Cartier has a long and distinguished horological history, and in recent years, the brand has assumed a leading role among manufacturers creating innovative and complicated haute horlogerie timepieces. At the same time, the brand has launched several notable timepieces at lower price points, many of which have in-house movements. Here are five models in stores now that we think merit special attention.
Cartier Santos de Cartier Santos 100
To those familiar with Cartier watch history, the Santos name is practically synonymous with the brand name itself. In 1904, the famed aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont, complained to his friend Louis Cartier about the difficulty of checking his pocketwatch while flying his aircraft. Cartier went to work, and his solution was almost certainly the first wristwatch created specifically for an aviator. The innovation allowed Santos-Dumont to keep both hands on the controls while setting airborne speed records, which were determined by measuring the time taken to travel specified distances. Santos-Dumont was so taken with his Cartier wristwatch that he wore it religiously when flying.
A commercial version of the Art Deco-style watch launched in 1911, and today Cartier offers three collections bearing the Santos name. Our featured watch is the Santos de Cartier Santos 100, and it is one of the most recognizable timepieces in the world. Cartier offers it in two sizes – medium at about 44 x 35 mm, and large at about 51 x 41 mm (shown below). Both watches are powered by automatic-winding mechanical movements not manufactured by Cartier. The medium model in steel on an alligator strap retails for $6,500, and the large version is priced at $7,300.
Cartier Tank MC
The remainder of our selections feature Cartier’s own manufacture movements. If you seek one of these, look no further than Cartier’s recently released Tank MC. The “MC” stands for Manufacture Cartier, signifying the movement’s origins. Dating to 1917, the Tank design has certainly achieved icon status. Though it follows in a time-honored line, the Tank MC is an all-new design with modern dimensions. At 44 x 34 x 9.5 mm with slightly curved lugs, the Tank MC hits the Goldilocks “just right” zone on the wrist, and it plays well with dress-shirt cuffs.
The silvered flinqué dial is exquisitely executed, and behind it you will find the in-house 1904-PS MC movement. The “1904” represents the year Louis Cartier created the Santos watch, described above, and “PS” signifies petite secondes. The 1904 MC calibers are constructed with twin mainspring barrels running in series to deliver more consistent torque over the 48-hour power reserve. The rotor is mounted on ceramic ball bearings, and it winds very efficiently in both directions. The movement is visible through a sapphire display back.
The Tank MC in stainless steel on an alligator strap with a deployant buckle is priced at $7,000.
Cartier Calibre de Cartier Diver
The recently launched Calibre de Cartier Diver has received positive reviews for its looks, and its integrity (in both the physical and the moral sense). This watch is the third member of the Calibre de Cartier family, and in our opinion, the design codes work especially well in this iteration. The design is a distinctive departure in a sea of dive watch look-alikes. Some may feel that Roman numerals don’t belong on a sports watch, but in this incarnation, they tell those in the know who made this watch.
The Calibre de Cartier Diver’s case measures 42 mm in diameter, and it is only 11 mm thick, which is slender for a 300-meter diver. It is powered by the in-house caliber 1904-MC. Given the Diver’s resemblance to the Calibre de Cartier automatic, it’s important to note that Cartier did not simply add a countdown bezel to that watch and call it a day. That would have been the easy, and perhaps the most profitable, approach. Kudos to Cartier for not taking the easy path.
Instead, under the watchful eye of its resident horological guru, Carole Forestier-Kasapi, Cartier went much further than most manufacturers to insure that this watch has genuine dive-watch cred. Each watch is certified under ISO 6425, the official standard for any timepiece calling itself a dive watch. Among many other things, the certification means that every watch is tested to 125% of its rated depth before leaving the factory. Few manufacturers perform that level of testing.
The Calibre de Cartier Diver retails for $8,200 in steel on a rubber strap, and $8,900 on a bracelet.
Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Second Time Zone Day/Night
It’s a rare day when you find a multi-complication watch from a top-name brand with a Swiss manufacture movement for under $10,000. I guess that makes today a rare day. This watch just recently launched, so you may not have seen it before. It offers a large date, second time zone, and a day/night indicator. The second time zone does not take a traditional form – it’s a retrograde display – so it may take a second to spot. Here’s a hint: that’s not a power-reserve indicator at 10 o’clock. This display can be advanced in one-hour increments by pressing the crown.
This new watch measures 42 x 12 mm, and the silvered dial is decorated with various guilloché patterns, giving it a rich texture. The hands are blued steel, and the fluted crown is decorated with a synthetic cabochon-shaped spinel.
The automatic-winding, in-house Cartier movement bears the designation 1904-FU MC. The FU refers to “fuseaux”, a reference, in French, to the second time zone. The movement consists of 230 parts and features traditional finishing, including côtes de Genève on the plates, the bridges, and the winding rotor.
The Rotonde de Cartier Second Time Zone Day/Night in steel lists for $9,650.
Cartier Tank MC Chronograph
The chronograph is among the most popular complications, so we’re exceeding our $10,000 upper limit very slightly to include Cartier’s most accessible timepiece with a manufacture chronograph caliber. Indeed this is Cartier’s first Tank chronograph with an in-house movement. The case measures about 34 x 44 x 11.7 mm, so unlike the Tank watches of old, it makes a statement on the wrist. Cartier is noted for its designs, but we think this watch stands out as a particularly well-executed example. With most watches, if you look long enough, you can spot a detail that is not right. That’s not the case here.
The movement is the recently developed 1904-CH MC. The “CH” signifies “chronograph.” Once again, Cartier did not take the easy path by simply adding a module to the 1904-MC caliber. Instead, it designed that movement from the mainplate up to become an integrated chronograph. In stopwatch form, the movement retains its twin barrels, and it incorporates two hallmarks of fine chronograph movements: a column wheel to control the start, stop and reset functions, and a vertical clutch to assure smooth engagement. The movement design also allows the chronograph to run continuously without affecting timekeeping.
The Tank MC Chronograph in stainless steel lists for $10,300.
This article was originally published on October 18, 2014, and has been updated.