Cartier Watch History
Cartier is synonymous with luxury around the world. The company has been producing luxury goods including jewellery and watches since 1847. The company has a long history of sales to royalty and celebrities. King Edward VII referred to Cartier as,”the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers.” Their rich history and notoriety among the worlds elite lives on to this day.
Cartier was founded in 1847 by Louis-Francois Cartier in Paris, France. Cartier was notorious in its earlier years as being a jeweller. In 1904, a Brazilian pioneer and aviator by the name of Alberto-Santos Dumont complained to his friend, Louis Cartier about his pocket watch. The explorer noted that the watches were both impractical and unreliable when flying. This prompted Cartier to develop a men’s wristwatch that was more practical and reliable for not only pilots but for the everyday man as well. He created a flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel. The watch was a hit with Santos-Dumont as well as many others and thus the “Santos” was born. This was Cartier’s first wristwatch.
In 1907, Cartier contracted out the production of his movements to Edmond Jaeger (of Jaeger LeCoultre). He agreed to exclusively supply the brand and by this time the company had branches in New York, Saint Peterburg, and London. In 1912, Cartier introduced the Baignoire and Tortue models, and in 1917 the Tank model was released. Louis Cartier designed the Tank himself, which was inspired by the new battle tanks introduced in WWI. The model is still one of the companies most popular production models with over 30 varieties produced since.
With the success of its new models, Cartier looked to reach a deal with Edward Jaeger to exclusively produce movements for their brand. In the early 1920’s a deal was reached with Jaeger, and the European Watch and Clock Company was formed. Cartier continued to use movements from other brands after this including Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantine, and Movado. The early 1920’s also saw the addition of reference numbers being added to Cartier watch models. This was often a 4 digit code stamped on the underside of the lugs.
Louis Francois’ son, Alfred Cartier took over the company following his death. The establishment of the brand name worldwide is however credited to Alfred’s 3 sons, Louis, Pierre, and Jacques. Pierre Cartier is largely responsible for the Brands popularity in the U.S. as he established the New York City branch in 1909. After Pierre’s death in 1964, his 3 children inherited the company and shortly after decided to sell the business.
The post family-ownership era of the company has seen its share of ups and downs but ultimately Cartier has continued to thrive. They have expanded their line of fine watches and new models are released on a regular basis. Many of the long-running production models, such as the Tank and Santos are still made today. Their popularity amongst celebrities and royalty has remained and even grown over time. Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge is a prime example of this. She has been spotted numerous times wearing a Cartier Ballon Bleu which is currently one of the company’s most popular timepieces.
Louis-Francois Cartier & Santos Watch
Cartier Mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York opened in 1917