Why Are Cartier Watches So Expensive?

While most people use their mobile phones to tell the time, watches are still coveted accessories, especially luxury watches. They can say a lot about a person — like how much money they have, or just how Fit their Bits are. Cartier makes some of the most expensive luxury watches available. The brand is now more known for its jewelry — it has sold many famous jewels to royalty, but Cartier actually started as a watchmaker. In fact, it's credited for helping popularize the wristwatch. 

Louis-François Cartier founded the Cartier brand in Paris in 1847 — but his sons were largely responsible for making it a global name. It was son Louis who worked with Brazilian aviator Alfred Santos-Dumont to create a modern, functional men's wristwatch in 1904. According to Monochrome, Santos-Dumont, who was famous throughout Europe, complained to Louis Cartier that pocket watches were unreliable when in the air. Pilots had to keep their hands on the airplane's control and could not reach into their pockets. So he conceived a square clock face with a leather strap. 

Santos-Dumont wore the watch everywhere, and people took notice — suddenly wristwatches weren't just for women. The popularity led Cartier to eventually begin mass-production, dubbing the style the "Santos", and the newfound pilot watch style became a signature of the brand, per Crown and Caliber.

The watch Princess Diana wore

Cartier's reputation continued to grow as it produced more popular styles, like "The Tank", first made in 1917 and inspired by — you guessed it — World War I tanks. The Tank was made in very small quantities. CNN reports that Cartier only produced six of the watches during its first full year of production in 1919 and quickly became one of the most imitated watches in the world. And like all highly coveted luxury items, it would find itself on the wrists of some of the most famous people on the world. The design was a favorite of fashion icons like Jackie Kennedy, designer Yves Saint-Laurent, and Princess Diana.

Of course, there was more than just a name and a story to the brand. Cartier used precious metals to craft its watches. It wasn't until 1978 that the company made watches out of steel. But even with fewer gold mechanisms people still saw them as luxury items. A century later, the reputation has held strong.

So there you have it. The reason why Cartier watches are expensive? High quality materials, genuine historical significance, and "influencer" endorsements from some of the world's most iconic fashionistas have led to a perfect storm of brand clout, which translates to an expensive price tag.