Louis Francois Cartier the son of a powder horn maker, founded Cartier in 1847; the year his workshop master Adolphe Picard died.
Cartier would take over Maitre Picard’s Jewelry shop located at 31 Rue Montorgueil, Paris.
Four years later in 1851, Napoleon III came to power. Cartier would benefit from Napoleon’s presence, through the Countess Nieuwerkerke and
Princess Mathilde, cousin to Napoleon, Cartier was able to become a supplier to the court; in 1859 he would sell Empress Eugenie a silver tea service.
Cartier would rent quarters on the Boulevard des Italiens, then one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in Paris.
Cartier’s collection had a light and airy touch, in contrast to overly formal, overwrought jewelry of the time.
Cartier simple, elegant designs would influence the entire industry for decades to come. Although Louis Francois Cartier lived until 1904,
in 1874, his son Louis Alfred would take control of the business. Alfred expanded the business considerably, especially in watches,
which Louis had only dabbled in.
Under Alfred the business spread well beyond Paris. Starting in 1898, Alfred brought his three sons Louis,
Pierre and Jacques into the business; he changed its name to Alfred Cartier & fils.
It was under the direction of Alfred’s sons Louis - Joseph (1875-1942), Pierre (1878-1964) and Jacque - Theodule (1884-1941)
that the company experienced its greatest growth and recognition. He kept Louis in Paris,
sent Jacques to London and Pierre to New York to open up new branches of Cartier. Alfred lived from 1841 to 1925. In 1904,
the famous Brazilian aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont complained of the unreliability and impracticality of
using pocket watches while flying to his friend Louis Joseph Cartier. Cartier would design a wristwatch with a unique square bezel.
The watch would be a hit, not only with Santos-Dumont, but with Cartier’s many clients. This design called the Santos would be the first men’s wristwatch.
Although Patek Phillipe created the first wristwatch in 1868, it was a one of a kind for a woman.
The three brother’s different styles and strengths complemented each other well.
Louis took control of the Paris branch moving it to Rue de la Paix, in 1899; his vision and creative genius did a lot to develop the Cartier legend.
Jacques ran the London branch and traveled to the Persian Gulf in search of the finest pearls and gems.
The opening of the London branch was a timely one, Queen Alexandra of England would order 27 tiaras in honor of the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.
Two years later, Edward appointed Cartier a royal warrant as supplier to the Royal Court of England. By the end of the decade,
Cartier would be named royal supplier to the royal house of Spain, Portugal, Russia, Greece, Serbia, Belgium, Romania, Albania,
Monaco and the former French royal House of Orleans. By now the Prince of Wales referred to Cartier as the “Jeweller to Kings and King to Jewellers”.
Pierre ran the New York branch, established in 1909, while courting the Mcleans to which he sold the Hope diamond, the Rockefellers,
Whitneys, Astors, Vanderbilts and all the other US industrial elite. In 1917, Pierre moved to its current location at 653 Fifth Avenue,
owed by Morton Freeman Plant, the son of railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant. Pierre Cartier acquired the mansion in exchange for $100
and a double-stranded natural pearl necklace valued then at one million dollars.
In 1907, Cartier signed a contract with Edmond Jaeger, to supply the movements for Cartier watches exclusively.
By now, Cartier with branches in London, New York and Saint Petersburg, was becoming the world’s most successful watch company.
They introduced the Biagnoire and Tortue models, which are still made today. In 1917, Inspired by the war machines on the western front,
Louis Cartier designed and introduced the Tank watch; also made today in over thirty varieties.
In the early 1920s Cartier and Edward Jaeger formed a joint company called Jaeger-LeCoultre to produce movements solely for Cartier.
However, Cartier continued to use movements from Vacheron, Constantin, Audemars-Piguet, Movado and LeCoultre.
It was during this period, that Cartier started adding a stamped four digit reference number on the underside of his watches.
Collectors still refuse to accept a Cartier as original, without these numbers.
In 1910, Cartier opened stores in Moscow and the Persian Gulf. In between world war one and two, stores would open in Cannes, Monte Carlo, Hong Kong, Munich and Geneva.
Louis died in 1942 and Jacque died in 1941. In 1945 Pierre became president of Cartier International.
However, with the death of Louis the company became financially stagnant; no one could replace his drive and vision.
Pierre and Elma Cartier moved to the shores of Lac Leman, near Geneva in 1947, to live out a calm and subdued retirement at their “Villa Elma”.
Before being rebuilt, this villa was a boathouse and part of the estate of the Château de Penthes, former residence of the Empress Josephine.
They entertained their friends and cruised on the lake aboard their boat the “Elma”.
Their five granddaughters, Violaine, Dominique, Marie-Pierre, Marie and Michèle were often visitors, after the death of their younger brother Peter.
They looked after their grandparents with great care until their death. Elma died in 1959 and Pierre on the 27th of October, 1964.
That same year after the death of Pierre, Jean-Jacques Cartier (Jacques Cartier’s son),
Claude Cartier (Louis Cartier’s son) and Marionne Claudelle (Pierre Cartier’s daughter) sold the business.
In 1972 a group of investors led by Joseph Kanoui brought Cartier Paris. President Robert Hocq and General Director Alain
Dominique Perrin creators of the concept “Les Must de Cartier” or “Cartier Is A Must”;
began introducing new products representative of the status and quality of Cartier of the past.
Later in 1974 and 1976, they brought Cartier London and New York, combining the three into “Cartier Monde”.
By the beginning of the 1980’s Cartier was brought by the Vendôme Luxury Group PLC (Vendôme) which also owned Alfred Dunhill.
Vendôme is 70% owned by Compagnie Financière Richemont AG of Switzerland (Richemont), owned by the Rupert family of South Africa.
In 1997 Richemont brought the remaining 30% of Vendôme Luxury Group making it a wholly owned subsidiary.
The Vendôme Luxury Group PLC continued to expand and by the end of the 1990’s included Alfred Dunhill, Baume Mercier, Cartier,
Chloe, Lancel, Mont Blanc, Panerai, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, and Van Cleef & Arpels; with Cartier making up 50% of the sales.
Hocg, Kanoui and Allain Dominique Perrin, CEO of Cartier World, were credited with saving Cartier’s
dwindling fortunes and raising it to the ranks of the largest jewelry company in the world. It started when they introduced non jewelry items
bearing the Cartier name and cachet. They also dared to sell their product line in select retail stores across the globe;
without hurting the Cartier name and jewelry line. By the end of the 1970’s their wholesale products concept, primarily accessories with modest prices,
brought the Cartier name within reach of ordinary consumers under the trademarked name “Le Must de Cartier”.
In the early 1980s they added Cartier brand perfumes. Today Cartier operates over 200 stores worldwide.
Under Micheline Kanoui the company’s talented lead designer and wife of Joseph Kanoui chairman of Vendome Group. The company's current collection
includes the Baignoire, Lanieres, Ligne 21, Panthere de Cartier, Pasha de Cartier, Roadster, Santos de Cartier,
Tank Americaine, Tank Francaise, Tank S, Tortue. Their watch and jewelry collection is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
The Cartier watch collection is the second best selling luxury line in the world, next to Rolex.