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 Tank Francaise Original Stainless Steel Ladies Watch 2384Lady's Stainless Cartier Santos Demoiselle Watch (2698) W/ Mop Dial Box/bookletMens / Womens Cartier Ballon Bleu 36mm Midsize 18k Gold !!!Cartier Tank Louis 2441, 18k Gold, Quartz, Roman Dial, Date, Large 33x29mmMust De Cartier Tank 2414 Sterling Silver Quartz Watch ** No Reserve Auction **Cartier Roadster 2510 Ss High Fashion Automatic Men's Watch W/ DateWomens Cartier Panther *** Diamonds Everywhere *** !!!Ladies Cartier Santos 18k Gold & St.steel Roman Dial Automatic W/braceletLadies Cartier Santos St.steel Roman Dial Quartz W/bracelet18k Gold Cartier Diabolo Chronograph 1400 Calendar Watch For RepairCartier Tank Francaise 1840 18kt Gold Unisex Watch AutomaticMens Cartier Santos 100 Xl *** Diamonds Everywhere *** Display Model !!! Cartier Vermeil Tank Watch 925 Cartier Pasha 2324 Wristwatch Superb Cartier 21 Chronoscaph Men's Quartz Black Dial Date WatchWomens Cartier Panther 18k Gold *** Diamonds Everywhere *** !!!Cartier - Roadster - 2510 - Automatic - Stainless Steel - 145.1 G - Men's WatchCartier 18k Yellow Gold Pasha De Cartier Chronograph Automatic Watch 1353-1Cartier Vintage 1970s Must De Cartier Tank Watch Unisex Cartier (2675) Roadster - 36mm Case - Pink Sunray Dial - Women's Wrist WatchCartier Tank Lady 925 Silver Quartz Watch Ref 1616Genuine Cartier Ladies Steel&18k Gold Panthere Diamonds Everywhere "with Papers"Authentic Cartier Santos Automatic Steel Gold 18kt Ref.2423 SwissCartier Women's Tank 18k Solid Gold Mechanical Movement 17 Jewel 78-1 Near Mint With Box Cartier 21 S/s & Gold Vintage Men's Wristwatch Ref 1330 WorksMust De Cartier Unisex 925 Argent Hand-wind Watch. 18k Gold Plated. Must De Cartier Vermeil Tank Quartz Ladies Watch, RomanCartier Tank Francaise Ladies Stainless Dress Watch Womens 2384 No ReserveCartier Pasha De 1050 Wrist Watch For MenVintage Mens Cartier Tank 18ct Gold Plate Quartz Black Dial Wristwatch. Cartier Original Santos Galbee 187901 Quartz Watch S/s And Gold Swiss Made DateMens Cartier Roadster Xl Chronograph *** Diamonds Everywhere *** Display Model !Must De Cartier Tank VermeilCartier 21 S/s & Gold Vintage Lady's Quartz Wristwatch Ref 1340 Golde Roman Num.Womens Cartier Tank Francaise *** Diamond *** !!!1985 Cartier Small Santos Dumont 18k Yellow Gold Mechanical Watch W Papers, BoxWomens Cartier Panther Midsize 18k Gold *** Diamonds Everywhere *** !!!Rare 80's Cartier Vermeil 18k Gold Women's Vintage Watch!Cartier Santos 100 Xl Pvd Chronograph Homage (fully Functional Chronograph)Cartier Santos 100 Xl Chrono Hand Engraved Limited Full SetWomens Cartier Santos *** Diamonds Everywhere *** Display Model !!!Cartier Santos 100 Steel & GoldCartier Santos Galbee, Two Tone Ss/18k Gold, Quartz, Roman Dial Date 29mm 189701Must De Cartier Paris 925 Argent Tank Swiss Made Quartz Ladies Watch Non-working18k Gold Cartier Panther-cougar Ladies Watch Mint "diamonds Everywhere W/papers"Estate Must De Cartier Silver Vermeil Quartz Watch W2Cartier Louis Cartier Ronde Solo Ref. 0900 1 18k Yellow Gold WristwatchCartier Men's Must 21 Autoscaph Ref. 2427 37mm Steel Rubber Automatic Perfect!Cartier Tank Francaise 2384 Ladies Quartz Stainless Steel Swiss Made WatchCartier Roadster WatchCartier Pasha Seatimer 40mm, Stainless W/ Black Hard Rubber Link Band, 2790Cartier Santos Ronde Ss/solid Gold Quartz Men’s WatchMust De Cartier Tank Ladies Manual 18k-gp Red Dial Diamonds WatchCartier Tank Francaise 2302 Men's Automatic Stainless Steel Swiss Made Watch Mens Santos De Cartier Octagon Date 18k Solid Gold Bezel Stainless Steel QuartzAuthetic Womens Cartier Santos 18k Gold Two Tone Quartz WatchWatch Lot - Rolex, Cartier, Seiko, TimexCartier Pasha Ref.1040 Date Stainless Steel Automatic Mens WatchMen's Stainless Steel Cartier Chronograph Automatic 3109 Special Ladies Cartier Tank Watch Gold Plate Over Silver

Recent News: Cartier Watches

Source: Google News

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

Watch Chris Burden's Last Finished Work Fly Around LACMA
Curbed LA, May 18th

Artist Chris Burden died last week, leaving behind a legacy of violently uncomfortable performance art and delightfully intricate mechanical sculptures, including the photogenic lampposts of "Urban Light," at the main entrance to LACMA, and the...Read more

TSA: Passenger Forgets $100000 Cartier Watch at Newark Security
The Epoch Times, May 13th

A gold Cartier diamond encrusted watch was left at a Newark Liberty International Airport security checkpoint this week, according to a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) blog post. The watch was spotted by a TSA officer who turned it into...Read more

$100000 watch lost at airport rescued by honest TSA agent
WTSP 10 News, May 10th

Eyes widened more than usual, however, at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey this week, as a diamond-covered gold Cartier watch turned up at security. Considering the spate of TSA robberies in the news, and that Newark Airport is ...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

Friend picks up $100K Cartier watch left behind by Japanese man at airport ...
570 News, May 7th

This May 5, 2015 photo provided by the Transportation Security Administration shows a diamond-encrusted Cartier watch that was left behind at a security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. Guards got a surprise when they ...Read more

Gold, Diamond-Covered Watch Worth $100000 Left at Newark Security ...
NBC New York, May 7th

A gold, diamond-encrusted Cartier watch valued at more than $100,000 was left behind at a security checkpoint in Newark Liberty International Airport earlier this week, authorities said. A Transportation Security Administration officer spotted the...Read more

At The Heart Of A Watch, Tested By Time
KPBS, April 24th

My father held her hand for a long moment, and slid his fingers along her skin until they found her wrist and the steel-and-gold Cartier watch wrapped around it. He turned her arm over and unclasped it and slipped it onto my wrist where it has sat on...Read more