Since its foundation in 1847 by Louis-Francois Cartier, Cartier SA has become famous for its jewelry and wristwatches. It was initially Alfred Cartier, Louis-Francois’s son, who handled the company’s administration, but it was the next generation who established the Cartier name worldwide. Alfred’s sons, Louis, Pierre and Jacques, are responsible for making Cartier’s extravagant creations famous.

The wristwatch is one item for which Cartier is particularly known. The Santos, one of Cartier’s earliest designs, was the first men’s wristwatch manufactured. According to Mark Holston’s article “Brazil’s Father of Flight,” Louis Cartier designed his first wristwatch after talking with Brazilian aviator Albert Santos Dumont about how impractical it was to use a pocket watch while flying. The wristwatch quickly became popular with both aviators and everyday consumers.

Albert Santos Dumont, the inspiration for Cartier’s Santos wristwatch.  Image of Dumont from U.S. Centennial Flight Commission (

In addition to his wristwatches, Louis Cartier designed Mystery Clocks, which were made with a transparent dial, and many other products with Art Deco designs and fine jewel-work, according to Nancy Russell’s recent article on Cartier in Entertainment Review.

The Cartier Desk Clock, art deco style.  The face is inlaid with opalescent mother-of-pearl.  Available at Beaux Arts Galleria.

In 1907, the company signed a contract with Edmond Jaeger who agreed to supply the movements for Cartier’s watches. With branches in London, St. Petersburg, and New York, Cartier was quickly establishing itself as one of the world’s foremost watch companies. In his book, Cartier, Hans Nadelhoffer discusses how Cartier and Edmond Jaeger of Jaeger-LeCoultre combined their companies in 1920. After forming this combined company, Edmond Jager produced watch movements only for Cartier, but Cartier continued to get movements from other companies such as Movado and Audemars-Piguet (Nadelhoffer). Splitting from Louis, who remained in Paris, Jacques took control of the company’s operation in London, and Pierre in New York City, according to the article “Fabulous Jewelry From the House of Cartier” in US Today Magazine.

Today there are more than 200 Cartier stores, operating in 135 countries around the world. The company has made custom pieces for royal families and established itself as the world’s leading producer of luxury watches. Some well-known collections of watches are the Tank collection, the Santos de Cartier collection, and La Dona de Cartier. These Cartier watches, blossoming and changing from Louis’ first wristwatch in 1904, remain lavish accessories that represent a history of quality and luxury.

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