There can only be one king in the world of watches, and that title belongs to Rolex. But if you had to pick a watch brand that has a similar or even more luxurious image, it would be Cartier. The brand started out as a jewelry brand, but started producing watches in the early 20th century. Soon after that, celebrities, royalty, and other notable people started wearing Cartier watches. And that hasn’t changed since. If you ask me, Cartier is the one brand that can compete with The Crown in representing luxury.
Recently, we have seen a massive rise in the popularity of Cartier. Prices on the Chrono24 marketplace have gone up for the popular Cartier Tank and Cartier Santos models. On top of that, earlier this year, Cartier was the most celebrated brand of Watches & Wonders 2022, and I find the surge in popularity wholly deserved. In the last couple of years, Cartier has managed to make an impact by updating their iconic classics and showing the great versatility of their archives by re-issuing some of the most eccentric watches ever created. This year was no different, with some amazing releases from the brand. But Cartier has been popular for decades. We have seen plenty of famous people wearing a Cartier on their wrist over the years. With this most recent rise in popularity, it’s a good opportunity to look back at some famous Cartier wearers through time.
One of the first movie stars who wore a Cartier on the silver screen was actor Clark Gable. Gable wore a Cartier Tank with Arabic numerals and a subsidiary seconds dial in the 1932 movie Red Dust. It’s quite the unique Tank, as most models have had Roman numerals. And it is a rare piece, as are most Tank models from that day and age. The reason is that Cartier was expensive, and you bought one to show your wealth and status. That’s exactly why the world’s most prominent celebrities and royalty wanted one.
Another star of the silver screen who wore Cartier is Audrey Hepburn. She is known as one of the biggest style icons in history. Her role in Breakfast At Tiffany’s is the one that people will no doubt remember for a long time to come. The movie was released in 1961 and has Hepburn perfectly showcasing 60s fashion, complete with pearl necklaces and diamond rings. At one point in the movie, there’s a Cartier Tank with gold details on a brown leather strap gracing Hepburn’s wrist. It’s a watch that she adored and later added to her private collection of watches.
One of those movies that could be due for another remake is The Thomas Crown Affair. In 1999, Pierce Brosnan portrayed Thomas Crown in an update of the 1968 classic. Now that it’s almost 25 years later, it might just be the perfect time for yet another remake. And maybe we can see the Cartier Tank Cintrée that adorned the wrist of Steve McQueen in the 1968 original restored in all its glory. McQueen is obviously known for wearing the Heuer Monaco in Le Mans and is mistakenly tied to the Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655. But The Thomas Crown Affair came before both of those. While the role was a step away from the usual tough characters that McQueen played, the watch fit him perfectly as the elegant Thomas Crown.
Another famous Tank wearer was Muhammad Ali. The legendary boxing champion could be seen wearing a Cartier Tank JC. The JC stood for Jean-Jacques Cartier. But fun fact, the brand originally named the second Tank model the Tank LC after Louis Cartier. After his passing, though, the name was changed to Tank JC. Ali wore the watch in the seventies and could be seen with it on multiple occasions. On his wrist, the watch might look rather small, but it’s all a matter of personal taste. On top of that, it is still very recognizable as a Cartier.
World-famous artist, film director, and music producer Andy Warhol was a big watch enthusiast. He collected watches from different brands, but Warhol will always be remembered for his yellow gold Cartier Tank equipped with a white dial and black Roman numerals on a black leather alligator strap. It was Warhol’s favorite, and he once said: “I don’t wear a Tank to tell the time. In fact, I never wind it. I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear.” Coming from the man that influenced style as we know it today, that says a lot.
British Royalty is also known to wear Cartier. Quite a few ladies in the British Royal family don Cartier, including Kate Middleton. But the most famous of all of them is Princess Diana, who wore her gold Cartier Tank on many occasions. Cartier watches are part of the classic “uniform” of the British upper class. But Diana always put a contemporary twist on classic British style, making it look more modern. That’s what made her a style icon.
Both Jackie Kennedy and her husband John F. Kennedy wore Cartier watches. But while the former president could also be seen wearing Omega and was associated with Rolex watches, his wife’s favorite was definitely Cartier. Her gold Cartier Tank has become one of the most famous Cartier watches in existence. She was gifted the watch by her brother-in-law, Prince Stanislaw Radziwill. The watch features an engraving on the case back that says: “Stas to Jackie / 23 Feb. 63 / 2:05 AM to 9:35 PM.” The engraving is a reference to a 50-mile walk the family took, although Jackie and her husband only walked part of it. The watch was sold at auction in 2017 for a whopping $379,500, making it the most expensive Cartier Tank ever.
If we look at more recent icons that have been known to wear Cartier, one of the first names that comes to mind is Michelle Obama. She was known to wear a steel Cartier Tank Française during her 8-year tenure as the First Lady. While her husband Barack Obama opted for less impressive watches, Michelle Obama wore the Tank Française in her first official portrait as the First Lady of the U.S. in the White House’s Blue Room. Obama became known as a woman of great style, and the Cartier is the perfect testament to that.
Another name that belongs on this list is Kanye West. He has been known to wear watches from different brands including Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe. But he also likes the less obvious watches from, for instance, Ikepod. And he is a man who can be seen wearing the iconic Cartier Crash quite regularly. It’s believed that the inspiration for the Crash came from a car crash in London in the 1960s. As a result of the intense heat, one of the Cartier timepieces that was retrieved completely changed shape, inspiring the design of the Crash. It is a strange, Salvador Dalí-like design that is instantly recognizable. So it was easy to spot on Kanye West’s wrist.
Is Cartier a good watch brand?
This is obviously just a small selection of famous people that have worn Cartier watches over the decades. Other stars include Mick Jagger, Duke Ellington, Truman Capote, Warren Beatty, Angelina Jolie, Tom Ford, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Piven, and Finneas. And the list goes on. Cartier has been and will long be one of the most prominent luxury brands in existence. And the best part is that you don’t have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to get one. That makes the brand all the greater.