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.
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Recent News: Cartier Watches
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Rotonde de Cartier Second Time-Zone Day/NightWorld Tempus, October 25th
With its 42 mm diameter, the Rotonde de Cartier watch launches a collection of men's small complication models that combines a second time-zone, a day/night indication, a large date and small seconds. Three versions are available: with pink gold case...Read more
Business oddities: Pin-up cabin crew and the ketchup warsThe Globe and Mail (subscription), October 23rd
Brits looking for a new counterfeit Cartier watch to impress their friends are going to find their options have just got a little narrower. Swiss-based luxury goods group Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, whose brands include Cartier, Van Cleef...Read more
Police appeal after distinctive watches stolen from ChislehurstBromley Times, October 22nd
The three distinctive watches stolen were a Rolex watch valued at £10,000, a Cartier watch, valued at £5,000 and a Luminor submersible watch, with a black strap, valued at £7,000. The safe was found abandoned a couple of weeks later at a football...Read more
Cartier Awards 2014: Noble Mission mounts late challenge for honoursTelegraph.co.uk, October 21st
He is leaving it late but Noble Mission's exhilarating Qipco Champions Stakes success at Ascot on Saturday carried him into the lead for the race to be winner of the Cartier Older Horse category and into third place in the contest for Cartier's top...Read more
Watch with snake motifWorld Tempus (press release), October 16th
New watches · Watch Culture · World Events · Industry News · Watch Reviews · Trends · Watches & Wonders · GPHG 2014 · GPHG Selection · Watches · Brands · About · Wishlist (0) · Sign in · Register · Home · New watches; Cartier — Watch with snake motif...Read more
Two men accused of using fake credit cardsSun Sentinel, October 1st
On Monday, a woman named Dayana Torres, 25, came to the same store and tried to use a fake credit card to buy a $41,600 Cartier watch. After two of her credit cards were declined, employees called police, according to an arrest report. She told police...Read more
Woman tries to buy $40000 Cartier watch with fake credit cards, police saySun Sentinel, September 30th
Woman tries to buy $40,000 Cartier watch with fake credit cards, police say. Dayana Torres. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. Dayana Torres, 25, is accused of using a fake credit card. Dayana Torres, 25, is accused of using a fake credit card...Read more
Cartier reduces working hours at watch factory as demand slowsReuters UK, September 26th
From November, 230 employees at Cartier's watch factory in Villars-sur-Glane in western Switzerland will have to stay at home for three days a week, Cartier spokeswoman Aurelie Ohayon-Bastide said. "This has become necessary in the current economic ...Read more