Form and function

The Design Museum traces Cartier’s influence on modern innovators
Art | 24 May 2017

The new Design Museum in London
Credits and copyrights: © Hufton + Crow

Tomorrow will see the launch of Cartier in Motion, an exhibition exploring the brand’s creativity and its links with the history of flight and design in the early twentieth century. Curated by prolific British architect Norman Foster, the exhibition also marks the opening year of the new Design Museum in Kensington, London.

Cartier in Motion explores the myriad changes in society at the turn of the twentieth century, through the prism of Louis Cartier’s involvement with the pioneers of the age. This includes the renowned aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont – for whom he designed the Santos, one of the world’s first wristwatches. Earlier this year, the Design Museum acquired the Santos wristwatch, which sparked a dialogue between museum’s director Deyan Sudjic and Cartier to commission Foster.


Designed in 1904, the Santos became an indispensable instrument for aviators who were now able to monitor flight time, speed and fuel limits while manning the controls. The groundbreaking design illustrates a time where, amidst upheavals in art, architecture, travel and lifestyles, traces of a new world could be seen. It represents how different facets of engineering can converge to create historical moments of innovation, heralding a new era in modern design that married form and function. This ethos came to define generations of designers all the way through to Foster’s gleaming feats of structural design.

Albert Santos-Dumont aboard his airplane No. 15 in 1907
Archives Cartier @ Cartier

“Louis Cartier and his close circle of friends – who were part of the avant-garde in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth century – personified the beginning of the modern age with its emphasis on motion, speed and flight,” Foster explained in statement. “Cartier’s interest in aircraft, cars and boats inspired many of his classic designs and marked the birth of the men’s wristwatch as we know it today.”

 Cartier in Motion will run from 25th May – 28th July at the Design Museum in London.

Read Next