Makers & Retailers - Cartier


Cartier is a French luxury brand that designs and supplies extremely high quality jewellery, objects, leather goods, and watches. Initially founded by Louis-François Cartier (1819–1904) in Paris 1847, the company remained under family control until 1964. Cartiers headquartered are found in Paris and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swiss Richemont Group who also own companies such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Chloe and Dunhill. Cartier operates more than 200 stores in 125 countries, with three Historical Maisons in London, New York, and Paris. Cartier has a long history of sales to royalty. King Edward VII referred to Cartier as “the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers.”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, Serbia, Russia and the House of Orléans.

Cartier History

Louis-François Cartier founded Cartier in Paris in 1847 following a take over from his master Adolphe Picard. Almost 30 years later 1874 Alfred Cartier the son of Louis-François’ took over the company but it was not until Alfred’s three sons Louis, Pierre, and Jacques took over that the world wide Cartier brand was established. Pierre Cartier Louis ran the Paris branch of Cartier and was responsible for many of the companies celebrated designs including, mystery clocks, watches and jewellery including the famous Tutti Frutti jewels. The Pairs branch moved in to the Rue de la Paix in 1899.

In 1904 the Brazilian pioneer aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont was said to have been complaining to his friend Louis Cartier (son of Alfred Cartier) of the unreliability and impracticality of using pocket watches while flying. Cartier went on to design a purpose built flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel that was favoured by Santos-Dumont and went on to be favoured by many other customers. Cartier named the watch “The Santos” after the Brazilian pioneer and it was the first and last time the brand named a piece after the original wearer. Not long after The Santos was designed Cartier signed a contract with Edmond Jaeger (later of Jaeger-LeCoultre) which allowed Jaeger to exclusively supply the movements for Cartier watches.

Among the Cartier team was Charles Jacqueau known as ‘the Picasso of Jewellery design’ who joined Louis Cartier in 1909 and saw out his career with the business. The company also employed Belgian-born French jeweller Jeanne Toussaint from 1913, and who became Director of Fine Jewellery from 1933, Toussaint was responsible huge influence in the overall jewellery design at Cartier supplying  jewellery to the Duchess of Windsor.

Pierre Cartier established a New York City branch in 1909 and moved to 653 Fifth Avenue in the Neo-Renaissance mansion of Morton Freeman Plant designed by architect C.P.H. Gilbert in 1917. Cartier purchased it from the Plant family in exchange for $100 in cash and a double-stranded natural pearl necklace valued at the time at $1 million. By this time, Cartier had branches in London, England, New York, USA and Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Following the success of the Santos watch Louis Cartier went onto design a watch named ‘The Tank’ and it was introduced in 1919. Louis was said to have been inspired by the newly introduced tanks on used on the Western Front in World War I. In the early 1920s Cartier went onto form a joint-stock company with Edward Jaeger to produce movements solely for Cartier. Cartier also continued to use movements from other makers such as Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet and Movado. It was also during this period that Cartier began adding its own reference numbers its watches by stamping a four-digit code on the underside of a lug. Jacques took charge of the London operations and eventually moved to the current address at New Bond Street.