• John Marques

Cartier - The Jeweller of the Kings



Cartier Store in Bond Street, London. (Photo by Garry Knight)

As I was going through the most successful posts in the old blog and transferring them to this new website, I came along with a particular one about the history of Cartier. It was a success among the readers but so much time after writing it, I felt like I could do better. And suddenly a great opportunity came up, earlier this month Sebastien Vilmont, the Retail Director of Cartier in South East Europe came by the university in Monaco and presented the company and the way they do business. So merging both my previous post, the presentation given to us at the university and my most recent experience in-store I hope to bring you something new here.


The most succesful and iconic campaign of Cartier, L'Odyssée (2012).

It is very difficult to choose just a few moments from a brand like Cartier, with almost 170 years of history and a portfolio of masterpieces, so let’s start from the beginning: It was 1847 and Louis-François Cartier set his workshop in the city of lights, Paris, where the headquarters of the company still are.

Years later, in 1899, the Cartier family decided to establish their first store also in Paris, more accurately at the number 13 of Rue de la Paix. The store along with the action of turning the workshop into a renowned brand were the responsibility of the grand-sons of Louis-François Cartier, who took the brand name to the world with the opening of stores in Bond Street (London, 1909) and 5th Avenue (New York, 1917). The last store has a curious history behind it, because Cartier still was a relatively small company at the time it was more difficult to support all the costs necessary, especially to rent a building in such a location. To solve this issue Cartier made an arrangement with the owner of the building, instead of paying him rent for the store they created a necklace for his wife, who was passionate about jewellery.

But years before establishing both of these stores, in 1904, Cartier achieved another landmark in their history: they created the first modern wristwatch, the Santos. The name comes from the Brazilian air pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont, who complained to Louis-François about the difficulty of controlling the plane and consulting his pocket watch at the same time. After this it didn’t take long for Cartier to send him the first prototype of the Santos, which came out to the market years later, in 1911. Being it the first wrist-watch created by Cartier, it influenced the design of all the posterior models, particularly the presence of the sapphire cabochon on the winding crown.


The Santos watch by Cartier.

A long time after, in 1925, another icon in the history of the brand came to life – the trinity ring – designed by Louis-François Cartier himself and said to be inspired by glimpse at a champagne glass, this ring combines three types of gold: white, pink and gold. All of these materials convey in an interpretation of what love stands for: white meaning friendship, pink meaning love and yellow for fidelity.


The official video for the Trinity collection.

Later on, in 1969, probably the most iconic piece of Cartier (at least the most successful one) was born by the vision of Aldo Cipullo in New York, as an interpretation of romance. All the bracelets are made out of solid gold and what is a key for their success is the locking mechanism, which is different from everything else, locking the bracelet on your wrist with a screwdriver. Since the original bracelet there have been many versions and Cartier has even complemented the collection including necklaces and rings.

Finally in 1972 the company was sold by the family to investors, who also acquired the Cartier London and Cartier New York in the next 4 years. The group was now known as Cartier Monde. When all the companies were integrated, the collection Les Must de Cartier was launched. It was 1978 and Cartier broke a rule that had governed the jewellery industry until then, they mixed gold with a less noble material, steel. This was the soul of the Les Must de Cartier collection but was also implemented in the tank watch and other pieces. Must de Cartier, created by Robert Hocq, was the most affordable collection ever and consisted in pens, lighters and other small objects. This collection was fundamental to make Cartier a known brand to the large public and also to cement the financial foundations of the company.

Since then many collection have come up but the main focus of Cartier has been in celebrating their heritage and status. The company has arranged exhibitions in Monte-Carlo, Paris, Saint Petersburg, Tokyo, Lausanne and New York. The New York exhibition took place in the 150th anniversary of the brand which was celebrated with the creation of high-jewellery pieces, namely the "Eternity" necklace and matching earrings made out of two emeralds of more than 205 carats each.


Detail of the Eternity necklace, it has the two largest emeralds in the world and 3957 diamonds. (1997)

The beginning of the XXI century was marked by the company’s fight against blood diamonds with the Kimberley Process being implemented in 2003. Since then the celebration of history has continued, this culminated in the amazing exhibition at the Forbidden City in Beijing (2009) and the latest display at the Grand Palais in Paris (2014).


The tiaras exhibited at the Grand Palais in 2014. (Photo by Julie Derache)

Nowadays the company dedicates itself to the manufacturing and distribution of jewellery, watches, scarfs, leather-goods, perfumes and sunglasses (Cartier is one of the few brands that actually produces their own sunglasses instead of subcontracting the activity). The brand strives to keep a consistent service and experience among both internally and externally controlled boutiques that amount to a total of 300, besides this, three of the most historical stores are being renovated: Paris Champs-Elysées, New York Fifth Avenue and Tokyo Ginza.


The Crocodiles Necklace, a custom piece comissioned by Maria Felix in 1975. Probably my favorite piece ever created by Cartier.

Besides focusing on itself, Cartier also shows interest in the community through their charity foundation, Cartier Charitable Foundation, which supports specific programs and organizations around the world in 28 different countries.

For the future Cartier predicts a new high jewellery collection featuring diamonds as its core and two exhibitions at the Chengdu Sichuan Museum and in Geneva, at the Fondation Baur.


This is video from one of the latest campaigns, celebrating marriage. The Proposal (2015).

For a more detailed look at the masterpieces of Cartier in jewellery, horlogerie and objects, I advise you to take a look at the Cartier Collection page on their website, you can follow this link to see it: The Cartier Collection.


The most recent video of Cartier, launched last week. Paris Nouvelle Vague (2015).

#Cartier #Jewellery #Paris #Richemond #Luxury

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