The Cartier Collection

The Cartier Collection: A Brief History of the Brand and its Iconic Watches

Cartier has a rich history in watches and jewellery, with the brand's founder, Louis-Francois Cartier, opening a jewellery workshop in Paris, France, in 1847. Later, in 1874 Louis-Francois passed the workshop down to his son Alfred.

The first watch mentioned from the collection appeared on the accounts books in 1888. It was a ladies’ watch with no name, but it must have sparked an interest in watchmaking as the founder's grandson, Louis Cartier, went on to develop more watches from the Paris branch. In 1904 he created the first Santos watch for an aviator friend, Alberto Santos-Durmont.

This watch sparked the inspiration for the Santos collection, though it did not go on general sale until 1911. Santos remains a stable favourite within the Cartier Collection to this very day; it was built with the Tonneau watch and the Tortue watch collections in 1906 and 1912, respectively, as well as the Tank collection in 1919.

International Expansion of the Cartier Brand

Having founded both a London store, opened by Alfred's youngest son Jacques-Theodule in 1902, and a New York City store, opened by Alfred's second son Pierre in 1907, Cartier quickly became an international sensation. Russian nobility and English monarchy members travelled far and wide to view their jewellery collections, and interest rose for their timepieces.

Louis Cartier focused on reworking traditional watchmaking with legendary mystery clocks and high fashion wristwatches featuring Art Deco designs, including the breathtaking "tutti frutti" jewels. These early fashionable designs paved the way for Cartier to become one of the world’s leading luxury watch brands.

The Development of the Santos Watch Collection

The Cartier Santos was an iconic timepiece of its era and came about because of Louis' friend Alberto Santos-Durmont. Alberto had complained of the impracticalities of using a pocket watch when flying. Pilots required both hands to fly, so the idea of removing one hand to view a pocket watch just wasn't possible.

Louis created a flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel and a clear enough face so that a simple movement of the wrist was enough to view the time. With this design, no hands had to be removed from the controls for the pilot to see the time.

Since its initial design in 1904, Cartier has constantly reinvented the Santos collection, moving it along with the times but keeping its simplicity, practicality and innovation.


Wartime Inspiration For The Tank Collection

The first world war had a substantial impact on the operations of the Cartier brand, with Louis taking inspiration from his time on the front line to develop the Tank Collection. Tank stands as one of the most well-known collections within the Cartier family. The watch was inspired by the design of the Renault tanks in use on the Western Front when viewed from above. Its brancards were the treads, and the case was the turret.

Louis presented the prototype of this design to General John J Pershing of the American Expeditionary Force in 1917. The Tank collection went into full production two years later and has expanded with the Tank Louis in 1922, the Tank Americaine in 1989 and the Tank Française in 1996.

The brand also released the Tank Must collection in 2021, a throwback to an original classic created in the 1980s. All models feature the distinctive bold Roman numeral dial with sword-shaped steel hands, sapphire cabochon-surmounted crown and chemin de fer chapter ring.

Precious Details for Every Design

Cartier is known for its simplicity and pure lines. Louis Cartier had a passion for reducing an object to its purest form and structure, and that is the brand's aim to this very day. Their watches are easy to read and can be understood instantly.

With this accuracy and parallel thinking, the brand has created timeless objects that fit their time and move well into the future. The classic designs of the Cartier collection have rarely changed throughout the brand's history and are instantly recognisable as a member of the Cartier family.

Discover the Cartier Collection at New Cavendish Jewellers

When looking for Cartier watches in London, New Cavendish can help you discover the best of the family. Our range of Cartier watches boasts not only the Santos and Tank collections, but also the Pasha collection, designed by Louis Cartier for the Pasha of Marrakesh Tahmi Eld Glaoui, and the Ballon Bleu, which features a domed sapphire cabochon crown.

The range also comes with models from the Panthère, Ronde, Drive and Cle collections, and we offer Cartier watches on finance for those looking to invest in the beauty found in this iconic brand.  

Discover the range online or speak to a Cartier expert in our London-based showroom.