Considered one of the world’s most prestigious jewellery and watch manufacturer, The House of Cartier has accessorised many men and women around the world since its conception in 1847’s Paris.
In fact, founder Louis-François Cartier, a trailblazer in men’s fashion, was the first designer to commercialise the wristwatch for men, replacing the more commonly used pocket watch at the time.
But, the famous brand has revolutionised jewellery making in more than one way. In the 19th century Louis-François’ son Alfred Cartier was the first to master the feat of utilising Platinum, an expensive material with high melting point, into his well-known “Garland Style” pieces.
It was Alfred’s three sons — Louis, Pierre and Jacques — who would later establish the House of Cartier as the world-famous jewellery empire we know today.
The Jeweller of kings
Eventually, the three sons expanded the brand beyond France and opened up international offices in both London and New York. This proved to be a wise business decision as the brand soon was discovered by the forthcoming King of England.
Edward VII took such liking to the accessories that he ordered no less than 27 tiaras for his coronation in 1902, and two years later awarded the brand the Royal Warrant and made Cartier the jewellery supplier of the Royal Court of England in 1904.
Not long after, Cartier would be appointed the official purveyor to Kings all around Europe, including Spain, Portugal and Russia. This is why the brand is often referred to as “the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers.
Into the twenty-first century
After the death of Pierre Cartier in 1964, the Cartier family subsequently sold the business to Robert Hocq (with investors). Hocq’s daughter would appoint Alain Dominique Perrin Chairman of the company some years later.
To modernise the collection, Perrin founded the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in 1984, by forming an association with living artists. He would later move on to become CEO of the company. Today, the vintage brand is valued at an estimated $15.01 billion U.S. dollars (2020) and operates through 286 worldwide locations.
Their collections in more recent days have resembled old collections, though rejuvenated. By going back to the brand’s glorious past, Cartier has become more relevant to today’s customers – the millennials, who now make up for 65% of the customer base.
“The more we focus on designs that are timeless, the more we can talk to all generations, and we have attracted younger customers with both watches and jewellery,” says Cyrille Vigneron, current President & Chief Executive Officer of Cartier.
“We have seen the most symbolic and iconic products doing even better. So, Love, Juste un Clou, even Clash — which was launched before Covid — or Trinity have been doing super well.”
According to Vigneron, more young collectors have emerged during the pandemic and the company has seen phenomenal growth on digital and e-commerce. “ At 22, they know almost everything; at 25 they are super-knowledgeable and they want the rarest thing on the planet. That’s new. It’s because the internet is making the learning curve very fast.”
The Cartier Collection – signature pieces
Since its inception, the House of Cartier has presented us many iconic watches, jewellery design and motifs. These renowned pieces are always growing in popularity and are highly sought after by collectors around the world.
The well-known Cartier love bracelet was created by Aldo Cipullo in 1969 as his first design contribution. The bracelet was inspired by the idea that “love symbols an everlasting quality”. The piece comes with a tiny screwdriver, needed to unlock the jewellery from the wrist. A piece in this collection was sold for $4000 via Fortuna New York (December 2018).
Aldo Cipullo continued his design work for Cartier with the creation of Juste un Clou Bracelet in 1971. The name translates to “Just a nail” and signifies ordinary beauty by reimagining a simple nail into luxury jewellery. A piece in this collection sold for $14,000 via Allure Antique Auction Company (August 28, 2018).
The Panthere motif is maybe the most recognised one in Cartier’s collection. The animal motif was inspired by a painting by George Barbier and was used for the jewellers advertising campaign. The campaign image featured a woman sporting a long necklace with a panther at her feet, and it quickly became a symbol of the House of Cartier.
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