Carlo. Shortly after that, further branches were opened in Geneva, Hong Kong and Munich.
A master jeweller and innovative watchmaker, Louis Cartier’s (1875-1942) ‘Santos’, created in 1904 was the company’s very first men’s wristwatch. It was designed by Cartier for his friend and client Alberto Santos-Dumont – an early pioneer of aviation, seeking an accurate timepiece to check the performance of his airship. By 1911, the company commercialised the ‘Santos’ with movements supplied by Edmond Jaeger, Cartier Paris and the European Watch and Clock Co. Marketed as the watch for an adventurous man, the ‘Santos’ played an important role in influencing the Parisian aristocracy to switch from pocket watches to wristwatches, a suitable alternative in the modern age.
Arguably the most iconic Cartier wristwatch is the ‘Tank’ model. Introduced in 1917, during the First World War, it took shape after the aesthetic of the tough machine age, especially the American war equipment used in European battlefields. Nowadays the Tank is offered in eleven different versions, and is regarded as a timeless classic, appealing to those with an eye for beautiful simplicity.
Another popular model is the Pasha watch. A timepiece created following the commission of the ruler of Marrakesh, who wanted a watch he could swim in. The line is available in both quartz and mechanical options, and is a unique combination of elegance and comfort.
As an unparalleled enthusiast of extravagant watch designs which respect to horological tradition, Cartier is credited for rediscovering some long-forgotten arts in watchmaking. This most famously includes Cartier’s elaborate ‘mystery watches’. Unique for their mysterious ‘floating’ of the two seemingly unattached steel hand, these watches are regarded as some of the most original on the market.
The incredible diversity of Cartier products ranging from extravagant watches with oriental Art Deco designs to minimalist sophistication, has enabled the company to stay ahed of the competition, and appeal to customers with distinctive tastes. By offering a wide spectrum of choice of shape and material, Cartier watches find enthusiasts amongst the most fashion-conscious individuals. All this contributes to why Cartier maintains its position as one of the leading brands in the watch industry, continually setting new trends in design.
Insisting on a union of horological expertise and dazzling aesthetics, Cartier is unsurprisingly a favourite amongst the most affluent individuals. From its early beginnings, the company has been associated with refined taste and prestige. Today it maintains its tradition of offering custom-made, personalised products fit for royalty, alongside the more popular manufactured timepieces, always adding brilliance to the wrists they adorn.