Once memorably hailed as ‘the jeweller of Kings and the King of jewellers’, Cartier and its watches remain today one of the world’s best-known luxury brands.
Louis Cartier (1875-1942) is credited for creating the first mans wristwatch in 1904, when he designed a watch for his friend and client Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont.
Santos-Dumont was an aviator, and he needed a more suitable timepiece for his flights. He asked Cartier to design something for him and the “Santos” was born, although it did not go on sale until 1911.
By that date Louis Cartier had begun the exclusive production of the first wristwatches at his establishment in Paris on the Rue de la Paix, helped by Edmond Jaeger.
The first London Cartier shop opened at 4 Burlington St in 1902 and was soon appointed official purveyor to the court of King Edward. Five years later under the management of the youngest of Alfred Cartier’s sons, Jacques Cartier, they moved to 175 New Bond St.
Jaques Cartier was well suited to the quiet conservative life of London and helped to create new designs and assisted in the purchase of important gemstones, accompanied by his wife Nelly Harjes.
Following the success of their London branch they expanded into the huge American Market by opening a shop in New York run by Pierre Cartier (1878-1965).
Just as the London branch was patronised by the aristocracy, so Pierre Cartier had his particular crowd of adoring patrons. Pierre, whose life long ambition had been to become an ambassador, was well suited to the fast pace of life in New York. He eventually married Elma Rumsey a rich girl form Missouri.
Cartier Paris initially sent all merchandise for they shop across the Atlantic, but a workshop was soon set up in New York and Pierre with the help of Jules Glaenzer, quickly established the brands image across America.
In 1910 a further two Cartier branches were opened, in Moscow and the Persian Gulf. Soon business was so good in New York that they moved to splendid new premises at 653 Fifth Avenue. The opening of the New York shop had given Cartier worldwide recognition.
Throughout the First World War Cartier continued to do business because of their inventive and original designs. In the inter war years two more branches in fashionable beach resorts were opened, Cartier Cannes in 1935 and Cartier Monte Carlo in 1938. Further branches were opened in Geneva, Hong Kong and Munich. Claude Cartier and Pierres Cartier’s son in law Pierre Claudel assisted in the running of the empire.
Louis and Jaques Cartier both died in 1942. Their brother Pierre became the president of Cartier International in 1945 and from then on stayed almost entirely in the shop in Paris until he retired to Geneva in 1947. In the late 1940’s Cartier London was run by Jean-Jaques Cartier, while the New York branch was headed by Claude Cartier. In 1962 Claude Cartier sold Cartier New York but remained president of the company until 1963.
Cartier’s great empire has evolved form humble beginnings on the Rue Montorgeuil in fourteen distributing companies in the richest countries in the world. The company is continuing to keep the magic of Cartier alive.