History of Cartier

The French company Cartier, is synonymous with luxury, quality and style. Their watch and jewellery lines are admired across the globe not only for their beauty but also for their heritage.

The firm was founded in 1847 by Louis-Francois Cartier, a Parisian goldsmith and jeweller. His jewellery was popular among Parisian nobility and high society allowing his business to expand to several key locations in Paris’ more fashionable districts.

In 1847 the company administration was taken over by his son, Alfred. However, it wasn’t until Alfred’s three sons – Louis, Pierre and Jacques took over, did the company become a international fashion brand that it is today.

One of the sons, Louis, is credited for creating the first gentleman’s wristwatch. In 1904, his friend – a Brazilian pilot named Alberto Santos-Dumont, complained that the pocket watch was not practical enough for aviation. Thus, Louis created the “Santos” – the first wrist-mounted watch. The design did not go on to production until 1911, by which time Louis secured the exclusive rights to produce and sell the first wristwatches at his establishment.

The early wrist watches produced by Cartier were controversial among the French aristocracy because it was widely accepted that the only timepiece that a gentleman should carry was the pocket watch. The first “Santos” watch was promoted as a daring statement for the adventurous gentleman, ready for everything that the life could throw at him.

The later “Tank” design, which was inspired by American military machinery, became an instant classic with its rugged but elegant design. Louis Cartier’s watches became firmly cemented within the conscious of the fashion world.

Apart from wrist watches, Cartier were celebrated for their “mystery clocks”. They were so called because the hands seemed to float in mid-air on a transparent dial. Cartier also created a range of Art Deco jewellery in the early 20th Century, which boasted exotic geometric designs and colourful “Tutti Frutti” stones.