Cartier watches are synonymous with quality. Known for their breathtaking style and longevity, they are masterful timepieces with a long tradition. At one time they were the provenance of royalty, but as the line expanded the watches became more readily available to private citizens who possessed discretionary income.
The company was founded by master jeweler Louis Francois Cartier in 1847, who opened his first shop in Paris, France. Cartier remained a family business for well over 100 years. Louis Francois’s son, Alfred, as well as his grandsons Pierre, Jacques and Louis, were instrumental in growing the company and making it a first choice for royal patronage. When Cartier was founded, pocket watches were the timepieces of choice; however, because of the beauty and reliability of Cartier watches, wristwatches soon outpaced pocket watches in popularity.
The first Cartier wristwatch designed was the Santos, which was created at the request of aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont. Santos-Dumont found pocket watches impractical for long-distance flights and so wanted the ease and flexibility offered by a wristwatch. The Santos watch went on sale commercially in 1911.
Many of the early Cartier watch designs were inspired by a trip the three sons made to Russia at the turn of the century. Russian aristocracy, as well as French and English royalty, were famous customers and helped spread the company’s fame far and wide. Not long after, Cartier began its long association with Indian royalty, and created some of the most stunning jewelry the world has ever known.
Some of its earliest watch designs, such as the Tortue and the Baignoire, are still being produced today, despite the fact they premiered in 1912. It was in the early 1900s that Cartier began stamping the now well-known four digit reference codes on the watches. These codes are used today by collectors to distinguish genuine Cartier wristwatches from fakes.
Today there are more than 200 Cartier stores worldwide. Cartier watches are popular not just with heads of states, but with celebrities and other luminaries, as well as private citizens of discerning taste.