When it comes time to demonstrate how much you love someone, a gift from Parisian jeweller Cartier is a time-tested winner in the game of Romance. Be it a diamond engagement ring, or a love bracelet that you need a screwdriver to remove, nothing says I love you more than a gift from Cartier.

Maison Cartier was founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier, after he inherited the jewellery workshop at 29, Rue Montorgueil, in Paris, from his master Adolphe Picard.

The name Cartier did not gain its worldwide recognition until the 20th century, when Louis Cartier’s grandsons Pierre and Jacques, and Louis were running the family business.

Relocating the premises to the Rue de la Paix, in 1899 the prestigious hub of cosmopolitan Paris, the new store attracted the rich and famous from around the world.

The three brothers plotted to build an empire based in Paris, yet had their sights set on a much larger marketplace.

In 1904 Pierre and Louis travelled to Imperial Russia, a country that fascinated the pair while also introducing them to the designs of St. Petersburg jeweller Faberge.

In 1909 Cartier opened its first overseas store in London on New Bond Street immediately attracting the attention of the English aristocracy.

A few years later the youngest brother Jacque took control of the family’s London boutique and cultivated ties with Indian maharajas who entrusted Cartier with the task of setting dazzling gemstones in the modern style of the day.

Pierre Cartier meanwhile, took the family business to New York, where he developed a clientele consisting of new world industrialist and the stars of the silent films.

A few decades later Cartier had become the preferred jeweller of the Hollywood celebrities, extraordinary figures who discovered the spirit of excellence that has always driven house, Cartier.

In fact, you could say that Cartier invented the wristwatch when in 1904 he was asked by Brazilian, playboy and aviator, Alberto Santos Dumont to build him a timepiece he could use while flying.

Louis Cartier obliged, creating a wristwatch that he called the “Santos” a watch that is easily recognizable by its exposed screws, and rounded angle of the dial.


One symbol of Cartier that has never aged is the company’s iconic tank watch, a timepiece that is just as much at home in the boutique’s window today as it was back on its introduction in 1919.

When the watch was taking shape as the world moved away from Art Nouveau towards Art Deco and modernism, with the thought that less is more and that form must follow function, Cartier delivered the “Tank” a sleek instantly recognisable watch that has never been bettered.

Rumour has it that Cartier’s rectangular watch was inspired by the French Army’s two-man Renault FT-17 tank, and you can see the similarities between the tanks treads and the design of the watch. If you were to ask anyone at Cartier’s though, they would tell you it was just a natural progression from the earlier Santos.

Regardless of how the watch came about, it was an instant hit with Greta Garbo, and Rudolf Valentino, remaining fashionable thought the 50’s and 60’s with A-List stars such as Cary Grant, Andy Warhol and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

More recently the tank has been the watch of choice for the late Princess Diana, Angelina Jolie and Michelle Obama.


Cartier’s elegant jewellery and watches, along with an exquisite range of leather goods, pens and clocks can be found after security in Heathrow Airport terminals 3, 4 and 5.

Terminal 3, after security

Opening hours: 06:00 – 22:00 (in Harrods)

+44 (0)20 8745 6000

Terminal 4, after security

Opening hours: 05:30 – 22:00

+44 (0)20 8283 6072

Terminal 5, after security

Opening hours: 05:30 – 22:00

  • +44 (0)20 8283 6072

Photos courtesy of Stephen Carlisle and Guy Sie.