La Maison Cartier – The brand story5:30 pm
“One man’s magic is another man’s engineering.”
Creations that are nothing less than magical, Cartier is responsible for leaving us with enchanted moments since the dawn of the 20th century. It was in 1904 that Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, protested against the inconvenience of the pocket watch to his friend Louis Cartier. How could he possibly read the time while flying, when both his hands were on the controls? It was an impossible feat; he needed a watch that could be consulted without taking either hand off the apparatus. And so, in 1911, the Santos was born. The first modern wristwatch for men, one that had the bracelet attachment horns integrated into the case.
The Santos gave pilots the pivotal advantage of being able to read time on their watches while maneuvering across the skies. A design classic, the Santos lives on to be one of Cartier’s most iconic watches yet.
The Maison Cartier has a vivid history, rich with extraordinary encounters, inspiring travels and distinctive personalities. The brand’s craftsmanship is reflective of this lineage, which is also the reason why Cartier designs are always unique, never moved by passing fads, where every piece has a fascinating story to tell.
Founded in Paris in 1847 by master jeweler Louis-Francois Cartier, it was in 1899 that Cartier opened its first boutique on rue de la Paix – a cosmopolitan hub that was visited by famous figures from across continents. Ever since its establishment, the House had envisioned an international presence. It was this dream that took Pierre and Louis Cartier on their many voyages abroad, the experiences thereof becoming sources of inspiration for many of the Maison’s creations.
Soon, Cartier had enchanted extraordinary figures the world over – aristocrats, rich industrialists joined by the first stars of Broadway and of silent movies. From Russia to India, the brand was establishing unique ties wherever they set foot.
Among the many novelties of the House of Cartier, the one that commands immediate attention is the brand’s signature animal – the Panther. Cartier designs have always been deeply inspired by the elegant feline and circa 1914 was the first time that the panther was used on a wrist watch, the gems setting re-creating the animal’s fur. The motif soon became a key part of many Cartier designs, making the bounding creature the object of all desires.
It is apt for Cartier watchmaking to be referred to as audacious artistry. Right from its founding years, the Maison has been a pioneer in watchmaking. Since the brand firmly remains a jeweler, its earliest designs in watches were innately reflective of this spirit. In fact, at that time the brand was known to create a large number of jewelry watches to be worn as brooches, chatelaines and pocket watches. Sure enough, taking from the brand’s artistic background, the watches too were rich in design, superbly decorated with embellishments and echoing the vibrant hues of the jewellery collections.
It was only a matter of time before Louis Cartier recognized that the wrist watch was the future of timekeeping.
From the Santos in 1904, Louis went on to create the Tank watch in 1917, another legendary timepiece to enter the history of modern watchmaking. Its silhouette evoking the exterior of a military attack vehicle, the Tank went on to create ripples in an industry that was seeing a new dawn.
The aesthetics of the Santos and Tank define the design codes of Cartier watchmaking to this very day. The House of Cartier is also synonymous with the creation of a myriad of other shaped watches – the Tonneau, the Tortue, the Baignoire and the Ballon bleu de Cartier watch, among others. The brand has never limited its imagination and creation of shaped watches.
With every new chapter come new beginnings, and from introducing one of the first wristwatches, Cartier has progressed to accumulating great watchmaking prowess. Creating icons, both in terms of savoir-faire and mechanics, Cartier timepieces today, boast some of the finest and most prestigious complications.
Since 1847 to now, the House of Cartier continues to conquer time with exceptional timepieces that speak of daring expertise and bold innovation.
By Neha Chadha
Contributing Editor, The Watch Guide
With a keen interest in the art and science behind Haute Horology, Neha oversees the creative and content for Ethoswatches.com.