The brand might not be responsible for important horological innovations, but it does something few luxury watch makers can emulate. Cartier sets trends, and where its timepieces go, others are bound to follow.
From the outset, Cartier’s luxury watches were created to be different. In 1888, the world’s first bracelet watch for ladies left the manufactory. In 1904, the now-legendary Cartier Santos wristwatch was made for Alberto Santos-Dumont, a flying ace who wanted an alternative to unreliable, hard-to-use pocket watches.
Cartier’s first wristwatches were style sensations: but inside the delicately-crafted cases, a revolution was fermenting. These were not just jewellery items. Cartier wanted its luxury watches to be as desirable for their movements as for their high design.
In 1907, Cartier signed a deal with luxury watch manufacturer Edmond Jaeger, giving him exclusive control over the manufacture of its calibres. To this day, Cartier uses the finest names in the industry to create luxury watch movements of unparalleled technical brilliance and beauty.
The name Cartier is synonymous with perfection. At the heart of the brand’s luxury watch manufacture is an effortless playfulness, a designer’s brilliance, which elevates form to the level of function. The Mystery watches, first unveiled in 1931, feature hands and even tourbillons that appear to float in space, free from the traditional machinery of the luxury watch. High jewellery timepieces incorporate both hidden and visible faces, worked seamlessly into the lines of spectacular bracelets.
Even in Cartier’s most complicated luxury watches, the brand’s personality shines through. A Rotonde de Cartier Perpetual Calendar may feature a beautiful reimagining of a day, date, and month display: but behind this triple complication is the classic face that first thrilled Alberto Santos-Dumont. And on all but a few dials, the signature Cartier numerals mark each piece as a member of one of the most exclusive horological families in the world.
Cartier luxury watches don’t need to proclaim their technical brilliance with endless variations on prestigious complications. That’s a job for stuffier, more serious brands. For Cartier, Swiss watches are enhancements, augmentations to the look of men and women for whom the red carpet is an everyday event. Their complexities, never overstated, are an inherent part of their beauty.