It was in 1904, when pocketwatches were still in style for gentlemen, that pioneering aviator and bon vivant Alberto Santos-Dumont approached his friend, Louis Cartier, about fashioning for him a timepiece that he could wear, and check the time, while keeping both hands on the controls of his aircraft. The watch that Cartier made for Santos-Dumont, with its distinctive square bezel, is not only regarded by most historians as the first men’s wristwatch; it was also the progenitor of today’s Cartier Santos, one of the watch-and-jewelry giant’s most enduring and influential timepiece collections. This year, at SIHH 2018, Cartier unveiled a revamped Cartier Santos collection for the modern era.
At first glance, the new Santos de Cartier models look very much like their predecessors: the square-shaped bezel, inspired by Parisian architectural design of the era, remains intact, along with the bezel’s eight visible screws and the dial’s elegant Roman numerals. But a closer look reveals a sleeker, more ergonomic case and bezel shape, and one that flows more seamlessly from the lugs to the straps and bracelets.
About those straps and bracelets: they represent another decidedly modernized feature of the new Santos watches, and one that has become a growing trend among luxury watchmakers. They are engineered with Cartier’s new patent-pending QuickSwitch system, which enables the wearer to simply press a hidden button to quickly remove and replace each bracelet or strap. Other brands, like Vacheron Constantin and Hublot, have introduced similar self-strap-changing technology, but Carter goes them one better with another patent-pending mechanism, called SmartLink, which it uses on its metal bracelets. This allows a Santos wearer to re-size his watch easily without using a tool (or paying a watch repairman to do it for him). At the touch of a button located on each link, its attachment bar is unlatched and the link can be added or removed.
The m0vement inside the case (two sizes are available, 35.1 x 45.9 and 39.8 x 47.5) is also decidedly contemporary: Cartier ‘s self-winding Caliber 1847 MC (the numeral represents the year of Cartier’s founding), which features anti-magnetic nickel phosphorus components in the escapement and movement mechanisms, along with a shield made from a paramagnetic alloy. Together, they render the movement effectively resistant to the powerful magnetic fields a watch encounters during daily wear.
In addition to the models outfitted with the automatic 1847 MC caliber, Cartier is offering skeletonized versions of the new Santos, powered by another in-house-manufactured movement, the manual-winding Caliber 9619 MC, which is notable for the large Roman numerals (specifically the “III,” “VI,” “IX” and “XII”) formed by its bridges.
The new Cartier Santos de Cartier is offered in steel, rose gold, and two-tone models with steel cases and rose-gold bezels. All are water-resistant to 100 meters and feature sapphire crystals in the casebacks to view the mechanical movements. Prices range from $6,250 (for the medium-sized model in steel on a strap) to $43,200 (for the large rose-gold model on a rose-gold bracelet). The skeleton versions, both in 39.8 mm x 47.5-mm cases, are $25,300 in steel and $60,000 in gold.