Cartier S.A., commonly known as "Cartier", is a French luxury jeweller and watch manufacturer. The corporation carries the name of the Cartier family of jewellers whose control ended in 1964 and who were known for numerous pieces including the "Bestiary" (best illustrated by the Panth´┐Żre brooch of the 1940s created for Wallis Simpson), the diamond necklace created for Bhupinder Singh the Maharaja of Patiala and in 1904 the first practical wristwatch, the "Santos." Cartier SA is headquartered in Paris.
The company has a long and distinguished history of serving royalty, as well as stars and celebrities. One Prince of Wales hailed Cartier as "Joaillier des Rois, Roi des Joailliers" (Jeweller to Kings, King of Jewellers"). Cartier received an order for 27 tiaras for the coronation of the future King. King Edward VII was crowned in 1902 and in 1904 he honoured the Company with the Royal warrant of supplier to the Royal Court of England. Similar warrants soon followed from the courts of Spain, Portugal, Russia, Siam, Greece, Serbia, Belgium, Romania, Egypt and finally Albania, and also from the House of Orleans and the Principality of Monaco.
Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-Fran´┐Żois Cartier when he took over the workshop of his master. In 1874, his son Alfred Cartier took over the administration of the company, but it was Alfred's sons Louis, Pierre and Jacques, who were responsible for establishing the worldwide brand name of Cartier.
In 1904, the Brazilian pioneer aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont complained of the unreliability and impracticality of using pocket watches while flying to his friend Louis Cartier. Cartier designed a flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel. This watch was not only a hit with Santos-Dumont, but also with Cartier's many clients. Thus, out of this timeless design, the "Santos" was born. This was the first men's wristwatch (Patek Phillipe made the first wristwatch, but for a woman and as a one-off).
Louis retained responsibility for the Paris branch, moving to the Rue de la Paix, in 1899. He was responsible for some of the company's most celebrated designs, like the mystery clocks fashionable wristwatches and exotic orientalist Art Deco designs, including the colorful "Tutti Frutti" jewels.
In 1907, Cartier signed a contract with Edmond Jaeger, who agreed to exclusively supply the movements for Cartier watches. By this time, Cartier had branches in London, New York and St. Petersburg and was quickly becoming one of the most successful watch companies in the world. The introduction of the Baignoire and Tortue models (both of which are still in production today) took place in 1912, followed by the Tank model's debut in 1917. The Cartier tank model, designed by Louis Cartier, was inspired from the newly introduced war machines on the Western Front. This line too has survived, with over thirty varieties now being made since.
In the early 1920s Cartier formed a joint company with Edward Jaeger (of Jaeger-LeCoultre) to produce movements solely for Cartier. Thus was the European watch & clock company born, although Cartier continued to use movements from other great makers. Cartier watches can be found with movements from Vacheron Constantin, Audemars-Piguet, Movado and LeCoultre. It was also during this period that Cartier began adding its own reference numbers to the watches it sold, usually by stamping a four-digit code on the underside of a lug. Jacques took charge of the London operation and eventually moved to the current address at New Bond Street.
Pierre Cartier established the New York City branch in 1909, moving in 1917 to the current location of 653 Fifth Avenue, the Neo-Renaissance mansion of Morton Freeman Plant (son of railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant) and designed by architect C.P.H. Gilbert. Cartier acquired the mansion from the Plants in exchange for $100 in cash and a double-stranded natural pearl necklace valued at the time at $1 million.
Among the Cartier team was Charles Jacqueau, who joined Louis Cartier in 1909 for his entire life, and Jeanne Toussaint, who was Director of Fine Jewelry from 1933 on. After the death of Pierre in 1964, Jean-Jacques Cartier (Jacques's son), Claude Cartier (Louis's son), and Marionne Claudelle (Pierre's daughter) ´┐Ż who respectively headed the Cartier affiliates in London, New York and Paris ´┐Ż sold the businesses.
In 1972 a group of investors led by Joseph Kanoui bought Cartier Paris. President Robert Hocq, the creator of the concept of "Les Must de Cartier´┐Ż´┐Ż in collaboration with Alain Dominique Perrin, General Director, began introducing new products representative of the status and quality of the Cartier of the past. In 1974 and 1976 respectively, Cartier London and Cartier New York were bought back. In 1979 the Cartier interests were combined together, creating "Cartier Monde" uniting and controlling Cartier Paris, London and New York. Following the accidental death of Robert Hocq in the December of that year, Joseph Kanoui was appointed Chairman of Cartier Monde.
Cartier merged together in 1981 with "Les Must de Cartier", and Alain Dominique Perrin was appointed Chairman of Cartier SAA and Cartier International. The very next year, Micheline Kanoui assumed responsibility for jewellery design and launched her first collection "Nouvelle Joaillerie". In 1984, Alain Dominique Perrin founded the "Fondation Cartier pour l'art Contemporain"(the Cartier Foundation of Contemporary Art) as proof of his determination to bring Cartier without delay into the twenty- first century, by forming an association with living artists.
In 1986, the French Ministry for Culture appointed Alain Dominique Perrin head of the "Mission sur le mecenat d'entreprise" (a commission to study a business patronage of the Arts). Two years later, Cartier acquired a majority holding in Piaget and Baume & Mercier. The next year in 1989/1990 the first major exhibition of the Cartier collection was staged, at the request of a museum of international renown: "l'Art de Cartier" had a triumphant success at the Musee du Petit Palais in Paris.
Wishing to advance the influence of High Matchmaking, Alain Dominque Perrin founded an international committee in 1991, Comite International de la Haute Horlogerie, to organise the first salon international de la Haute Horlogerie exhibition which was finally held on 15 April, 1991. This has become an annual meeting place in Geneva for professionals in High Matchmaking. The next year, the second great exhibition of "l'Art de Cartier" was held at the Ermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The very next year, the "Vendome Luxury Group" was formed as an umbrella company to combine Cartier, Alfred Dunhill, Montblanc, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, Karl Lagerfield, Chloe, Sulka, Hackett, Seeger.
In 1994, the Cartier Foundation moved to the Rive Gauche and opened their new headquarters, an architectural work of art designed for them by the architect, Jean Nouvel. The next year, a major exhibition of the Cartier Antique Collection was held in Asia. In the following year, the Lausanne Hermitage Foundation in Switzerland hosted the exhibition "Splendours of the Jewellery", presenting a hundred and fifty years of artistic creation by Maison Cartier.
Cartier operates more than 200 stores in 125 countries, with four emblematic boutiques world-wide in Paris, London, New York and Tokyo.
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