Calling the Santos an icon is almost an understatement—did you know it is widely believed to be the first timepiece designed for the wrist? The pioneering wristwatch finds its origins in 1904, a time where pocket watches were the norm. Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont lamented the difficulty of checking the time on his pocket watch while flying. Louis Cartier granted the wish of his friend, and in doing so revolutionised watchmaking by creating the first purpose-designed modern wristwatch for Santos-Dumont. The world’s first pilot watch was officially launched in 1911, and has remained a Cartier signature to date.
Fast forward to 2019, Cartier opens a fresh chapter for the collection with a new Santos-Dumont watch that remains true to the original 1904 model. Crafted in rose gold, steel and rose gold, or all steel, the classic square shape—designed to mirror the four sharp corners of the Eiffel Tower—is complemented by visible screws, a prominent beaded crown topped with blue cabochon, and elongated Roman numerals; details that pay tribute to its heritage.
While its unmistakable aesthetic of simplicity and elegance remain the driving force of its enduring appeal, it is not forgotten that the Santos-Dumont was born out of practicality. Cartier equipped the new watch with a high-efficiency quartz movement, which only requires a change of battery every six years. This move along with the option of an all-steel model puts it on the more accessible side of the market (starting at USD3,650). Whether you’re looking to get your first Cartier watch or a fuss-free everyday watch that won’t look out of place for evening occasions, this will do just fine. The Santos-Dumont comes in two sizes—27.5mm and 31.4mm—and like the original, it is fitted with a leather strap.
If bolder, sportier renditions of Santos are more up your alley, look to the latest additions to the Santos de Cartier line. The new Santos de Cartier Large model comes in yellow gold, rose gold, steel, and two-tone variants with interchangeable leather straps and metal bracelets. Among the classic silvered opaline dials, the sole blue dial version (available only in steel) treated with a beautiful radial sunburst gradient really catches the eye.
Then there is the Santos de Cartier Chronograph, a piece that marries functionality and aesthetics effortlessly. A single start/stop push button features at 9 o’clock, with the reset function integrated into the crown, keeping the silhouette clean so it is sporty yet elegant. The 1904-CH MC Cartier Manufacture automatic movement beats at the heart of this timepiece.
As the great Alberto Santos-Dumont conquered the skies at night as well, Cartier imagines a piece for that will pierce through the darkness of night with the Santos de Cartier Skeleton Noctambule. The bridges on this eye-catching skeleton timepiece are coated with Super-LumiNova pigments which are invisible to the eye at daytime, but radiates with the stored light once night falls.
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