The Cartier Santos has an important place in history. It was created in 1904 by Louis Cartier for his famous friend, the famous Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont. The Brazilian wished to be able strap a watch to his wrist while flying and Louis Cartier designed this square shaped watch with a leather strap to fulfill his friend's wish. The Cartier Santos is widely believed to be among the first wristwatches ever made.
Although the Santos has remained in the Cartier fold over decades, the new collection replaces the existing Santos 100 line that was launched in 2004. There’s plenty of choice now – the Santos comes in four variations: steel, pink gold, yellow gold and two-tone cases (steel and yellow gold) and two sizes: medium (35.1 mm wide) and large (39.8 mm wide).
What’s also really great for 2018 is Cartier’s QuickSwitch and SmartLink systems, which allow for strap changes and bracelet adjustments on the fly, no tools needed. We tried it during SIHH and the QuickSwitch system is not dissimilar to the one TAG Heuer uses on the Connected Modular watches.
The case uses the familiar square shape which is supposedly inspired by the symmetry of Parisian geometry of the era, as extolled in the four angular corners of the Eiffel Tower. Back in 1904, a square shape also represented breaking away from the tradition of round cases. Unlike the square bezel of the Santos 100 case, the new bezel tapers towards the lugs.
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The eight screws on the bezel sit as a tribute to the proliferation of mechanical steel structures in Paris around the turn of the 20th century. It helps to know that Louis Cartier considered Gustave Eiffel, the man who built the Eiffel Tower, a personal friend.
While the original from 1904 was fitted with a leather strap, the new Santos de Cartier allows the user to switch between the metal bracelet and the additional leather strap that accompanies each watch. The QuickSwitch system hidden under the strap is easy to use and requires no tools.
Also clever is the SmartLink self-fitting technology which adjusts the length of the metal bracelet to the nearest link without the use of a tool. At the touch of a button located on each SmartLink, the attachment bar is unlatched and one of the brushed metal links with screws can be added or removed.
The watch is now powered by the in-house, self-winding 1847 MC movement. First introduced in the 2015 Cartier Clé collection, the 4 Hz movement has a power reserve of 42 hours and features anti-magnetic nickel phosphorus components in the escapement and movement mechanisms. It also uses a shield made from a paramagnetic alloy to further protect against magnetism.
Both the large and medium size watches use the classic white dial with the Roman numerals. While the large size has a date window at 6 0’ clock, medium has a cleaner dial. In addition to the white dial, the large size also has two versions (in pink gold and steel) presented with a skeletonized dial. These watches run the Caliber 9619 MC movement.
At $6,200 for the steel medium and $6,800 for the large size, this was undoubtedly one of the better watches we saw at SIHH this year.