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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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