The name Cartier is synonymous with beautiful objects of quality and style. Although Cartier are perhaps better known for their fine jewellery, their signed wristwatches have made a huge impression on the global watch market and have become increasingly collectable over the years. Many of their fabulous watches can be regarded as pieces of jewellery in their own right and Cartier have become renowned throughout the world.

Louis Cartier (1875-1942) has in fact been credited for creating the first mans wristwatch in 1904, when he designed a watch for his friend and client Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont. Santos-Dumont was one of the early pioneers of aviation, and he needed a more suitable timepiece for his dare devil flights. He asked Cartier to design something for him and the "Santos" was born, although it did not go on sale until 1911. By that date Louis Cartier had begun the exclusive production of the first wristwatches at his establishment in Paris on the Rue de la Paix, helped by Edmond Jaeger.

Cartier's history really begins when Louis Francois Cartier (1819-1904) followed the steps of his grandfather, also called Louis Francois Cartier (1755-1793), by becoming a goldsmith. He started his career as an apprentice to Adolphe Picard, producing handmade jewellery in a small workshop at 29 Rue Montorgeuil, and quickly developed into one of the finest jewellers in Paris. When his master Picard died in 1847 Cartier succeeded him and the company that bore his name was born.

By 1853 Louis Francois was able to expand his business of designing and selling jewellery to the more fashionable Palais-Royal district, in premised at 5 Rue Neuve des petits Champs. He became a favourite of Princess Mathilde, the cousin of Napoleon III, whose patronage opened the door to Parisian society. This made a move to larger premises at 9 Rue des Italiens a necessity.

In 1874 Alfred Cartier (1841-1925) took over the company from his father Louis Francois. Alfred's three sons - Louis, Pierre and Jaques - would eventually turn the family business into a global empire.

In 1898 Cartier made a final move in Paris and they still remain at 13 Rue de La Paix today. Alfred Cartier was accompanied by his son ans associate Louis Cartier, who proved not only an outstanding goldsmith but business man aswell. Louis Cartier's genius was to make Cartiers' name famous worldwide.

Consequentley Cartier expanded their empire, opening a London branch in 1902 and in a New York branch in 1909. Fifty years on Louis Francois Cartier set up his first shop and possessed one of the most influential clienteles in the world, including virtually every crowned head in Europe, most of the maharajas of India, and Kings of Siam and Nepal.

Business, jeweller and collector, Louis Cartier was handsome, distinguished and elegant, popular among the Parisian women and well thought of by the aristocracy. He was later to marry Countess Almasey of Hungary. One of his most important clients was the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, who once described Louis Cartier as "the jeweller of Kings, the King among jewellers".

The first London Cartier shop opened at 4 Burlington St in 1902 and was soon appointed official purveyor to the court of King Edward. Five years later under the management of the youngest of Alfred Cartier's sons, jaques Cartier (1884-1942), they moved to 175 New Bond St. Jaques Cartier was well suited to the quiet conservative life of London and helped to create new designs and assisted in the purchase of important gemstones, accompanied by his wife Nelly Harjes.

Following the success of their London branch they expanded into the huge American Market by opening a shop in New York run by Pierre Cartier (1878-1965). Just as the London branch was patronised by the aristocracy, so Pierre Cartier had his particular crowd of adoring patrons. Pierre, whose life long ambition had been to become an ambassador, was well suited to the fast pace of life in New York. He eventually married Elma Rumsey a rich girl form Missouri. Cartier Paris initially sent all merchandise for they shop across the Atlantic, but a workshop was soon set up in New York and Pierre with the help of Jules Glaenzer, quickly established the brands image across America.

In 1910 a further two Cartier branches were opened, in Moscow and the Persian Gulf. Soon business was so good in New York that they moved to splendid new premises at 653 Fifth Avenue. The opening of the New York shop had given Cartier worldwide recognition.

Throughout the First World War Cartier continued to do business because of their inventive and original designs. In the inter war years two more branches in fashionable beach resorts were opened, Cartier Cannes in 1935 and Cartier Monte Carlo in 1938. Further branches were opened in Geneva, Hong Kong and Munich. Claude Cartier and Pierres Cartier's son in law Pierre Claudel assisted in the running of the empire.

Louis and Jaques Cartier both died in 1942. Their brother Pierre became the president of Cartier International in 1945 and from then on stayed almost entirely in the shop in Paris until he retired to Geneva in 1947. In the late 1940's Cartier London was run by Jean-Jaques Cartier, while the New York branch was headed by Claude Cartier. In 1962 Claude Cartier sold Cartier New York but remained president of the company until 1963.

By 1968 Cartier had evolved from a family business into an enormous multinational organisation. In 1972 Joseph Kanoui headed a financial syndicate which bought control of Cartier Paris. Robert Hocq became president of the company. He once again united the three branches of Cartier and took over the London and New York Management in a move to re-establish Cartier's image of prestige and importance.

Cartier's great empire has evolved form humble beginnings on the Rue Montorgeuil in fourteen distributing companies in the richest countries in the world. The company is continuing to keep the magic of Cartier alive.

Cartier Watches
From the outset Cartier designed watches that were elegant, small, accurate, and a statement of the times in which they were made. Cartier were unique among wristwatch designers and manufacturers because they owned their own retail outlets and were therefore able to stay abreast of changing fashion trends. Their genius for design often meant they set the fashion themselves, instead of following it.

During the early twentieth century any man wearing a wristwatch made a very daring statement, as the classic pocket watch was considered the only timepiece a gentleman should carry. Cartier were a major influence in persuading the Parisian aristocracy to accept the idea of wristwatches for men. The Santos was promoted to show that the adventurous gentleman was wearing a wristwatch in all elements of his life.

The "Tank" wristwatch introduced in 1917 during the First World War, was Cartier's most famous model. Louis Cartier was inspired by the tough new war machine the Americans introduced to the fighting in Europe, the tank to design a rugged yet beautiful watch that became a classic.

Cartier made an exclusive contract with Edmond Jaeger, who moved into Cartier's premises so he could manufacture mechanisms for Cartier's personalized watches. They guaranteed an annual order of at least 250,000 Fr worth of business and in this time Jaeger concentrated on small flat watches.

The early mens wristwatches were all handmade in France, with movements by Jaeger, Cartier Paris and the European Watch and Clock Co, who manufactured complicated movements such as chronographs, minute repeaters, and digital wristwatches.

Ladies wristwatches became popular more quickly as the pocket or fob watch were not as comfortable to wear for women. During the Late 1920's and early 1930's ladies wristwatches began to get smaller and smaller. The smallest was a 2-line movement manufactured by the European Watch and Clock Company and Jaeger.

The ability to create many unique wristwatches was of great advantage to Cartier because customers were able to select from various designs, or order custom made pieces. Because the shops only sold their own brand they had no competition from other competitors in store.

Cartier wristwatches were produced with movements by Jaeger, Vacheron, Le Coutre, Cartier itself and The European Watch and Clock Co. These watch cases were manufactured in Paris, Geneva, London and New York, and each branch was responsible for the production of their own wristwatches. However, the French branch exported its watches to other shops.

Cartiers wristwatches were fast becoming the status symbol of the rich, and people became eager to purchase all the unique models that were being manufactured.

In 1931 Cartier designed its first waterproof wristwatch with a three piece case made in Paris. Other designs to come from Cartier Paris were a covered wristwatch, a shutter wristwatch, a reversible wristwatch a chronograph and a minute repeater.

The 1940's saw a period when the "Moonphase" was a very sort after watch. Its movements were generally by Jaeger or the European Watch and Clock Company. Stainless steel was used during the war when gold became less available.

The Cartier London workshop for wristwatches was set up in 1939 and was located at Ormand House, Roseberry Avenue, London EC1. The cases were made by Wright and Davis.

After the Second World War in 1946 Cartier were looking for new designs, keeping up with the tradition of changing times. Cartier London started manufacturing men's wristwatches in a more serious way and the workshops were able to expand quickly because of the popularity of these custom made pieces. Diamond and sapphire watches were very popular during this period, as were Cartier watches with different coloured enamel round the bezel.

The 1960's saw Jean-Jaques Cartier design with R Emerson a wristwatch that was a large uneven shape that looked as if it had been in a car crash. This "Crash" watch was the wristwatch that many people later called the "Dali" watch, after artist Salvador Dali. It really had nothing to do with him however, and the correct name for it is the "Crash" watch. Cartier only manufactured fifteen of these in the 1960's but later released a further series in the 1980's.

The London Cartier workshop produced handmade wristwatches for 43 years, meeting the individual demands for all sorts of customers, and then in 1979 the workshop closed. As the 1970's ended the company as a whole started to use quartz movements for their wristwatches, as they were producing them in such large quantities. Cartier were still able to go back to their original designs and simply adapt the movements to quartz.

In the 1980's Cartier added about a 100 different models to their line and always remained one step ahead of the competition. They manufactured watches in steel, gold and combinations of the two for the fashion conscious people in today's market. This ability to see what the market demands is vital to being able to meet their customers expectations for watches of the greatest style, performance and quality.

Cartier has remained so special because they have always made wristwatches in a variety of shapes, round, square, tortue, tonneau, rectangular, and oval, rather than limiting themselves to one or two shapes. Their designs have always managed to be classic and modern at the same time. A Cartier watch can always be relied upon to make a fashion statement. Their emphasis an quality and design was a heritage from their beginnings as a jewellers. Their jewellery for women has always been among the most beautiful in the world, and remains a collectors pleasure. Cartier have consistently used the best quality for their watch cases, dials and movements, and this has reaped rich rewards as their customers return time after time to acquire more of the unique Cartier Magic.

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