The Santos de Cartier: from aviation to watchmaking

When Louis Cartier designed the Santos, he may not have known that he had created one of the most iconic and versatile watches of the 20th century.

This watch was made in 1904 by the grandson of the founder of the maison for a Brazilian-born aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont, a pioneer in the field of ultralights and a well-known exponent of French high society. The latter complained to Mr. Cartier about the difficulty of being able to read the time on board a plane with a pocket watch.

Alberto Santos-Dumont and the first Santos

For the period in which it was born, the Santos-Dumont is a real innovation in the field of watchmaking, in all respects.

On an aesthetic level it is characterized by a unique and new geometric shape, in this case square, with the presence of a strap and a series of screws that surround the dial.

The screws want to stylistically resume the rivets present on the fuselages of the aircraft of the time, in this case (obviously) that of the Brazilian aviator.

It is an absolute novelty for the moment in which it was born, thinking that the most common watches of the time were pocket watches and the spread of wrist timepieces was not even an idea yet.

Historically, it is one of the first wristwatches introduced by the Parisian maison.

Before the Santos, Cartier only produced pocket watches for men and watches inserted into jewelry and bracelets for women. It was therefore this model that marked the advent of the Parisian brand in the world of men’s wristwatches.

Only the aesthetics and the exterior were the work of the French brand while the heart was entrusted to Jaeger-LeCoultre, a trusted supplier of movements since the end of the 19th century.

The watch built for Santos Dumont remains a unique piece until 1911, when the first examples for the trade begin to be produced.

During the twentieth century, the Santos soon became an icon of style and elegance, thanks to cinema, as did the “brother” who was also born at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Tank.

It is produced in various versions with materials ranging from yellow gold to platinum, especially during the 80s and 90s, equipped with a quartz or automatic movement.

The breakthrough for this watch takes place at SIHH 2018.

On this occasion Cartier re-introduces the classic model, replacing it with the “Santos 100” collection.
In the new version the watch comes with a new bracelet, a 42mm case and a new movement, ready to become a must have for our century.

The Santos 2018 is available in two sizes with figures starting from € 6,750 for the medium version in steel and reaching € 36,600 for the large version in gold with integrated bracelet, without counting any special skeletonized pieces or with other variations.
A bracelet and strap replacement system has also been included on this new model, which allows a very quick change, making the watch versatile and multifaceted.

In 2019 at SIHH a new color enters the history of Santos.

The large model in steel wears a new blue dial, with a very modern style that goes beyond the stylistic keys of the most classic Santos and places itself in a new aesthetic universe. (€ 6,600).

Together with the blue, the new Santos Dumont also enters the family, a timepiece faithful in aesthetic canons to the 1904 icon.

Very pleasing to the eye and friend of even the smallest wrists thanks to its reduced size, the new Santos Dumont has disappointed us a little with its beating heart: a sophisticated quartz movement that, according to Cartier, should bring new fans to the world. of haute horology.

On sale between € 3,000 and € 3,500 (for the steel version), it is aesthetically wonderful, but the choice of quartz is really unfortunate.

Instead, as regards the vintage models, you can easily find pieces from the 80s and 90s with prices around € 1,500 (for the steel and gold version for the female wrist) and € 1,800 (for the male one). .

For steel it starts from € 2,200, while for gold models from € 4,000 upwards.

Some specimens from the years between 1930 and 1940, manufactured in both white gold and platinum, can reach prices exceeding € 20,000.

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