Soon after having taken control of his master Adolphe Picard’s workshop, Louis-François Cartier founded Cartier in 1847. With the raise of the French Second Empire, the business prospered in a decade with the opening of Cartier’s first store in 1859. Louis-François’ son, Alfred, took care of the business and moved it to the prestigious Rue de La Paix in Paris in 1899.
In true family spirit, Alfred had the participation of his three sons in the business; Louis, Pierre and Jaques. They all joined in with their talents and the company grew. Together they created a brand that is still today among the most prestigious in the world.
His revolutionary ideas, like using platinum in jewels, granted him the name given by king Edward VII of “Jeweller of Kings” and “King of Jewellers”. Celebrity support didn’t end there. With his friend, the airplane pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont, requesting a specific watch for using while flying his “lighter than air” airplane. Santos Dumont’s fame made the wrist watch, uncommon in those times, a desired accessory among men.
In 1909, Cartier opened a sumptuous store in New York, located in the prestigious 5th Avenue. Still in that year, Cartier moved to the iconic address in New Bond Street, in London. In the following year the brand inaugurated stores in Moscow, St. Petersburg and in the Persian Gulf, beginning a strong international expansion.
The first world war inspired Louis to draw a watch based on military tanks, the FT Renault that he had seen in action. He transformed the profile of a military machine into something beautiful; the Cartier Tank Watch, one of the brand most successful articles. However, maybe the most iconic of Louis’ creation had been the “triple gold trinity” ring interlaced in three filaments of pink, white and yellow gold.
After Louis’s death in 1942 Cartier was deprived of his ideas and imagination which were responsible for making Cartier the brand that it is today, however, fortunately, his death didn’t represent the end of Cartier’s creativity.
For over four decades, Cartier made some of the best jewellery and watches the world has ever seen. As for instance, the famous tutti frutti necklaces and bracelets or the powerful panther, a symbol of Cartier. The House of Cartier also executed the Maharaja of Patiala with almost 3.000 diamonds, always beneath Louis demanding eye.
The Sale of the Business
After Pierre’s death, Jean-Jacques Cartier (Jacques’son), Claude Cartier (Louis’son), and Marionne Claudelle (Pierre’s daughter) sold the business.
In the mythical history of Cartier, there are many famous people who were loyal customers and responsible for raising the French brand to the level of indisputable luxury, such as, for example, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the beautiful Grace Kelly, the Mexican actress Maria Félix, with her snake bracelets, the actor Richard Burton, who bought in 1969 a diamond with 69 ct. for his then wife Liz Taylor. His clients were also Marilyn Monroe, Nina Dhier, Edith Piaf, Aristoteles Onassis and Charles de Gaulle (he only gave official Cartier gifts). In addition, Cartier has become a supplier of several European Royal Houses.
The company maintains its headquarters in Paris, although being a subsidiary of the Swiss Group Richemont. Cartier has over 200 stores in 125 countries, with three historic temples; London, New York and Paris.
Still to this date Cartier continues to challenge perceptions and go beyond expectations, a brand that left its mark on generations and continues to leave it with power and creativity.