The Santos-Dumont that was created by Louis Cartier in 1904, was the first men’s watch and it became available for sale in 1911. From its introduction until a few years ago, the model was always one of the more exclusive watches in the collection of Cartier.
I remember very well when I bought my first Cartier watch, the Santos in steel with gold, the salesman told me that my new Santos was inspired by the vintage Santos-Dumont, but I was hardly listening anymore because I was over the moon with my new Santos. The years that followed, so in the 80′, the Santos- Dumont was available, but usually on order and hardly on display in shops. It simply was that exclusive.
During ‘Collection Privée, Cartier Paris’, (1998-2008) two new models were released and after that, a larger TV shaped model in 2005 and some very interesting complications and skeleton models, (2008-2018). These watches were always produced in gold or in platinum and were made for the man who knew where Cartier is all about.
In 2019 Cartier turned everything upside down and released a new Santos- Dumont and mind you, this time in steel, powered with a quartz caliber and available in two formats, small and large. This was a move that surprised me and many others a lot since it looked like that the beloved and exclusive Santos-Dumont had suddenly become a mainstream watch.
What surprised me most was the fact that the watch was so amazingly built, with a newly designed case and sloped bezel, that gave the watch a very different look, when compared to previous models. The crown and the stretched numerals were vintage-inspired, the quartz caliber was newly developed and only needs a new battery every six years, so ‘La Maison’ had certainly not been resting on its laurels and this was of course what certain people prefer; an easy and problem-free watch that always runs, and on time!
This year Cartier did an important and logical follow-up by releasing the Dumont model in an XL case and now powered with the trusty Piaget 430MC mechanical caliber. This is where a lot of people, including myself, had been waiting for. The name XL gave the watch a bit of a wrong image and I was also a bit skeptical myself at first, but when I received the watch for review, and I was able to wear it for a day, I came to the conclusion that it was actually perfect on my 18cm wrist. The fit was excellent, and maybe I even prefer the XL slightly over the Large model.
So when you’re ready for a ‘Santos-Dumont’ model, and you actually should since this is Cartier’s most famous and oldest watch in the collection, it will not be that easy to choose the one you like; because there are now more than a dozen versions and three different sizes to choose from and then I have not even mentioned the diamond-set models. So let me try to mention them all.
The quartz-powered small (38 x 27.5mm) and large (43.5 x 41.4mm) models, that were released in 2019, are available in steel, in steel with pink gold bezel, or in all pink gold.
The just-announced mechanical models, with 430MC caliber, are available in a large- (43,5 x 31,4mm) or in the extra-large (46,6 x 33,9) case. And if this mechanical caliber is what makes your heart beat faster, read on, because here the choice is not easy.
The unlimited Extra Large model (46,6 x 33,9) comes in a steel-, a steel with pink gold- or in an all-pink gold case. Pictured above.
For the real die-heart, there is also a Limited Edition model, called ‘Demoiselles’ produced in a very small run of just 30 pieces in platinum with a ruby in the crown. This stunning looking XL timepiece comes with a brown alligator strap and a Panama textured strap that has the same pattern as the dial.
Furthermore, this deluxe edition watch comes in a wooden box, with a leather travel case and Santos white gold cufflinks. Since there are only 30 pieces available, a reservation is absolutely necessary.
Next to these two Extra Large models, there are three more models in a Large case (43,5 x 31,4mm). The ‘Le Bresil’ in a platinum case and the famous ruby in the crown is limited to 100 pieces and this is a great alternative for the ‘Demoiselles’ since it is much more affordable and easier to lay your hands on. The one in the yellow gold case is called ‘Le Baladeuse’ and is limited to 300 pieces. This is a very attractive and more classic looking watch. And the last one of this series is the ‘Le 14 Bis’ in its steel case with yellow gold bezel. Cartier produced 500 pieces of this modern-looking version, that we can still call very limited.
Although these last four models, that were all four named after the airplanes Alberto Santos-Dumont has been using, are all limited editions, it really puzzled me that none of these pieces belong to the high-end series ‘Cartier Privé’. The series that contains already the Crash watch, the latest Tonneau and Tank Cintrée, all Limited Edition models.
Since it is the Santos-Dumont that is the pillar in the Cartier’s historic collection, I will not be surprised myself when ‘La Maison’ will announce their final Santos-Dumont model for their exclusive ‘Cartier Privé’ series, later this year or in early 2021. But don’t count on my words too much, this is only what I think would really make sense.
Please check for prices: Cartier.com