A flock of Santos, And What Makes Them Different

For years, actually, since about the year 2000, there has been a lot of confusion between the Santos-Dumont, the Santos, the Santos Galbée, and a little later the Santos 100. And that is a shame because there are significant differences, and it creates a lot of confusion because traders often use the wrong names when selling these models. That is why we do this concise piece, to get rid of the ambiguities for once.  We will omit variations on the various models and will try to keep this article as short as possible so as not to lose the essence.


Cartier designed the Santos-Dumont in 1904, for his friend the pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont. This tiny watch that was roughly 24x34mm, was offered by Cartier to the public in 1911.

– Santos-Dumont re-issue (2005) –

 In fact, the Santos-Dumont is the mother of all Santos models and it was the starting point for the legendary, steel with gold accents, Santos, that came on the market in 1978.

The Santos

The watch was launched in steel with gold and came later also in all steel or all yellow gold. This was the first time that Cartier released a timepiece in a non-precious metal.

– Cartier Santos (1978)

While this was certainly the reason many people were quite surprised with this marketing move, it was the watch, that brought more fame and clientele to the brand and the model has long been the most copied watch in the world. This boxy Santos, which was sleek, straight, and angular, was only succeeded in 1987 by the modified version, the Santos-Galbée.

The Santos Galbée

At first glance, this model looks pretty similar to the Santos, but the lines are rounded and curved. In fact, the entire watch case has a slight curve.

– Cartier Santos Galbée XL (2005)

The watch feels a bit nicer and yet has lost nothing of the original model. The Santos Galbée models came with quartz and with automatic movements, while the later larger XL models all had an automatic caliber.

Santos 100 

In 2005 Cartier launched a larger version of the Santos, called the Santos 100 to celebrate the 100th. birthday of the Santos-Dumont model.

-Santos 100 XL Flying Tourbillon –

This bold watch met the upcoming demand for a larger model. The watch came in a medium-, a large-, and an extra-large version, just for the Chronographe. So the XL size was only used for the chronograph and later on for the other high-end complicated models as the Flying Tourbillon and Skeleton, which were launched in the ‘Fine Watch Making Series‘. (2008-2018)

In 2019, when the Santos Galbée series had already been retired for a few years, La Maison launched a new version, which returns to its old name and it was again called Santos de Cartier.

The Santos de Cartier

This time the square design of the bezel was adjusted to a slightly different shape and the overall proportions became a bit different, from what distinguishes this new model from previous collections. But the biggest change however was the fact that the famous steel bracelet with screws could now be exchanged in an instant, for the supplied leather strap with a folding clasp. 

This was the major update that made the current model more attractive for many users.

From the first to the last model, all Santos watches throughout the periods have something that attracts the consumer the most. And there is hardly any question that one model from year X is the best choice. Everything depends on the person who is going to wear this famous watch.

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