Cartier is a French luxury goods brand that designs, manufactures, distributes, and sells jewelry and watches.
Founded by Louis-François Cartier in Paris in 1847.
The company remained under his family’s control until 1964.
The company maintains its headquarters in Paris, France. Although it has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Swiss Richemont Group. Cartier operates more than 200 stores in 125 countries, with three Temples (Historical Maison) in London, New York, and Paris.
Louis-François Cartier founded Cartier in Paris, France in 1847 when he took over the workshop of his master, Adolphe Picard. In 1874, Louis-François’ son Alfred Cartier took over the company, but it was Alfred’s sons Louis, Pierre and Jacques who established the brand name worldwide.
Louis ran the Paris branch, moving to the Rue de la Paix in 1899. He was responsible for some of the company’s most celebrated designs, like the mystery clocks (a type of clock with a transparent dial and so named because its mechanism is hidden), fashionable wristwatches and exotic orientalist Art Deco designs, including the colorful “Tutti Frutti” jewels.
In 1904, the Brazilian pioneer aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier of the unreliability and impracticality of using pocket watches while flying. Cartier designed a flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel. This watch was favored not only by Santos-Dumont himself but also by many other customers. The “Santos” watch was Cartier’s first men’s wristwatch. In 1907, Cartier signed a contract with Edmond Jaeger, who agreed to exclusively supply the movements for Cartier watches. Among the team was Charles Jacqueau, who joined Louis Cartier in 1909 for the rest of his life, and Jeanne Toussaint, who was Director of Fine Jewellery from 1933.
On the other hand, Pierre Cartier established the New York City branch in 1909. Moving in 1917 to 653 Fifth Avenue, the Neo-Renaissance mansion of Morton Freeman Plant (son of railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant) and designed by architect C.P.H. Gilbert. The fashion designer bought it from the Plants in exchange for $100 in cash and a double-stranded natural pearl necklace valued at the time at $1 million. By this time, the brand had branches in London, New York, and St. Petersburg. It was quickly becoming one of the most successful watch companies in the world.
Designed by Louis Cartier, the Tank watch model was introduced in 1919 with a design inspired by the newly introduced tanks on the Western Front in World War I.
In the early 1920s, Cartier formed a joint-stock company with Edward Jaeger (of Jaeger-LeCoultre) to produce movements solely for the brand. Continued to use movements from other makers: Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Movado, and LeCoultre. During this period that they began adding their own reference numbers to the watches, it sold usually by stamping a four-digit code on the underside of a lug. Jacques took charge of the London operation and eventually moved to the current address at New Bond Street.
Regarded as one of the most prestigious jewelery manufacturers in the world.
In 2018, it is ranked by Forbes as the world’s 59th most valuable brand.
Has a long history of sales to royalty. King Edward VII of Great Britain referred to Cartier as “the jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers.” For his coronation in 1902, Edward VII ordered 27 tiaras and issued a royal warrant to Cartier in 1904. Similar warrants soon followed from the courts of Spain, Portugal, Russia, Siam, the House of Orleans, and so on.