10 anecdotes about Maison Cartier in 174 years of existence
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Who has never heard of Maison Cartier? Whether for its jewelry or watches, the house is one of the most influential luxury brands. All jewelry lovers dream of integrating his creations in his jewelry box.
It was founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier in Paris. Combining French elegance and Swiss savoir-faire, Maison Cartier has a history rich in innovations, accomplishments, and anecdotes.
But beyond what you can see in the boutique, what do we really know about Maison Cartier? What are the craziest anecdotes in 174 years of existence? We have selected 10 key episodes that are absolutely essential to know.
Maison Cartier creates the first wristwatch named Santos
As visionary, Louis Cartier revolutionized the world of watchmaking by creating the first wristwatch in 1904. Named Santos, it owes its name to the Brazilian aviator Santos-Dumont and friend of Louis Cartier, who complained of having the greatest difficulty in taking out his pocket watch when he was in full flight. The wristwatch was therefore initially designed as a solution to meet the needs of pilots.
But the success of this concept was immediate and was followed by the creation of several other models designed for wrists. Some of which, signed Cartier, are part of the watchmaking heritage of the 20th century: the Tonneau watch (1906), the Tortue watch (1912), the Tank watch (1917), the Baignoire watch (1957).
In terms of firsts, it should also be noted that Alfred Cartier, the son of the brand's founder, introduced platinum into jewelry and watchmaking. In the 19th century, this material was very expensive and was only used by royal families.
Maison Cartier imagines the folding clasp: a combination of elegance and functionality
In the field of bracelets, every watch enthusiast is familiar with the folding clasp system. Synonymous with refinement, this type of clasp, common on the prestigious watches of the major manufacturers, is an ingenious invention that we owe to... Maison Cartier!
In fact, in addition to being elegant, the folding clasp is extremely practical: if it opens by accident, its system allows the watch to remain around the wrist without falling off. Today, Maison Cartier produces all of its bracelets itself, often with their own particularities.
Maison Cartier, « The jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers »
King Edward VII of England said of Maison Cartier that it was "the jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers". And not only in his kingdom! Maison Cartier also worked for Napoleon III, King Carlos I of Portugal, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, as well as for a large number of royal families in the courts of Spain, Greece, Serbia, Belgium, Romania, Egypt, Monaco, …
The list of clients of Maison Cartier also includes a large number of aristocrats and people from the upper middle class.
The unique use of Andy Warhol's Cartier watch
Andy Warhol never read the time on his watches. He owned them and wore them for style, no more and no less. The designer even said about his Cartier Tank, which celebrates its centenary in 2017: "I don't wear a Tank to tell the time. In fact, I never wind it up. I wear a Tank because it is the watch to wear. »
By refusing to wind his watch, Andy Warhol desacralizes the primary function of a timepiece: telling the time. In the pure line of his artistic vision, he only retains the social and aesthetic dimension of his timepiece. His Cartier Tank Solo watch, a yellow gold model on a crocodile strap, was in his eyes synonymous with elegance.
The Cartier Love Bracelet, the allegory of the couple
The Love bracelet from Maison Cartier is one of the most famous jewelry creations of all time. The women who wear this bracelet are numerous, but few of them know the unusual origin of this jewel.
In 1969, the designer Aldo Cipullo, newly hired by Cartier, brought a breath of youth and novelty to the brand's jewelry. At that time, the Peace and Love movement was in full swing: to be part of this trend, Cartier wanted a contemporary jewel on the theme of love.
Aldo Cipullo took up the challenge and created the first Love bracelet, a kick in the anthill. The appearance of several graphic screws on this bracelet proves to be an amused nod by the designer to the contrast between these everyday elements and the precious and hushed world of jewelry.
The screws are symbolized on the Love bracelet by circles pierced with a horizontal line. Beyond style, Cartier has taken the concept further, as this bracelet is truly composed of two separate pieces that can only be assembled with a screwdriver (supplied!). The Love bracelet is therefore a powerful allegory to love and couple: two pieces united by a strong bond.
The Mystery Clock watch: an alliance of magic and savoir-faire
In 1913, the story of the creation of the Cartier Mystery Clock watch is part of the legacy of the famous. She collaborated with watchmaker Maurice Couët and illusionist Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin to create the illusion that the hands float, as if it was magic. In reality, it is a meticulousness’ work that includes a totally invisible dial thanks to a perfect transparency.
Wristwatches using this same process are now offered, sometimes even with complications, such as the tourbillon, mysteriously staged on a literally floating and transparent dial. For your information, J.P Morgan, the famous founder of the banks of the same name bought the first Cartier Mystery Clock for $3,200.
A Rolex watch signed Cartier?
During the 1960s, for a very short period, the Cartier boutique on 5th Avenue in New York City distributed Rolex watches. Among them, some pieces displayed the "Cartier" signature on their dial.
It is a kind of co-branding that has already been spotted between Rolex and Tiffany's New York. It brings an additional value to vintage Rolex, to the point of sometimes exploding their prices. But a Cartier marker is incredibly rare. This simple detail completely changes the value of the watch in the eyes of collectors. Three years ago, a Cartier Submariner surfaced at auction, exceeding 100,000 euros when it was auctioned off.
H2 : Maison Cartier, Swiss savoir-faire
Maison Cartier's watchmaking department is in the cradle of watchmaking in Switzerland. Nearly 1,600 employees work every day in six factories, including nearly 175 trades spread over 30,000 square meters, on the brand's premises in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
It is a veritable cradle of watchmaking. Indeed, other famous manufactures such as Girard-Perregaux, Jaquet Droz and Greubel Forsey are just a few hundred meters away.
Maison Cartier is looking for the watch of tomorrow
Every year since 2003, Cartier has invested a huge budget in its R&D sector in order to develop new technologies capable of both improving today's timepieces and inventing those of tomorrow.
In 2009 and 2012, the Manufacture created the ID One & ID Two (ID stands for Innovation & Development) models, the first of which houses the first movement without lubricant and without adjustment, the second being a high-performance vacuum watch.
The Cartier Crash watch, an accident at the origin of a mythical watch
The shape of the Cartier Crash's case is as unusual as its history. The owner of a Cartier has seen his watch literally disfigured in a car accident. Very logically, he took it back to Cartier to have it repaired. But what can be a hazard for one man can become a design inspiration for another...
It seems that when Jean-Jacques Cartier saw the watch in this state, he decided that he had to succeed in recreating it. That is how the Crash made its appearance in London in 1967, the watchmaking symbol of the free and experimental spirit of the time. Produced in very limited series, it has since become one of the most coveted pieces, sometimes seen at auction.