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Is Cartier to thank for your favorite wristwatch?

You may not own any Cartier watches, but the brand helped create your favorite men's watch

Cartier watch with rings
Thorn Yang / Unsplash

There is something to be said about being the first. Sean Connery is still celebrated today as the first James Bond, the one that all following Bonds try to live up to. Galileo Galilei became the first person to see the surface of the moon, and Neil Armstrong was the first to step foot on it.

When you are the first, everyone else is simply playing catch up. The watch world is the same. Rolex, Omega, Citizen, Seiko, IWC, and many other watch brands are following in the footsteps of one of the pioneers of the industry, Cartier. While the very first wristwatch landed on the wrist of the Queen of Naples in 1810 and was created by Maison Breguet, the men’s watches we wear today are closer to the first Cartier watch than anything else.

Cartier moon phase
Anthony Trivet / Pexels

Cartier watches started it all

The world of men’s watches has pretty stiff competition. Whether you’re looking for something to dress up a formal look, or something more functional to help you complete your work, watches can make or break your day. In 1906, Alberto Santos-Dumont completed his legendary and unprecedented flight competing with the Wright Brothers. At a party celebrating the accomplishment, he lodged a complaint with his good friend, Louis Cartier.

Alberto explained to Cartier, who had by this time become the go-to jeweler to royalty, that it was rather cumbersome to get to his pocket watch while trying to keep both hands on the early flight controls. With that in mind and a little consideration, as the French would say, voila! An idea was born. What followed was the very first wristwatch, and even more specifically, the very first pilot watch.

Man wearing watch
Bao Minh / Pexels

The watch world is built on Cartier men’s watches

Over 100 years later, the biggest brands on the market are pumping out as many wristwatches as they can to stay on top of the competition. Whether it’s one of the top Swiss companies like Rolex or IWC or a top Japanese company like Citizen or Seiko, they are simply building on the innovation begun by Cartier.

The advent of the wristwatch went from the skies to the ground when field watches became popular during trench warfare. They then took to the depths when Rolex and Omega developed some of the best dive watches on the market. Finally, they made more adjustments by leaping back into the world of the military with tactical watches. Some of the most popular watches you can find are tool watches meant for pilots, explorers, sailors, divers, and soldiers. But they all started with the innovation of Louis Cartier in 1906.

Breitling may be the new name of the sky with the best pilot watches. Hamilton may be the name on every explorer’s lips when it comes to field watches. And even James Bond thinks Omega has the best dive watches. But just like the 007 spy’s original Sean Connery, it pays to be the first.

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Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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