In 1904, Alberto Santos-Dumont, an aviator, asked his friend, watchmaker Jacques Cartier, to design a watch that was easier to read when flying than the cumbersome pocket watch of the day. Cartier complied and designed one of the first wristwatches, calling it the Santos-Dumont. Over the years, Cartier added numerous watch styles to accompany the Santo-Dumont style, each unique and sought after in their own way.
Cartier's Most Notable
The following styles, which are amongst the designer's most popular, are available in ladies' and men's versions:
- Tank - The Cartier Tank watch is the most recognizable of its collections with its sleek, rectangular designs. This collection has been spotted on some of the most stylishly famous wrists in the world including Angelina Jolie, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Michelle Obama. Its rectangular face was inspired by the treads of WWI tanks. The Tank is available in six models: the MC, Francaise, Solo, Anglaise, Louis Cartier, and Americaine. It comes in stainless steel, or 18k white, yellow, or rose gold. It is available with a bracelet band or a leather band and the face of the watch is available in sizes small to extra-large. They range in retail price from $3,000 for a stainless steel model to $60,000 for 18k gold models. This lower price point makes this style an excellent option if price is a factor. The XL and L is a great size for men interested in a watch that is sleeker and dressier than most sporty watches.
- Ballon Bleu de Cartier - The Ballon Bleu is one of the latest models introduced by Cartier. Its popularity increased when Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, was seen wearing one. The Ballon is distinct because its crown, or winding mechanism, is housed in a bubble of metal. It is available in 85 different styles, some including colored dials or diamonds in place of Roman numeral hour markers. Diamond bezels, or diamonds around the outside face of the watch, are also an option. It is available in stainless steel or 18k gold with a bracelet band or leather band. The watch also comes in 28mm, 33mm, or 36mm cases. The 18k gold and diamond styles can be around $10,000 to $30,000 though there are less pricey options that start around $5,000. This is a great option if a traditional, round watch is desired, but the unusual crown gives it a twist.
- Tortue - Introduced in 1917, the Tortue was one of the first wristwatches that didn't have a round dial. Naturally, the Tortue was inspired by the tortoise and has rounded sides and flat ends. It is available in 30 models in 18k white or pink gold with a bracelet band or a leather band. The face of the watch is available in small to extra-large sizes and with diamond bezels. These designs start at around $12,000 and can escalate to around $70,000. An all-diamond version is available for over $200,000. This is a great luxury option if a non-traditional shape is desired.
Other Cartier Watch Collections
Ladies' styles are usually quartz, meaning they run on a battery. Some of the men's styles are available as quartz automatics, meaning they are self-winding and operate by the wearer's wrist movement, or manual wind, meaning the wearer needs to wind it via the crown.
- Cle de Cartier - The newest watch line added to the Cartier family is a large round dial and a wide, round case and is the first watch to sport Cartier's lastest watch movement. The ladies' version includes a 40mm case, which is a size usually earmarked for men, but today's women are favoring big watches and Cartier has delivered. This watch is only available in 18k gold which makes it an expensive option.
- Pasha de Cartier - This is a durable and chunky watch. The crown is screw-down and features a crown cap which is attached to the watch's case with a chain. The ladies' version is only available in stainless steel. The few style options in this collection are a potential drawback, however.
- Santos de Cartier - The first wristwatch designed by Cartier is still in production today. It is very wide and square and only comes on a leather band. The case is available in white and rose gold and titanium. This is a sporty option for ladies, and for gents it includes a cool skeleton design, meaning the dial is crystal leaving the watch's inner mechanics visible.
- Ronde Louis Cartier - This is a classic, subdued, round timepiece with a white dial and large Roman numerals with 24 hour markers. This watch only comes on a leather band and only in 18k white or pink gold.
These collections offer a variety of styles for women, from casual and fashion-forward to classic.
- Baignoire - This is a very sleek and large oval watch that is very feminine. The watch has a clean white dial with large Roman numerals. It is available in 18k white and rose gold with a bracelet or leather band. There is also a satiny fabric band available, which is even more feminine. It comes in mini, small, and large sizes with diamond bezels available.
- Ballon Blanc de Cartier - This is a classic ladies' dress watch. The band is only available as a bracelet and the watch is available in 18k white or pink gold. The bracelet band is unusual in that it is comprised of interlocked round balls. What's even more unusual is the round solitaire diamond nestled in the all-diamond bezel. The dials all have diamond bezels, some with a double row and others with very large diamonds.
- Crash - This is an avant garde watch style. The dial resembles the melted watches from the Salvador Dali painting, Persistence of Memory. Currently, the watch is only available on a bracelet band of 18k white or pink gold with a diamond bezel.
- Jeweled Watches - This collection is for the sophisticated lady. The watches in this collection include selections from all lines that have mechanical movements, and are so ornate and jeweled that they are really works of art.
Collections for Men
Men's styles tend to be more sporty, but you'll find a good selection of classic and dressy styles here as well.
- Calibre de Cartier - This is a chunky, sporty watch with an automatic movement, and it's water resistant to 30 meters. This is Cartier's answer to the Omega Seamaster and the Rolex Submariner. This watch is available in 18k gold, stainless steel, and a stainless steel and gold combo.
- Rotonde de Cartier - This line is for guys who are into watches and want to know how they tick. Clear crystal dials reveal the inner workings of the watch's mechanisms. Most of the styles have mechanical movements with a few having automatic movements. The cases are available in 18k gold, titanium, steel, and platinum and some have diamond accents.
- Ronde Croisiere de Cartier - This is a very utilitarian-looking watch. It is water-resistant to 100 meters. It has a plain dial with a calendar at three o'clock, a black bezel and a black leather band. The watch is only available in stainless steel.
- Ronde Solo de Cartier - This is a classic men's dress watch. The watch has a round dial with Roman numerals on a leather band. The watch is available in 18k gold or stainless steel on a bracelet or leather band.
Where to Buy Cartier Watches
If purchasing a watch from a place other than a Cartier boutique, be sure it's a retailer authorized to sell Cartier watches. This ensures the watch's authenticity as a true Cartier and not an impostor.
Cartier has strict pricing policies and no discounts or sales are offered through Cartier or through an authorized dealer. Pre-owned Cartier watches are available, which may be cheaper. However, these timepieces hold their value over the years so pre-owned ones may not be much cheaper than the new ones. Make sure the pre-owned dealer is certified to ensure quality and be sure the dealer also has a return policy. You can purchase second-hand watches on auction sites and other websites, but this can be risky due to the high number of knock-offs in circulation.
Purchase new Cartier watches from the following retailers:
- Cartier - Purchasing a watch in person at the Cartier boutique or online ensures the best selection of current models available. Also, Cartier watchmakers are the experts at repairing and servicing their watches. They offer free shipping and have a 30-day return policy for a full refund and recommend calling to organize a return by mail. Cartier boutiques are located nationwide or they can assist you over the phone.
- Tourneau - Tourneau is the largest authorized watch retailer in the US and they have the largest collection of certified, pre-owned watches as well. Tourneau offers their own five-year watch warranty on new watches in addition to Cartier's own two-year warranty, and a two-year warranty on a pre-owned ones. They offer free shipping and returns for online orders. They have stores nationwide.
- Saks Fifth Avenue - Saks carries about 70 different styles of Cartier watches, but do not sell pre-owned models. Saks offers free shipping and free returns to any Saks Fifth Avenue store. They also have retail locations across the country.
Heirloom Fashion Statements
Cartier watches are high-end watches and hold their value for years to come. This is more than a watch, it's an heirloom as well as a status symbol. As a precision time piece, it should be serviced with a cleaning and an overhaul every two years to ensure it keeps ticking properly. Be sure to keep the original box and paperwork and keep any links removed for sizing as these are valuable if the watch is to be re-sold.