One of the long-held rubrics of jewellery, and indeed watches, is that it needs to be worn. Only when freed from the safe and on the body do these works truly come to life, infused with the spirit of both wearer and maker. Such an inspired awakening is something the House of Cartier knows intimately well: its creations have been worn by some of the most rakish, era-defining women of their day: take for example Wallis Simpson who, after King Edward VIII abdicated his throne to wed her, became Time Magazine’s first female “Man” of the Year in 1936. Such über-modern muses – feminine, fiercely independent but also mysterious – have inspired Cartier’s boldest pieces, both past and into the present.
From the beginning, Cartier has been there to supply the glamour girls of their time. Among its earliest patrons was Napoleon I’s niece Princess Mathilde – hostess extraordinaire and dubbed “Notre Dame des Arts” – who followed her first order in 1856 with some 200 more. By the turn of the century, Cartier had a royal roster the envy of any court purveyor. The sovereigns of Spain and Portugal granted it warrants in 1904, followed by Russia, Siam and Greece; the list goes on as do the names: Elisabeth of Belgium, Queen Elizabeth II, even the American Vanderbilts commissioned many hair ornaments. Unsurprisingly, tiaras were Cartier’s crowning forte then – a symbol of power and marriage that it still pays homage to today: In 2014, it created a fantastic watch-brooch-tiara for its Les Heures Fabuleuses line of secret watches.