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Cartier History

Cartier SA is a French jeweller and watch manufacturer that is a subsidiary of Compagnie Financi?re Richemont SA. The corporation carries the name of the Cartier family of jewellers whose control ended in 1964 and who were known for numerous pieces including the famous "Bestiary" (best illustrated by the famous Panth?re brooch of the 1940s created for Wallis Simpson), the diamond necklace created for Yadavindra Singh the Maharaja of Patiala and in 1904 the first practical wristwatch, the "Santos." Cartier SA is headquartered in Paris.

The company has a long and distinguished history of serving royalty, as well as stars and celebrities. One Prince of Wales hailed Cartier as "Joaillier des Rois, Roi des Joailliers" (Jeweller to Kings, King of Jewellers"). Cartier received an order for 27 tiaras for the coronation of the future King. King Edward VII was crowned in 1902 and in 1904 he honoured the Company with the royal warrant of supplier to the Royal Court of England. Similar warrants soon followed from the courts of Spain, Portugal, Russia, Siam, Greece, Serbia, Belgium, Romania, Egypt and finally Albania, and also from the House of Orleans and the Principality of Monaco.

Cartier is at present the no. 1 seller of luxury jewellery in the world, and the no. 2 seller of luxury watches (after Rolex).



Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-Fran?ois Cartier when he took over the workshop of his master. In 1874 his son, Alfred Cartier took over the administration of the company, but it was Alfred's sons Louis, Pierre and Jacques, who were responsible for establishing the world-wide brand name of Cartier.

In 1904, Louis Cartier met the Brazilian aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont, who complained of the unreliability and impracticality of using pocket watches while flying. Cartier rose to the challenge, designing a flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel. This watch was not only a hit with Santos-Dumont, but also with Cartier's many clients. Thus, out of this timeless design, the "Santos" was born. This was the first men's wristwatch (Patek Phillipe made the first wristwatch, but for a woman and as a one-off). Incredibly enough, this watch is still produced today in much the same form.

Louis retained responsibility for 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 their works are hidden), fashionable wristwatches and exotic orientalist Art Deco designs, including the colorful "Tutti Frutti" jewels.

In 1907, Cartier signed a contract with Edmond Jaeger, who agreed to exclusively supply the movements for Cartier watches. By this time, Cartier had branches in London, New York and St. Petersburg and was quickly becoming one of the most successful watch companies in the world. The introduction of the Baignoire and Tortue models (both of which are still in production today) took place in 1912, followed by the Tank model's debut in 1917. In 1932, the watertight watch made especially for the Pasha of Marrakesh - raised the bar even higher. Needless to say, the innovations, both in terms of design and technology, continued apace.

In 1917, inspired by the newly introduced war machines on the Western Front, Louis Cartier designed the most famous Cartier watch, the Cartier Tank watch. This line too has survived, with over thirty varieties now being made. The watch has been a favourite of such people as Frank Sinatra, Princess Diana, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Elton John, Pierce Brosnan, Naomi Campbell, Uma Thurman, Ronnie Corbett and many more.

In the early 1920s Cartier formed a joint company with Edward Jaeger (of the famed Jaeger-LeCoultre company) to produce movements solely for Cartier. Thus was the famed European watch & clock company born, although Cartier continued to use movements from other great makers. Cartier watches can be found with movements from Vacheron Constantin, Audemars-Piguet, Movado and LeCoultre. It was also during this period that Cartier began adding its own reference numbers to the watches it sold, usually by stamping a four-digit code on the underside of a lug. In fact, many collectors refuse to accept a Cartier as original, unless these numbers are present.

Jacques took charge of the London operation and eventually moved to the current address at New Bond Street.

Pierre Cartier established the New York City branch in 1909, moving in 1917 to the current location of 653 Fifth Avenue, the Neo-Renaissance mansion of Morton Freeman Plant (son of railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant) which Cartier bought from the Plants in exchange for $100 in cash and a double-stranded natural pearl necklace valued at the time at $1 million.

Among the Cartier team was Charles Jacqueau, who joined Louis Cartier in 1909 for his entire life, and Jeanne Toussaint, who was Director of Fine Jewelry from 1933 on.

After the death of Pierre in 1964, Jean-Jacques Cartier (Jacques's son), Claude Cartier (Louis's son), and Marionne Claudelle (Pierre's daughter) ? who respectively headed the Cartier affiliates in London, New York and Paris ? sold the businesses.

In 1972 a group of investors led by Joseph Kanoui bought Cartier Paris. President Robert Hocq, the creator of the concept of "Les Must de Cartier" (a staff member is said to have said "Cartier, It's a must!" meaning something one simply must have) in collaboration with Alain Dominique Perrin, General Director, began introducing new products representative of the status and quality of the Cartier of the past. In 1974 and 1976 respectively, Cartier London and Cartier New York were bought back. In 1979 the Cartier interests were combined together, creating "Cartier Monde" uniting and controlling Cartier Paris, London and New York.

Cartier's largest stores are found in New York, Milan, Beverly Hills, Rome, Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo, Paris, S?o Paulo, Shanghai, London and Vancouver.

Cartier watches are favoured by many notables and celebrities: Natasha Richardson, Naomi Campbell and Uma Thurman are some of the VIPs who wear Cartier?s Tank Francaise.

Jemina Khan, Nicole Kidman, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Sarah, Duchess of York and Julia Roberts are keen Panthere fans. Prince Albert of Monaco prefers the Santos model; as do actors Kurt Russell and Liam Neeson.

Polo playing actress Stephanie Powers always wears Cartier, as does Joely Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise.

Fashion designers Donna Karan, Stella McCartney, Carolina Herrera, Sonia Rykiel, Caroline Charles and Anouska Hempel all work wearing Cartier watches.

Rock and pop stars Kylie Minogue, David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart own and wear Panthere and Tank Francaise models.

Robin Williams and Tom Selleck wear Pasha models; while former 007, Timothy Dalton, sticks to the timeless elegance of Cartier?s Santos.


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