Cartier International SNC, or simply Cartier, is a French luxury goods conglomerate that designs, manufactures, distributes, and sells jewelry and watches. Founded by Louis-François Cartier in Paris in 1847, the company was taken over by his son Alfred Cartier in 1874 but it was his grandsons Louis, Pierre, and Jacques who would establish the brand name worldwide.
It was not until 1898 when Louis-Joseph Cartier joined the family business that the illustrious jeweler would establish and developed the watchmaking division. Louis while running the Paris branch of the brand, was responsible for some of the company's most celebrated designs, such as the mystery clocks, fashionable wristwatches, and exotic orientalist Art Deco designs, including the colorful "Tutti Frutti" jewels.
In 1904, Brazilian pioneer aviator and Louis Cartier's friend, Alberto Santos-Dumont, complained of the unreliability and impracticality of using pocket watches while flying leading to Cartier designing a flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel. Named the "Santos" watch, Cartier's first men's wristwatch and would propel the brand in the upper echelons of watchmaking. Shortly after in 1907, Cartier began to work in partnership with Edmond Jaeger who agreed to exclusively supply the movements for Cartier watches.
The brand would enjoy another phenomenal success on the introduction of the Tank in 1919, inspired by the American armored vehicles which took part in the First World War. During this time, the company now run by the Cartier brothers had become an international empire. It was also during this period that Cartier began adding its reference numbers to the watches it sold, usually by stamping a four-digit code on the underside of the lug.
In 1942, following the death of his brothers, Pierre Cartier took over the business. With him on the helm, Cartier started fitting their watches with movements from the biggest names in watchmaking, such as Patek Phillipe, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet signaling the brand's push for prestige and creating an image of exclusivity.
The company remained under family control until 1964 and currently a subsidiary of the Swiss Richemont Group.