Not just a pretty face

Dis­missed by some as a fash­ion brand that dab­bles in watches, Cartier has ac­tu­ally con­trib­uted im­mensely to the history of fine horol­ogy

Virtuozity - - Watch -

For many, Cartier might be a brand that’s more as­so­ci­ated with jew­ellery, rather than fine watch­mak­ing. In­deed, some horol­ogy fans dis­miss the brand as sim­ply a jew­ellery firm that dab­bles in watch­mak­ing, and not as a se­ri­ous watch house. How­ever, that world­view is mis­taken, be­cause Cartier has con­trib­uted a se­ri­ous amount of in­no­va­tion to the world of fine watches, and is di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing much of the land­scape of the mod­ern watch in­dus­try.

For ex­am­ple, it was Cartier that came up with the world’s first prac­ti­cal wrist­watch. Yes, there had been wrist­watches be­fore Cartier’s ef­fort, and many more came af­ter, but the San­tos, de­vel­oped in 1904, was ge­n­e­sis for the wrist­watch in­dus­try, and the brand has con­tin­ued along sim­i­lar lines with its watch­mak­ing ef­forts ever since.

Louis-françois Cartier founded Cartier in Paris in 1847, when he took over the work­shop of his mas­ter. In 1874, Louis-françois’ son Al­fred Cartier took over the com­pany, but it was Al­fred’s sons Louis, Pierre and Jac­ques, who were re­spon­si­ble for es­tab­lish­ing the brand name world­wide.

While the brand did well in the late nine­teenth cen­tury as a provider of fine jew­ellery, it wasn’t un­til the turn of the 20th cen­tury that Cartier’s nouse as watchmaker be­came ob­vi­ous. In 1904, Brazil­ian pioneer avi­a­tor Al­berto San­tos-du­mont com­plained to his friend, Louis Cartier, of the un­re­li­a­bil­ity and im­prac­ti­cal­ity of us­ing pocket watches while fly­ing. Cartier de­signed a flat wrist­watch with a dis­tinc­tive square bezel. This watch was en­dorsed by not only San­tosDu­mont but also many other cus­tomers. Thus the San­tos was born. It was Cartier’s first men’s wrist­watch, but it was also the world’s first prac­ti­cal wrist­watch, and it set the stage for a cen­tury of fine watch­mak­ing.

Louis was also re­spon­si­ble for some of Cartier’s most cel­e­brated de­signs, like the mystery clocks, which were a type of clock with a trans­par­ent dial and so named be­cause the mech­a­nisms were hid­den. He also de­vel­oped fash­ion­able wrist­watches and ex­otic ori­en­tal­ist Art Deco de­signs.

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. In­deed, its watch busi­ness was eas­ily bet­ter known than its jew­ellery busi­ness. The Baig­noire and Tortue mod­els (both of which are still in pro­duc­tion to­day) were in­tro­duced in 1912, fol­lowed by the Tank model in 1917. This, de­signed by Louis Cartier, was in­spired from the newly in­tro­duced tanks on the Western Front. This line too has sur­vived, with over 30 va­ri­eties made since.

In the early 1920s, Cartier formed a joint com­pany with Ed­ward Jaeger (of Jaeger-lecoul­tre fame) to pro­duce move­ments solely for Cartier. That said, Cartier con­tin­ued to use move­ments from other makers. Cartier watches of the time could 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.

Un­for­tu­nately, Cartier’s history of in­no­va­tion with the wrist­watch didn’t man­age to keep with the de­mands of the present. The com­pany re­mained un­der fam­ily con­trol un­til 1964, and its own­ers did well to con­tinue growth across the var­i­ous lines. How­ever, with the death of Pierre in 1964, his heirs sold the busi­ness on, and so be­gan a de­scent.

It wasn’t un­til the 1970s that the brand be­gan to take steps to­wards its for­mer glory.

In 1972, a group of in­vestors led by Joseph Kanoui bought Cartier Paris. Pres­i­dent Robert Hocq, who cre­ated the phrase “Les Must de Cartier” with Alain Do­minique Per­rin, Gen­eral Di­rec­tor, be­gan in­tro­duc­ing new prod­ucts. In 1974 and 1976 re­spec­tively, the group re­pur­chased Cartier Lon­don and Cartier New York. In 1979, the Cartier in­ter­ests were com­bined, “Cartier Monde” unit­ing and controlling Cartier Paris, Lon­don and New York.

Cartier merged in 1981 with “Les Must de Cartier”, and Per­rin was ap­pointed Chair­man of Cartier SAA and Cartier In­ter­na­tional. The next year, Miche­line Kanoui as­sumed re­spon­si­bil­ity for jew­ellery de­sign and launched her first col­lec­tion “Nou­velle Joail­lerie”. In 1984, Per­rin founded the “Fon­da­tion Cartier pour l’art Con­tem­po­rain” (the Cartier Foun­da­tion of Con­tem­po­rary Art) to bring Cartier into the twenty-first cen­tury, by forming an as­so­ci­a­tion with liv­ing artists. The fo­cus shifted away from watches a lit­tle. How­ever, the brand wasn’t go­ing to give up on its long history with the world of horol­ogy.

Per­rin founded an in­ter­na­tional com­mit­tee in 1991, Comite In­ter­na­tional de la Haute Hor­logerie, to or­gan­ise its first salon, held on 15 April 1991. This has be­come an an­nual meet­ing place in Geneva for pro­fes­sion­als.

To­day, Cartier’s watches of­fer cut­tingedge fash­ion­able de­signs and well-prac­ticed me­chan­i­cal in­no­va­tions. The idea, ac­cord­ing to the brand, is to cre­ate a fu­sion of tech­nol­ogy and char­ac­ter, and that is borne out in the watches that Cartier pro­duces.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.