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Cartier: Ahead of the Curve

Luxury, expertise, and experience: Few brands can rival Cartier in terms of flawlessness. The company has been a watchmaking pioneer for over 160 years. In fact, the very first pilot's watches came from this Parisian manufacturer.

By Chrono24

The Creator of the Wristwatch

Cartier has long been a trailblazer in the world of watchmaking. They were among the first companies to offer a line of wristwatches in an era still dominated by the pocket watch.

Cartier has set design standards, too. Back in the early 20th century, the Parisian manufacturer introduced the first square dial. The Santos, which they developed in 1904 especially for the Brazilian pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont, remains one of Cartier's most famous wristwatches to this day. The same can be said of the Tank. This rectangular timepiece made its debut in 1917 and has since become an industry icon. Over the decades, it has attracted many prominent wearers, such as Andy Warhol, Elton John, Jacques Chirac, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Calvin Klein, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Other popular watch collections from the house of Cartier are the Pasha, Ballon Bleu, and Panthère. The brand's product portfolio also includes numerous jewelled watches, such as the Haute Joaillerie or Indomptables de Cartier. The timepieces in these collections are richly decorated with precious gems and underscore Cartier's long tradition as one of the world's most famous jewelry manufacturers. Many of the models in the Maison's range are aimed at women, which sets Cartier apart from most other luxury watchmakers.

Cartier has been equipping its watches mainly with in-house calibers for several years. However, quartz movements and calibers from the movement manufacturer ETA are also used.


Prices at a Glance: Cartier Watches

Model, reference number Price (approx.) Material, caliber
Pasha de Cartier, HPI01453 267,700 USD Yellow gold, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, spessartine, quartz
Ballon Bleu, HPI01062 150,000 USD White gold, diamonds, quartz
Santos-Dumont XL, WGSA0050 38,000 USD Platinum, hand-wound
Santos, WGSA0030 29,700 USD Yellow gold, automatic
Panthère de Cartier, WGPN0009 24,800 USD Yellow gold, quartz
La Panthère, HPI01297 24,000 USD Yellow gold, diamond bezel, quartz
Pasha, WGPA0007 16,800 USD Yellow gold, automatic
Santos Chronograph, W2SA0008 13,900 USD Stainless steel, yellow gold, automatic
Ballon Blanc, WJBL0006 12,800 USD Rose gold, quartz
Tank Louis Cartier, W1529856 9,500 USD Yellow gold, quartz
Pasha Chronograph, 2113 8,000 USD Stainless steel, automatic
Tank Française, 2465 3,500 USD Stainless steel, quartz
Tank Solo, W5200003 2,400 USD Stainless steel, quartz

How much does a Cartier watch cost?

You can buy a Cartier timepiece on Chrono24 for less than 1,000 USD. These are most often women's watches from the 1980s and 90s with quartz calibers. At the other end of the price spectrum, you'll find models adorned with diamonds and other precious stones that can run to 100,000 USD or more. Particularly select and rare pieces can cost well over 325,000 USD. ​

The majority of Cartier watches change hands for between 3,000 and 13,000 USD. In this price bracket, you'll find classics like the stainless Tank and two-tone editions of the Santos or Pasha collection chronographs. Prices for Cartier watches in yellow or rose gold quickly climb to over 20,000 USD.

Do Cartier watches make good investments?

Over the last few years, Cartier watches have proven to be stable in terms of investment. Some models have even increased in value. The Tank Solo XL ref. W5200028, for example, increased in value by nearly 15% between March 2021 and March 2023. Other representative pieces include the Santos de Cartier ref. W2SA0006 and Ballon Bleu ref. W69012Z4, which experienced a similar increase in value during the same period.

Overview of the Most Important Cartier Models

2:36
CARTIER explained in 2 minutes | Short On Time

About Cartier's Women's Watches

The Cartier catalog includes a wide selection of women's watches. These timepieces are smaller than the men's models, and Cartier likes to decorate their women's models with precious gems, often transforming them into ornate pieces of jewelry.

Another difference between Cartier's men's and women's watches are their movements. The Parisian manufacturer normally fits small and medium-sized models with precise quartz calibers, while watches with a slightly larger diameter are usually powered by automatic in-house calibers.

Overview of Popular Cartier Women's Watches

  • Tank Française
  • Panthère de Cartier
  • Ballon Bleu
  • Pasha
  • La Panthère

About Cartier's Men's Watches

Cartier has a long tradition of manufacturing wristwatches for men. To be precise, the Cartier Santos, introduced in 1904, was not only the first pilot's watch in history, but also the first true men's wristwatch. Watches in the Santos collection are among the most popular timepieces of the Parisian manufacturer to this day.

Another classic men's watch from Cartier is the Tank. The watch, with its characteristic rectangular case and art deco dial, has also been part of the Maison's portfolio for more than 100 years. Men usually go for L (large) or XL (extra large) versions, as these sizes are better suited to larger wrists.

Other collections popular with men are the Pasha and the Ballon Bleu. Particularly sought-after here are watches with a chronograph function or tourbillon.

Overview of Popular Cartier Men's Watches

  • Santos de Cartier
  • Tank Louis Cartier
  • Pasha Chronograph
  • Ballon Bleu

Tank: An Icon for Over 100 Years

Cartier designed the Tank in 1917, during the First World War. The watch was released in 1919. Its rectangular design was inspired by the tanks used on the battlefields. Cartier presented the first prototype of the watch to American General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF).

A characteristic attribute of all Tank models is their rectangular case, which sports parallel sidebars that also serve as lugs. The dial is also rectangular and features Cartier's signature art deco Roman numerals. Blued sword hands are also among the distinguishing features of the Cartier Tank.

Française, Must, Louis Cartier: The Most Important Tank Models

Over the decades, Cartier launched a whole series of sub-models of the Tank. These include rather unusual versions like the Tank Asymétrique, with its case in the shape of a parallelogram, or the Tank Divan, which has a transverse format reminiscent of the furniture of the same name.

If you prefer a model that is particularly close to the design of the original from 1919, you should reach for the Tank Louis Cartier. Cartier offers this series exclusively with cases in yellow, red, or white gold. The smaller ladies' versions of the Tank Louis Cartier are equipped by the manufacturer with quartz movements. The larger men's models, on the other hand, are powered by mechanical in-house calibers. Plan to spend between 9,600 and 14,000 USD, depending on the model.

Another popular model is the Tank Française. This watch is easily recognized by its comparatively angular design, which lends the timepiece a more modern look. Another trademark of the Française is its link bracelet, which comes in gold or stainless steel (to match the case). A stainless steel Tank Française with quartz movement changes hands for roughly 3,300 USD, while a comparable variant in yellow gold will set you back about 12,500 USD.

The Tank Solo and Tank Must form the entry segment into the world of the Cartier Tank. The timepieces take their cue from the classic Tank in terms of design and are available in stainless steel or gold. Sizes ranging from S (small) to XL (extra large), a range that offers wearers a wide selection of watches suitable to every wrist. What's more: In addition to quartz and automatic calibers, solar-powered models are also available. Depending on the version, a Tank Must or Solo will cost you between 3,000 and 9,500 USD on Chrono24.

Cartier Tank: Features at a Glance

  • Rectangular case and dial
  • Sidebars that also serve as lugs
  • Largely Art Deco design with Roman numerals
  • Cabochon on the crown
  • Blued sword hands

Cartier Santos: The Watch for Pilots

The Cartier Santos has been around since 1904. The manufacturer designed the original wristwatch for the famous Brazilian pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont. In 1906, Dumont made the world's first public engine-powered flight. His specially-designed Cartier wristwatch accompanied him on his record-breaking flight, enabling him to keep both hands on the controls while also keeping track of the time. The Cartier Santos thus became the first pilot's watch in the history of watchmaking.

Watches in the line are characterized by a square dial, art deco Roman numerals, and distinctive screws on the bezel. Cartier currently offers the Santos in two model variants: The classic Santos-Dumont and the much more modern-looking Santos de Cartier. Both variants are available in stainless steel or gold and in a wide range of sizes. The Santos de Cartier is also available in a two-tone version or with a DLC-coated case. The Santos Dumont series, on the other hand, also offers platinum variants.

When it comes to calibers, Cartier remains true to the brand, fitting smaller models with quartz movements, and larger watches with mechanical in-house movements.

Prices for timepieces in the Cartier Santos collection range from around 4,000 USD for a ladies' watch with a quartz caliber to over 38,000 USD for platinum editions.

Cartier Santos: Features at a Glance

  • Rectangular dial
  • Art deco-style Roman numerals
  • Famous flat bezel with decorative screws
  • Available in men's and women's sizes
  • Available in stainless steel, gold, or platinum
  • Choice of mechanical in-house calibers or quartz movements
3:51
Cartier Santos 100 Hands On | Chrono24

Pasha de Cartier: Chained Crown and Arabic Numerals

The Pasha collection has been part of the Cartier catalog since the mid-1980s. Since then, the Maison has introduced a wide variety of models for both men and women, including chronographs, skeleton watches, and watches with moon phase displays or tourbillons. One of the unique features shared by all Pasha watches is the "chained" crown, which is connected to the case by a chain link. Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock, and a rectangular minute track in the center of the dial are also distinctive features of timepieces in the line.

As one would expect, Cartier offers the watches in the Pasha collection in a number of different sizes and in stainless steel, gold, or two-tone versions. The manufacturer elaborately decorates some variants with diamonds, and "iced out" models, i.e., watches in which the entire dial is set with precious gems, are also available.

Stainless steel models with smaller diameters and quartz calibers change hands on Chrono24 starting at roughly 6,000 USD. However, intricately skeletonized and diamond-studded tourbillon variants can cost up to 165,000 USD.


Ballon Bleu With a Blue Cabochon

The Ballon Bleu gets its name from its round case. The crowns of watches in this line feature blue sapphire or spinel cabochons. Cartier sets the winding crown into the case and surrounds it with a ring, which functions as a crown protector and gives the watch its distinctive look.

Cartier produces the Ballon Bleu for wrists of all sizes and offers variants in stainless steel, yellow or rose gold, and two-tone editions. Some highly exclusive models are completely encrusted with diamonds.

Except for the smallest timepieces in the line, which measure just 28 mm in diameter, Cartier fits all its Ballon Bleu watches with mechanical in-house calibers. Top models even have a flying tourbillon.

Prices for the Ballon Bleu vary greatly. An entry-level stainless steel model with a quartz movements will set you back about 5,000 USD, while watches with a tourbillon or "iced out" dial cost well over 100,000 USD.

Ballon Blanc: The Ballon Bleu's Younger Sibling

The Ballon Blanc is something of a variation on the Ballon Bleu. Cartier uses a round case and integrated crown, but the crown sits at 4 o'clock on the Ballon Blanc and is covered by a diamond. With diameters of 26 mm and 30 mm, the Ballon Blanc is also aimed primarily at people with smaller wrists.

The Ballon Blanc comes in stainless steel or red gold and with or without a diamond-set bezel. Depending on the version, plan to spend between 7,100 and 13,100 USD.

Ballon Bleu: Features at a Glance

  • Round case
  • Integrated crown with crown guard
  • Available in stainless steel, gold, or two-tone editions
  • Men's and women's sizes
  • Choice of mechanical or quartz calibers

Cartier Panthère: The Grace of a Wildcat

The panther has been Cartier's heraldic animal since the early 20th century. Since then, the Parisian Maison has dedicated countless pieces of jewelry to this graceful feline predator. In the manufacture's current watch catalog, there are several collections bearing the name Panthère.

The most famous line is the Panthère de Cartier. Visually, watches in this series look like the Cartier Santos, but are significantly smaller and powered exclusively by quartz calibers. Another difference is the bracelet: this watch comes on a five-row link bracelet, which Cartier describes as particularly supple.

The Panthère de Cartier is available in stainless steel, gold, or two-tone variants. The collection is also home to versions set with diamonds, including models that feature a bezel, case, and bracelet decorated with the precious gems.

The Panthère de Cartier demands an investment of anywhere between 3,800 and 77,000 USD on Chrono24, depending on the size and material.

Cartier Panthère Jewelry Pieces

Cartier offers an entire range of decorative watches under the names La Panthère, Révélation d'une Panthère, Joaillère Panthère, and Indomptables de Cartier. The panther is the dominant theme. The timepieces are true masterpieces of the jeweler's and goldsmith's art, and often encrusted with carefully selected precious gems. The watches look both playful and elegant.

Prices for these masterful pieces of jewelry range from 26,000 USD to well over ten times that amount.


Cartier: The Epitome of Luxury

The French jeweler and watch manufacturer Cartier has history, tradition, and experience stretching back over more than 160 years. In 1847, 28-year-old Louis-François Cartier took ownership of the Parisian jewelry store run by his mentor, Adolphe Picard, and established himself quickly with his Paris store. A large part of his success came from his sense for the tastes of his clientele.

In 1874, his son Alfred joined the business and expanded its watch department. Alfred's sons Louis, Pierre, and Jacques continued in their father's footsteps and transformed Carter into an international company: Louis Cartier ran the headquarters in Paris, while Pierre and Jacques Cartier operated stores in New York and London.

Cartier focused its attention on wristwatch production early on. This made the Maison one of the pioneers in this field, as pocket watches were still the norm in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. As a result, diamond-studded ladies' wristwatches could be admired in Cartier's showcases as early as 1888. In the beginning, however, these early wristwatches sold sluggishly, due to the fashions of the time. It was not until long sleeves and women's gloves began to go out of style that the exposed wrist became the viable backdrop for a watch.

Jeweler of Kings

Cartier's luxury jewelry was sought after by royals and nobles from around the world, which enabled the Parisian jeweler to establish itself as the official supplier of the great royal houses. Especially richly decorated, gem-set tiaras adorned the heads of queens and princesses including the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, and Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain.

Not least for this reason, the Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII referred to the Parisian company as the "jeweler of kings, king of jewelers." The current Princess of Wales, Catherine Middleton, proved that this is still true today during her wedding to Prince William, when she wore a Cartier tiara that had been worn by both Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.

Who owns Cartier?

Cartier was family-owned until the mid-1960s. However, Jean-Jacques Cartier, Claude Cartier, and Marion Cartier Claudel, the great-grandchildren of Louis-François Cartier, sold their shares, after which the company was initially broken up into three parts: Cartier Paris, Cartier London, and Cartier New York. It wasn't until the late 1970s that Robert Hocq and a group of investors succeeded in combining all the holding companies into Cartier Monde SA. Today, Cartier is part of the Richemont Group, which also includes luxury watch manufacturers such as Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and A. Lange & Söhne.

What watch movements does Cartier use?

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Cartier usually fitted its watch creations with movements from Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre. However, calibers by Audemars Piguet or Movado were also utilized. From the 1970s onwards, Cartier primarily sourced its calibers from movement manufacturer ETA.

In 2001, Cartier opened its own watch manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Swiss Jura, and presented its first in-house caliber in 2009. Today, Cartier equips most of its watches with in-house calibers.

Historical Milestones

  • 1847: Louis-François Cartier founds the company
  • 1888: Cartier introduces their first wristwatches
  • 1904: Development of the Santos
  • 1917: Development of the Tank
  • 1931: Presentation of water-resistant wristwatches
  • 1985: The Pasha enters series production
  • 2007: Introduction of the Ballon Bleu
  • 2009: Cartier produces their first in-house caliber