Cartier was founded in 1847 when Louis-François Cartier, then an apprentice to Parisian jeweler Adolphe Picard, took over the business when his master passed away. By 1853, young Louis-François had become a favorite of Napoleon III’s cousin Princess Mathilde, who helped Cartier gain entry to Parisian society.

For the next quarter century, Cartier was strictly a jeweler, but in 1874, Louis-François’s son Alfred gained the company’s reins. He in turn brought his sons, Louis, Pierre, and Jacques, into the firm—it was this third generation of Cartiers that would make the Paris jeweler’s name synonymous with luxury wristwatches.

The first Cartier wristwatches were diamond-studded bracelets for ladies, which were introduced in 1888 and languished until Parisian fashions changed enough in the mid-1890s to encourage the adornment of a bare wrist with a watch.

But the real wristwatch breakthrough came in 1904, when, according to Cartier lore, a Brazilian aviation pioneer named Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier of the shortcomings of fumbling with a pocket watch on a short test flight. Cartier made his friend a flat, square wristwatch called, appropriately, the Santos. In the process, Cartier popularized wristwatches in France and throughout the world.

In 1912, Cartier introduced the oval Baignoire and tortoise-shell shaped Tortue models, followed in 1917 by Cartier’s most famous early wristwatch, the Tank, which was reportedly inspired by the design of Renault tanks used during World War I. Rudolph Valentino wore a Tank in the 1921 silent classic The Sheik.

In the early 1920s, Cartier partnered with fellow Frenchmen Jaeger and Breguet to produce movements for its watches. Other illustrious Cartier collaborators included Swiss makers Vacheron Constantin, Patek Phillipe, and Audemars Piguet.

During the 1920s, Cartier started stamping its watches with four-digit reference numbers—today, knowledgeable collectors know to look for and verify these codes before purchasing...

By 1940, Cartier had introduced a motoring watch, with a curved shape that was designed to be worn on the inside of the wrist—the winder was on the back of the watch, against the wearer’s skin, rather than the side. And then, in 1942, after the death of Louis Cartier, the company began several decades of stagnation.

Countless variations of the Tank appeared (in the Chinoise, horizontal bars at the top and bottom of the dial rest on the Tank’s vertical "treads"), and in 1965 there was even a watch whose body was shaped like a parallelogram. But it was not until the Must de Cartier in 1976 and the reissue of the Santos in 1978 that the firm was able to reestablish itself as a player on the wristwatch scene.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Cartier Roadster 2510 - Rrp £4,675 - W1763Cartier Tank Louis Diamond 18k Gold Ladies Bracelet Watch 76.9 Grams NrCartier Pasha 38mm Lune Special Edition 18k White Gold - Rrp £38,000 - W1991Mens Mid-size Cartier Santos 18k Gold & Ss White Dial Quartz W/.braceletCartier Santos 100 Xl 2656 43.2mm Stainless Steel Automatic Wrist WatchCartier Pasha 38mm 18k Yellow Gold Automatic - W1696Cartier Ballon Bleu W69009z3 Steel & Gold Automatic Men's WatchMens Cartier Santos Solid 18k Gold & St.steel Automatic W/braceletCartier Tank Francaise Ss/18k Yellow Gold Automatic Men's - Rrp £4450 - W1986Cartier Tank Classic Solid 18k Yellow Gold Vintage Mechanical Wrist WatchCartier Santos 09272 Stainless Steel Swiss Made Quartz Mens WatchBallon Bleu De Cartier Xl 42mm Ss Watch On A Steel Bracelet,ref. W69012z4,mintVintage 18k Gold Cartier Baignoire Paris Oval Case White Dial Manual Wind WatchRare Mens Swiss Cartier Panthere Quartz Stainless Steel 1990'sGenuine Cartier Santos Galbee Xl Mens Watch W Box PapersRare Swiss Classic Mens Cartier Panthere Solid 18k Gold & DiamondCartier Paris Tank 18k Yellow Gold WristwatchBallon Bleu De Cartier Xl 42mm Ss Watch On A Steel Bracelet,ref. W69012z4,mintCartier Ballon Bleu Midsize Automatic Stainless Steel Cartier Panthere 130000c - W1844Ladies Cartier Santos Automatique 18k Gold/stainless Steel WatchCartier Calibre 3389 Stainless Automatic Men's Watch W/ Box No ReserveCartier Santos Ladies Stainless Steel Quartz White Dial Watch 1565Cartier Chronoscaph 21 Chronograph Ref. W10125u2 39mm Stainless Steel CarbCartier Ronde 18k Yellow Gold - £5,400 - W1246Cartier Roadster Style Men's Automatic Chronograph Stainless Steel WatchRare Classic Mid-sized Cartier Santos Quartz 18k Gold & Ss Luxury Watch (t3063)Cartier Santos Men's Full Size Quartz White Roman Numeral Dial Stainless SteelCartier Pasha Gmt Silver Dial All Steel Automatic Date Ref. 2377 Men’s WatchCartier Tank Americaine Medium Yellow Gold Watch Authentic! No Reserve!Cartier Balloon Bubble Bleu Wrist Watch Stainless 18k Working #3005 No ReserveCartier Panthere Steel & Gold Ref#1057920 WristwatchMens / Womens Cartier Ballon Bleu Midsize Diamonds Everywhere Display Model !!Cartier Santos 100 St Steel Medium Size Automatic Model 2878 Watch W20106x8 N.r!Classic Ladies Must De Cartier 21 Stainless & Gold Plated Luxury Watch (t3021)Cartier Tank Basculante Reverso Stainless Steel Women's Watch!Cartier Ballon Bleu WatchCartierCartier Santos 100 Stainless Steel Mid Size Watch, Ref: W20106x8, Mint ContitionEstate $4000 18k Gold Ss Cartier Ladies Watch Excellent ConditionCartier Tank Francaise 1830 18k Yellow Gold Watch Made In FranceCartier Ronde Solo Mens Watch Silver Dial Cartier Santos 18k / Ss Automatic W20058c4 Box + Papers Mint !!!Mens Cartier Classic 18k Solid Gold !!!Cartier Panthere Panther 18k Gold Women's Watch All Original Links Box & Papers Rare Classic Mens Cartier Santos Quartz 18k Gold & Ss Luxury Watch #t3121Cartier Santos Round 18k & Stainless Women's Wrist Watch Cartier Ballon Bleu Automatic 46 Mm Stainless SteelCartier Autoscaph 21 Black & Stainless Date Automatic 2427 Water Resistant WatchSuperb Cartier 21 Chronoscaph Men's Quartz Black Dial WatchMens Cartier Santos 100 Xl *** Diamonds Everywhere *** Display Model !!!Cartier Tank Francaise W50002n2 Wrist Watch For WomenCartier Miss Pasha Silver Dial Diamond Bezel Ladies Watch Wj124021Cartier Santos Medium Size Men’s 1566 Gold Ss Two Tone Watch Pristine Condition!Cartier Authentic Mens Or Ladies Tank Watch With Cartier Presentation Box.Ladies Cartier Watch Santos Panther Vendome 18k Or Et Acier - Not RunningCartier Ladies Panthere Steel Mop With Diamonds Every Where "original Papers" 2Cartier Tank 18k Gold Vermeil Roman Womens Watch!Cartier Pasha 42mm Stainless Steel Rubber,seatimer Chronograph W31088u2 WarrantyCartier Santos Stainless Steel Automatic Women's Watch! 2423

Recent News: Cartier Watches

Source: Google News

Bitter Old Queen screws Santa Claus, December 18th

three of you wise queens to turn up at my manger here in Cathedral City bearing gifts: a pair of triple drop earrings from Tiffany & Co. ($1,900), a ballon bleu de Cartier watch ($5,800), and a man with a hairy ass and "low-hanging-on-the-tree...Read more

eBay Scales Back EMR Counterfeit Reporting Program
EcommerceBytes, December 15th

Simpson said the item - a Cartier watch with a Movado movement - was perfectly legitimate, and that he had documentation from the watchmaker to prove it, but eBay objected to the use of the two brand names in the same listing. After pleading his case...Read more

Thieves steal safe filled with jewellery worth more than £30000 from Orpington ...
News Shopper, December 15th

Two thieves have swiped a safe filled with jewellery worth more than £30,000 from a house in Orpington. Police are appealing for information following the burglary at 3.45pm on December 1. The suspects fled the scene on motorbikes. A Cartier watch and...Read more

With big boost in pension, many Mass. judges retire
Boston Globe, December 3rd

The 32 judges retiring in 2014 range from the eminent to the controversial — from the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court to a district court judge assigned to desk duty after being caught at Logan Airport pocketing another traveler's Cartier...Read more

Crash Skeleton
World Tempus (press release), November 21st

A client entrusted a damaged Cartier watch to the head of the London subsidiary. Immediately captivated by this never-before-seen design, he decided to incorporate its folly into the vocabulary of Cartier's watch shapes. With its asymmetrical dial, the...Read more

$5K Cartier Watch Stolen During Man's Move to Park Slope, Police Say
DNAinfo, November 7th

PARK SLOPE — A man's recent move to Park Slope got him a new place to live, but cost him a $5,000 Cartier watch, according to a police report. A 32-year-old man told police that he last saw the expensive timepiece inside his safe on Oct. 19, the day...Read more

Woman tries to buy $40000 Cartier watch with fake credit cards, police say
Sun Sentinel, September 30th

Dayana Torres, 25, is accused of using a fake credit card. (The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office). By Kate Jacobson, Sun Sentinel contact the reporter · Law Enforcement · Crime · Credit and Debt. Woman tries to buy a $40,000 Cartier watch with a fake ...Read more

Kate Middleton Wears Cartier Ballon Bleu Watch
Forbes, April 24th

I cover both timepieces and other luxury items that interest me such as cars and technology. An unshakable interest in wrist watches mixed with a passion for curiosity afforded me the opportunity to make them my career. My personal website ...Read more