The Santos, as it is known today, is Cartier’s oldest model and it can at the same time, also be seen as one of the most modern watches of the collection. Therefore we have to go back in history, more than 100 years, in fact, the Santos dates back to the year 1904, when Louis Cartier was asked, by his aviator friend Santos Dumont, to design a watch for him, that he could wear during his flights. In those early years, wristwatches were not existing yet, and also Mr. Dumont was still wearing his pocket watch, that he could hardly handle when he had both hands on the steering wheel of his plane. Seven years-long Mr. Dumont was the only person wearing the watch since the model was only commercialized, named Santos Dumont, and sold in the Paris Boutique in 1911. All Cartier watches were, in these days only produced in yellow gold and platinum, but unfortunately, it is unknown, how the first watch, that was made for Mr. Dumont, looked like and in which material it was made. La Maison has e few vintage Santos Dumont models in their private collection, dating from 1911 to 1916. In fact, at the ‘Crystallization of Time’ exposition in Tokio (2019) a yellow gold model from 1912 was presented.
During the following years, the Santos Dumont watch was produced in small runs and was, in general just available in yellow gold and in platinum, other than a black bakelite Santos in 1924. Every few years, the model had
The big turn around, that changed the whole way of how we look at timepieces, revealed in October 1978, at Musée de l’Air in Paris, when Cartier presented their first steel watch on a bracelet, with polished gold accents that was called; the Santos! The watch looked familiar with the early Santos Dumont, was bigger, thicker, more butch, watertight and it was, in fact, the metamorphose of the early Santos Dumont watch, that had become a real and easy to wear sports watch for daily use. This was actually the first steel watch that La Maison created. The Musée de l’Air in Paris was a perfect location for the presentation, because the airplane of Santos Dumont, the Demoiselles, is still here on display. The Gala party was enormous, especially for that time, which lasted two days and many national and international celebrities were invited. The new Santos was so new, attractive and different looking that it set the world on fire. This was the first Cartier watch that could handle all occasions, from daily office work to dinner parties and all locations like sports, outdoor activities and traveling. The watch became a huge success and Cartier launched several different dial versions in various
While the concept of the watch was steel with yellow gold
Around that time the above pictured ‘custom order’ must have been created. All platinum brushed case and bezel, automatic caliber and a
Cartier did not rest on its laurels and changed the case of the Santos in
The trend for larger watches had already set in among other brands, but Cartier had not anticipated yet, so the surprise was noticeable when La Maison introduced in 2005 a really large watch in steel, called the Santos 100. The watch was that large that it attracted a whole new audience, that had never looked at Cartier before. It is safe to say that
The next new model was a new Santos Dumont in 18k gold, without the bezel, in a large TV shaped case. Very classic looking chic watch, that is still available today. The Santos Dumont 1913, an exact replica of the original model, was also presented in a yellow gold case and was limited to just 100 pieces. But the star of the presentation for many was, the very wearable Santos Galbée XL. Not only was this version a little bigger, (32 x 45.5mm ) but it also had a date window between the number 4 and 5, what made the dial much more balanced, than the previous model, where the date window occupied the number three. The XL was powered with an ETA caliber, one of the very reliable movements that were in use by Cartier. The Santos Galbée XL has been available for more than ten years in the historic steel with yellow gold details, or in all steel and remained available until 2016. For almost two years the famous Santos watch was not available anymore and many collectors wondered why the model had been retired.
The answer didn’t take that long, in Spring 2018, Cartier introduced the model in a radical updated form, called the Santos de Cartier. Besides the fact that the new Santos models were equipped with
Without the need for any screwdriver, the metal bracelet can be taken off and replaced by the supplied leather strap with a folding buckle. This handling that doesn’t take more than just a few minutes, changes the look of the watch dramatically. The tan-colored calf leather strap
Both models are available in all-steel, in satin-finished steel with a polished 18K bezel and screws on the bracelet, and in the stunning, all yellow gold, almost like it was on the wrist of actor Michael Douglas in his portrayal of ‘Gordon Gekko’ in the 1987 film, Wall Street.
The question we get almost every week via Instagram; ‘which version to get, the previous Santos Galbée XL or the new 2018 model‘, is actually easy to answer.
When the flexibility of changing the bracelet to a strap and the new inhouse movement are important factors for you, the new 2018 is absolutely the model to go for. Besides that, it is the only version that is available in all 18K. When you’re more traditional and want to stick as close as possible to the 1978 model and you have no problem with the, absolutely reliable, ETA caliber, I would say try to find an old stock