Chaumet was founded in Paris in 1780 by Marie-Etienne Nitot. He served the Parisian nobility, including Napoleon and his wives, Joséphine de Beauharnais and Marie Louise, including producing the coronation jewels for the future Emperor.
After Marie-Étienne Nitot died in 1809, his son François Regnault Nitot took over the family firm. He would take the firm to new heights, influencing the nobility of Europe as he traveled with the French aristocrats. In about 1811, Nitot produced a set of bracelets for Joséphine de Beauharnais to give to her daughter in law, Princess Augusta of Bavaria. One featured a manual calendar while the other had a small functional watch. This is widely considered to be the world's first wristwatch, and became a trend with ladies across Europe in the 19th century.
After Napoleon's defeat, Nitot turned the firm over to his shop foreman, Jean Baptiste Fossin. Along with his son, Jules, Fossin continued the tradition until the establishment of the Second Republic, when his former chef d’atelier, Jean-Valentin Morel, took over. The business, now focused on the UK market, passed to Morel's heirs.
Joseph Chaumet married Marie Morel in 1885 and renamed the firm in his family name. He established a fashionable showroom at Place Vendôme in Paris in 1907, which remains the firm's home to this day. The business passed to Marcel Chaumet in 1928 but was shut down in 1934 during the Great Depression.
Chaumet reopened after World War II and the next generation began to take control. In 1958, Jacques and Pierre Chaumet took over as executive directors. The brothers took the firm to new heights in the 1970s, acting as diplomats as well as jewelers and expanding to international markets.
Chaumet was instrumental in restarting the Breguet brand. The Chaumet brothers acquired the name in the early 1970s, re-launching the company and releasing new watches late in the decade. The watch brand was officially re-launched in 1983.
In the 1980s, the Chaumet brothers focused on diamond investments, which lead the firm to ruin after the 1982 bubble in commodities prices bust. They were arrested in 1987 for fraud and were convicted in 1991.