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Cartier : History brand

Cartier, the timeless brand

When Louis-François Cartier bought the jewelry workshop where he was employed in 1847, he was only 28 years old. Little did he know that he would soon write the opening pages of a story that has lasted 160 years, a saga that has given us some of the most beautiful creations in the decorative arts.

This classic brand is today synonymous with modernity and luxury, and has always catered to and aroused the desires of world’s greatest personalities, for more than a century and half.

Thus, the true creative and artistic genius of its founding father has been pass on generation after generation to shape what we today call the “Cartier Dynasty”.

In his day, Louis-François Cartier was known to seduce the greatest, starting with Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoléon III. Thus, the Cartier name came into renown, thanks to the unmistakable charm of the dynasty’s founder, who soon set up shop on Boulevard des Italiens and developed his business in order to host the elegant ambassadresses of all the great European courts.

The meeting

His success, built on a passionate marriage of mineral, thread and sumptuous fabrics, ushered in the advent of Haute Couture when he met Charles Frédéric Worth. His vision of jewelry as being intimately linked with fashion led him to gain a reputation as not only a simple craftsman, but as a veritable artist. A creator, precursor of unparalleled, harmonious style, renowned by the elegant elite starting in the second half of the 19th century.

This alliance shines through even in his family tree, as his grandson Louis-Joseph (1857-1942) married the granddaughter of Charles Frederic Worth and took back the reigns of the jewelry workshop. Louis-Joseph, whose father Alfred Cartier (1841-1925) had succeeded Louis-François, took over from his progenitor.

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, Louis-Joseph made his mark on the new rise of the Cartier house which, at the time, was already 50 years old. He transferred the jewelry shop into the heart of the world of elegance, setting up the business in Rue de la Paix. Thus, Cartier joined the Haute Couture shops and perfumers who already had an address in the prestigious Parisian street.

Beyond this choice, while all of Europe was reeling under the advent of Art Nouveau and Modern Style, Louis-Joseph stated the brand’s personality by opting for the traditional side rather than the new fashion that was conquering the world.

The choice was wise, shaping the Cartier style with brilliance based on stone, diamonds and purity.

This philosophy was geared towards international development based on a diverse range of classic creations. Thus, when the grandfather and founder passed away, his grandson launched the first Cartier timekeeper, a leather wristwatch dedicated to his friend, the aviator Santos Dumont, in 1904. The Santos watch was born, marking the true start of the company’s watch production. Cartier later signed an exclusive agreement with Edmond Jaeger, who then supplied the movements for all Cartier timepieces.

Cartier was then accredited as the official supplier to several European royal families. Louis relocated his family members to strategic locations, placing them at the company’s various stores around the world, from London and St. Petersburg all the way to New York on the other side of the Atlantic.  

A decisive turning point

During the first third of the 20th century, Cartier was highly successful in watch production, in particular with the Baignoire, Tortue, Tank and Pasha models. The designs and technological innovations reflected the vision of Louis Cartier, who died in 1942. His successors did not share the same artistic genius, and the company’s progress slowed somewhat until the 1970s, when a group of investors appointed Alain Dominique Perrin as Chairman in order to make up for lost time.

By basing its strategy on fashion and innovation, Cartier rekindled with its past prestige. The extremely high production standards, quality of the watchbands and presentation boxes, and meticulous quest for hand-crafted perfection spun off in many ranges such as the Must, as well as in the reissues of the Baignoires, Tortues, Pasha, Tank, Santos, Ballon Bleu and other iconic watches, reestablished Cartier’s former glory, for many years to come…

The Cartier brand has made a permanent place for itself amongst the world’s most prestigious jewelry and watchmaking brands.


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