Characterised by audacity and inventiveness, Cartier’s watchmaking history reflects a unique state of mind: “jeweller of kings and king of jewellers”. Its renown is bound up in the tradition of excellence to which it is heir
When in 1847 Louis-François Cartier took over the jeweller's workshop where he had served his apprenticeship in Paris, it did not take long for it to become a benchmark for French jewellery watchmaking.
The greatest royal palaces in Europe helped to enshrine this success. In 1856, Princess Mathilde, niece of Napoleon Bonaparte, purchased her first timepiece. A few years later, Empress Eugenie became a client. The first ladies' jewelled watch appeared in 1888, in the same spirit of imperial luxury.
Thirty years later, Louis-François Cartier put his son Alfred in charge of the firm. On the strength of its success, in 1899 the firm moved to its now legendary address at 13 rue de la Paix in Paris.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Alfred Cartier decided to develop the firm's international business. Each of his sons was put in charge of a different area: Louis looked after Paris, Pierre had New York and Jacques, London.
Very soon, the English store attracted the attention of the royal family: the Prince of Wales ordered 27 diadems from the jeweller for his coronation in 1902. Two years later, Jacques Cartier was appointed as the court's official jeweller; the courts of Spain, Portugal, Russia, Belgium and many more were to follow suit.
In 1902, Louis Cartier created a watch for his friend Santos Dumont, a Brazilian pilot. The watch was designed to be worn on the wrist with a leather strap. It was marketed in 1911 and became an iconic reference for the Maison.
1906 was a prosperous year: a second store was opened in London, as well as a branch on New York's prestigious Fifth Avenue. In watchmaking, Cartier created the first Tonneau wristwatch, and filed patent for the foldover catch for wristwatches.
Five years later, a new watch was created: the Tank, which was to become the brand's icon.
In 1999, Cartier became a part of the Richemont Group. Two years later, the Firm opened its own Manufacture at La Chaux-de-Fonds, where it had had operations since 1972.
From then on, this unique site was home to all the stages of a Cartier watch from design to manufacture. It was from these workshops that the Firm's Fine Watches were henceforth to emerge, of which the first was the Ballon Bleu flying tourbillon.
Fine Watchmaking now occupies the predominant position in Cartier, with the regular presentation of grand complications displaying the Firm's fine expertise in watchmaking art: chronographs, quantième perpétuel, flying tourbillon, and exclusive complications such as the Astrotourbillon, including some references with the famous Geneva Seal.
Characterised by audacity and inventiveness, Cartier's watchmaking history reflects a unique state of mind: “jeweller of kings and king of jewellers”. Its renown is bound up in the tradition of excellence to which it is heir. Cartier was a forerunner in the use of platinum in jewellery and one of the pioneers of watchmaking.
A socially responsible firm, Cartier is a founding member of the “Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices”, as well as engaging in philanthropy through the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, founded in Paris in 1984.
Established on the suggestion of the artist César, this is both a space for artists to create in and a place where the general public can encounter art. The firm is also very active in charity work: in 2013, it founded the Cartier Charitable Foundation to provide support for good causes around the world.
1847: Cartier founded
1856: the first Cartier watch is marketed
1904: creation of the first Cartier wristwatch for pilot Alberto Santos Dumont
2001: creation of a watchmaking manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
2007: creation of the Cartier Fine Watchmaking collection
Calibre: The Calibre watch is a characterful piece offering a radical new take on a traditional watch, with its mechanical construction and distinctive balance between strength and finesse.
Roadster: The Roadster watch draws its inspiration from the powerful, elegant universe of 1950s racing cars.
Ballon bleu: Light as a balloon, as blue as the sapphire it protects, the Cartier Ballon Bleu watch is an elegant adornment for men's and women's wrists alike.
Pasha: The Pasha is recognisable by its imposing round dial, protective grid and screw-down crown, fitted with a cap held in place by a chain.
Délices de Cartier: In a creative interpretation of the oval shape cherished by the Firm, this watch explores the potential of every one of its curves, for an elegant wearing experience.
Captive de Cartier: The refined, sensual shapes of the Captive de Cartier watch cultivate a sense of mystery.
Ronde Louis Cartier: Featuring Roman numerals, blue sword-shaped hands, a winding mechanism crowned with a sapphire cabochon and a rail-track minute circle, this is a classic Cartier watch.
Tortue: The unusual, rounded curves of the sensual, elegant and timeless Tortue model characterise its strong personality.
Tank: The Tank is both unique and timeless. Its innovative design drew its inspiration from the armoured cab and caterpillar tracks of the first assault tanks used on the battlefields of Europe. There are now five watches in the collection: English Tank, Louis Cartier Tank, American Tank, French Tank and Solo Tank.
Tonneau: This watch, which first came out in 1906, resembles a pair of brackets embracing a curved oblong flinqué dial.
Santos de Cartier: The Santos de Cartier wristwatch is just as contemporary today as it was when it was first created by Louis Cartier more than one hundred years ago. Its distinctive appearance marked a turning point in the Firm's exploration of geometric shapes.
Baignoire de Cartier: Cartier here demonstrates its talent for distinctively shaped watchmaking. With its discretely elegant single-line oval, the “Baignoire” is the very essence of the Cartier style: a singular union of purity and timeless chic.
Rotonde de Cartier: This is classicism in grand style, with imposing proportions. Rotonde Cartier watches showcase the most sophisticated movements.
Ronde Solo de Cartier: Immediately recognisable thanks to its railtrack minute circle in the centre of its discrete 30-36 mm round case, this elegant quartz watch boasts a design combining modern Arabic figures and the classicism of Roman numerals.