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    

Ladies Must De Cartier Vermeil 18k Gp & Sterling Silver Gold Roman Round QuartzRare Cartier Vermeil 18k Gold Women's Vintage Tank!Cartier Santos Galbee Boxed Certificates Immaculate Ladies Cartier Tank Francaise Quartz 20mm In Stainless Steel (2384)Gents 18k Gold Cartier Cougar Chronoflex Chronograph Black Dial Mint ConditionUsed Men's Cartier Must 21 Autoscaph 2427 Steel Rubber Automatic WatchExtremely Rare Vintage Cartier Tank Paris Ceinture 18k Solid Gold No ReserveMust De Cartier Argent 925 Vermeil Mens Or Ladies Hand Wind Watch Ladies 18kt Rose Gold Cartier Santos 2788 Ladies Leather Tank Deployment BuckleCartier 21 Autoscaph Automatic 049 Wristwatch Mens - Ladies...ref. 2427Ladies Cartier Santos 18k Gold & St.steel Roman Dial Automatic W/braceletLadies Must De Cartier Tank Silver 925 Tank Manual Winding Cal. 78-1Cartier Pasha Gmt 2377 Ss High Fashion Automatic 35mm Men's WatchCartier Tank Francaise Chronoflex S/s Quartz Calendar Chrono MensCartier Tank Solo Xl 3515 WristwatchAuthentic Cartier Roadster Large Watch No ReserveRare $3000 18k Gold Ss Cartier Blue Ladies Watch & BoxCartier Lapis Lazuli Men's Watch - Vendome Vermeil Model1970s Cartier 18k Gold Plated Tank Watch With White Roman Dial & Cartier BandCartier Paris Tricolor Ref#881003 18k Yellow/rose/white Gold Lady's Watch Vintage Cartier Tank Gold Plated Ladies WristwatchEstate $3000 Cartier 18k Gold Ss Ladies Watch & Box RareSuperb Cartier Must De 21c Men's Quartz Ss Silver Dial WatchVintage Les Must De Cartier - Ladies 925 Vermeil Argent Mechanical Watch W/boxCollectible Must De Cartier Tank Vermeil Quartz Men's WatchRolex Cartier Gucci Watch Lot Vintage Without Numbers On Back Sold As IsLadies Vintage Cartier Tank Louis 18k Yellow Gold Roman Numeral WatchOmega/cartier/high End Antique Watches Lot Of 15 WatchesMens Cartier Roadster Xl Chronograph *diamonds Everywhere* More Than 4 Carats!!Ladies Cartier Round Face Panthere Vendome Solid 18k Yellow Gold Bracelet Watch Rare Cartier Louis Tank Vermeil Platinum Women (unisex) Waterresistant. Ref 2416Superb Cartier Must De 21c Ladies Quartz Combi Ivory Color Dial WatchCartier Panthere Stainless Steel #1310 Swiss WatchVintage Must De Cartier 925 Vermeil Tank 17 Jewel 78-1 Wrist WatchCartier Caliber 18k Rose Gold/stainless Steel 42mm Xlnt Cond! No Reserve!Cartier Francaise Diamond Bezel Watch 2465 W/box Original Cartier Pasha Seatimer 40.5mm S.steel Men's Auto Watch @ $1 No ReserveVintage Cartier 18kt Gold Electroplated Wind WatchCartier Pasha 18k Factory Diamonds W/ Box + Certificate 2813 Very Low ReserveCartier Men's Must 21 Quartz Chronoscaph Date Stainless Steel & Rubber BandCartier Tank Francaise 18kt Yellow Gold Stainless WatchCartier Santos Ladies Quartz Stainless Steel & Gold White Dial 1567Cartier 21 Chronoscaph Mens Watch BlackRare Cartier Vermeil 18k Gold Women's Vintage Watch!Omega, Cartier, Raymond Weil , Watch LotGenuine Must De Cartier Paris Ladies Wristwatch Cal 78/1 For RefurbishmentVintage Cartier Watch Box Co544 For Must De Cartier 21Cartier Roadster W62025v3 WatchCartier Santos Two-tone925 Cartier Ladies Argent Plaque Or G 20m 161086 WatchOriginal Pasha De Cartier Chrono 40mm Stainless Steel Unisex Watch@$1 No ReserveRare Cartier Vermeil 18k Gold Women's Vintage Watch!Cartier Santos Round Men's Quartz 18k Gold Ss Watch Grey Dial Cartier Sterling Silver Vermeil Circa 1980sRare Cartier Vermeil 18k Gold Women's Vintage Watch!Cartier Santos Octagon Ladies, QuartzWoman's Silver Cartier WatchCartier 21 Chronoscaph White Ladies WatchCartier Pasha Globus Automatic Gmt 2377 Steel Swiss Watch Box &papers*no ReserveMint Santos De Cartier 28mm 18k Gold & S.steel Unisex Auto Watch @ $1 No Reserve

Recent News: Cartier Watches

Source: Google News

Watch bought at auction for £900 turns out to be a 5.5-carat diamond Cartier ..., June 23rd

The Cartier watch. Facebook; Twitter; Google; Email. Share this. 0. Carla Challis. By Carla Challis. Last updated: 24 June 2015, 11:29 BST. Print this story. Ads by Google. Keen-eyed Collin Hufton had a bargain on his hands when he bought a watch for...Read more

Cartier watch bought in Batley for £900 is worth almost £10000
Huddersfield Examiner, June 22nd

It's a gem of a discovery – and one that TV viewers are set to share. Huddersfield auctioneer and antiques dealer Collin Hufton paid £900 at a Batley auction for an appealing art deco ladies wrist watch. Now a gemologist has put an insurance value of...Read more

Miami-Dade Cop Accused Of Stealing Pricey Jewelry
CBS Local, June 16th

Martinez was taken in federal custody and after bonding out of jail, she noticed that several pieces of jewelry, including a Cartier watch containing a custom diamond bezel, Cartier-style “Nail” bracelet, Rolex Daytona watch and several other pieces of...Read more

The Queen attends Cartier Queen's Cup while Prince George is with Kate and ...
Daily Mail, June 14th

The monarch beamed as she presented a Cartier watch and the understated silver cup to the finals teams, King Power Foxes and the Dubai Polo Team, with Gonzalito Pieres's King Power Foxes emerging victorious. The three-week tournament saw 12 teams ...Read more

Zoe Appleyard-Ley who accused nanny of thieving is accused of making fake ...
Daily Mail, June 8th

One of the items reported missing was a yellow gold women's Cartier watch with sapphires around the face, the court was told. Mrs Appleyard-Ley - a former girlfriend of tennis star Boris Becker and TV impressionist Rory Bremner - sold a Cartier watch...Read more

Nigeria First Lady Aisha Buhari Slammed For $52K Cartier Watch Amid ...
International Business Times, June 2nd

Chief Justice of Nigeria Mahmud Mohammed swears in Muhammadu Buhari (C) as Nigeria's president while Buhari's wife Aisha looks on at Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria May 29, 2015. Reuters. The Nigerian media was in an uproar this week over a watch ...Read more

TICK TOCK: Time runs out for brazen Cartier watch thief found dead in jail
New York Daily News, May 20th

Time has finally run out for a brazen watch thief. One of the five jewelry thieves arrested for a daring 2014 smash-and-grab robbery at the landmark Cartier store on Fifth Ave. has died in jail, federal authorities confirmed Wednesday. Roberto Grant...Read more

Honest TSA agent returns lost $100K Cartier watch
New York Post, May 7th

A Japanese real-estate mogul forgot his $100,000 Cartier watch at a Newark Airport checkpoint — but lucky for him, an honest TSA agent was working the lane and kept it safe, officials said Thursday. Newark is one of the top 10 airports in the US for ...Read more