The Cartier brand is one of the most recognized luxury trademarks in the world. The name is synonymous with sophistication and luxury design. To truly admire the greatness of their legacy, one should read the history of the grand watch and jewelry Maison. The luxury brand’s overbearing presence in the jewelry, fragrance, accessory and watch industry are undeniable evidence of its massive international success.
The Cartier Company is a subsidiary of Compagnie Financière Richemont SA. Before 1964, the company was owned and controlled by the Cartier family of French jewelers. The Cartier family was renowned as artists of elaborate jewelry, commissioned by royalty from all corners of the earth. The brilliance of their technique and exotic choice of jewel ensembles created such grand pieces as the “Bestiary” (illustrated by the Panthère brooch in 1940, created for Wallis Simpson,) the diamond necklace that Yadavindra Singh Maharaja of Patiala wore in 1904, and of course the famous Santos wrist watch, made for the Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont.
The company’s origins lie in Paris 1847, when young Louis-François Cartier took over his master’s workshop. Soon after, the apprentice became one of the most skilled jewelry-artisan of his time. In 1874 son Alfred Cartier took over the company. Although the company basked in success, it was not until Alfred’s sons Louis, Pierre and Jacques took the reins of the company, that the Cartier brand would enjoy such international notoriety.
In 1899 the company decided to expand internationally. Louis Cartier remained in Paris to control the local branch. He has been credited for some of the most famous Cartier designs such as the “Mystery Clock” and the employment of “Tutti Fruti jewels.” In 1907 Cartier rose to the challenge of making the world’s first men’s wristwatch. The watch was made for the great aviator Santos Dumont, who complained of the impracticality and unreliability of wrist watches. The watch was named after him, and is still in production today.
Inspired by the powerful and newly-born war machines of the western front, Louis designed one of the most famous Cartier watch designs of all time. The Tank series debuted in 1917 and has been in production for more than 90 years.
In 1920 The Cartier Company formed a joint venture with Edward Jaeger. Jaeger would provide movements for the Cartier timepieces on a contract of exclusivity. This venture and the mass production of Cartier watches with trustworthy, precise movements mark the beginning of Cartier’s unstoppable rise to the top of the international watch industry.