Buying Guide: The Santos-Dumont !

Although this year is all about the new and exciting Tank models, quite a lot has happened in the collection of the Santos-Dumont, during the last few years. Almost 20 new models, were introduced officially and unofficially, which makes it difficult to see the forest for the trees. Therefore we decided to do a kind of ‘Buying Guide’, that will run from the end of 1990 to 2021 to give an idea of the variety of Santos-Dumont models, retired models and the ones from the current collection.

The Santos-Dumont, Cartier’s first and oldest model in the watch collection, has always been the most exclusive Cartier watch. It was regularly available, but every time-released in very small amounts, with minor changes, but always in precious metals only, like yellow gold and platinum. On a side note, a good thing to remember is, that the Santos-Dumont was the source of inspiration for the Cartier designers, to come up with the sporty steel gold Santos watch in 1978.

So let’s pass the previous pre ‘80 models and start with the 90th. Anniversary model, since this is the one that made the Santos-Dumont model so famous. This limited edition of 90pc. was released in 1997 to celebrate the model’s 90th. birthday. The watch that had, correct me if I am wrong, for the first time, the popular salmon-colored dial, was featured with ‘Breguet style’ hands and had a platinum case, that measured 36 x 27mm, and it was powered with the mechanical Caliber 021MC (base Frédéric Piguet 21P). The original strap that came with the model, was quite unique for that time because it was made in dark blue alligator, with a brown alligator lining! A white gold deployment buckle was supplied as usual.

– Santos-Dumont 90th. Anniversary –

When I think about what would be the most beloved Santos-Dumont, this might still be the one, where collectors are searching for. These models are not easy to find anymore and when it becomes available at an auction, the price varies between a whopping Euro 30K and 35K. But at least they show up now and then. 

– Santos-Dumont in platinum CPCP collection on its wooden CPCP box with loupe –

A year later, in 1998 to be exact, the ‘Collection Privee, Cartier Paris’ series was launched, and this high-end series featured, during the first year already, a Santos-Dumont, with exact case dimensions and same caliber as the 90th. Anniversary, but now with a classic cream guilloche dial and PARIS underneath the brand name, like it was often done in the twenties. The model came in platinum- and in a yellow gold case, Burgundy colored alligator strap, typical for CPCP items, and a gold deponent buckle. This Dumont piece was not limited but produced in a small quantity. The model was discontinued around 2007/8 when the CPCP series came to an end. In the second-hand market, these watches go for 15-20K Euro, depending on the state they’re in and if it is a complete set or not.

– Santos-Dumont 1913 from the CPCP collection, on its wooden CPCP box –

2004 was the release year of the Santos-Dumont 1913, and this watch was an almost exact re-issue of the original one from 1911. Breguet style hands, PARIS under the brand name, and a stunning facet crystal. The yellow gold case measured 24x34mm, which made it the smallest Santos-Dumont in the collection. Mechanical caliber 9780MC,  limited to 100 pc and supplied with a unique non-adjustable folding buckle, styled like one of the very first deployment buckles from around 1919.  A piece unique in platinum has been seen at a German Watch auction house Dr. Crott. All CPCP items came with an oversized red luxury box and they came officially also with an extra hard wooden travel box, with a suede pouch and a loupe. But these wooden cases are really rare. Price indication: Euro 25K-30K Euro in the second-hand market. 

An important sales success was the ‘Santos-Dumont TV’ (not the official name) released in 2005. At first, I was surprised to see a Santos-Dumont model without a bezel with screws and wondered if this was a current design, but the non-bezel version existed and traced back to the early Twenties. (Source: Book ‘White’ by Osvaldo Patrizzi)

– Santos Dumont 2005, here with the option dial –

At the introduction of this larger Dumont model, the owner had the choice between three dial options, but most people choose the classic one. The other two dials are very rare in the second-hand market. Pink-, yellow and white gold models were available, (as were quartz-powered versions) and for a short time, there was even a pink gold Santos-Dumont with a chocolate dial. This is a discontinued model now. Price indication € 6000.- € 9000.-

A logical follow-up was the ‘Santos-Dumont Complication‘ in 2013, a smart-looking watch with the date window and power reserve. The case looks identical to the time-only version, but it is slightly larger and thicker.  Discontinued model. Price indication € 15000.- € 23000.-

– Santos-Dumont with date window and power reserve –

In 2016 the Santos-Dumont Skeleton was released in white gold. This was the second model and it was released soon after the XL Santos 100. The models were powered with the build from scratch, skeleton caliber, the 9611 MC, with 72-hour power reserve. During the following years, this elegant Santos-Dumont also became available in yellow- and pink gold as well as in titanium with an ADLC coated case. All versions measure 38.7 x 47.4 x 9.4 mm. 

– Santos-Dumont Skeleton –

Due to the smooth bezel, this Santos-Dumont Skeleton is in my opinion the best-looking Santos skeleton design that Cartier created so far. This case works so well with that openwork caliber. All versions have just been discontinued. Price indication second-hand market € 25000.- to € 35000.-

The Santos-Dumont in steel with quartz caliber, released in two sizes, in 2018 was quite shocking since it was presented for the first time in a non-precious metal case, but in a way, it was also revolutionary. The new version was raved by young collectors and maligned by serious connoisseurs. The case and bezel were re-designed and the roman numerals were stretched, actually like it was done on the very early Dumont models! The crown was larger and seriously vintage-looking and…….. it was much easier to use.

The design of this version of the Santos-Dumont was in my opinion sublime and the launch was very successful. Case: 31.4 x 31.4 mm (large) and 27.5 x 27.5; stainless steel, two-tone steel, and pink gold, or pink gold
These are from the current collection. Price €3,700 (small model) and €3,950 (large model) in stainless steel

But the serious collector screamed for a mechanical version. And just a year later, in 2019, the Santos-Dumont XL in steel, in gold, and in steel/gold was released and became available with a mechanical Piaget 430MC movement. This release of a mechanical version was a welcomed decision and this new XL model was not only a great success, it also became the basis for quite a few future models and even custom orders. 

The steel version will set you back € 5,950, and that is a very attractive price and absolutely value for money for a Cartier timepiece with a 430MC caliber. The smart-looking full gold model will be yours for €15,200. The version in steel/gold, however, is set at € 8,250.

In 2020 a series of 4 new Limited Edition models were announced, three in a large- and one in an XL case.

The Santos-Dumont ‘Le Bresil’, 100pc in large, will probably be the favorite of many; the platinum “Le Brésil” Santos-Dumont watch features a silvered dial, a ruby set winding crown, decorated with 12 polished metallic Roman numerals and sword-shaped hands. The sophistication of the polished or brushed finishes on the surfaces and bevel underlines its precious character.

– Santos-Dumont Le Bresil –

The back of the case is engraved with the design of Santos-Dumont’s very first machine, “Le Brésil”, created in 1898 – “the smallest” and “the most beautiful”, according to the aviator himself. Its unveiling took place on July 4th. 1898, after which a series of airships numbered 1 to 22, would emerge between 1898 and 1909, representing his many attempts to defy the laws of weightlessness. “Le Brésil” Santos-Dumont € 18200.-“

Santos-Dumont ‘La Baladeuse” released in 300 pc. is very classic looking in yellow gold with its champagne dial. The winding crown is set with a sapphire, blued sword-shaped hands, and a daring patinated dark green alligator-skin strap. “La Baladeuse” Santos-Dumont  € 14000.-

– Santos-Dumont ‘La Baladeuse’ –

Santos-Dumont  ‘Le 14 bis’ was released in a series of 500 PC. This version is produced with a yellow gold bezel on a steel case with an anthracite grey dial, blue spinel winding crown, and gilded steel sword-shaped hands. Grey dials are quite rare at Cartier, but there were a few in the Santos (Dumont) line. Because of that dark dial, this is the only Dumont in this series that is supplied with gold hands.

On the back of the watch, we’ll find an engraving of “n°14 bis”. In this flying machine, often described as a ‘kite of compartments’, the pilot, standing in the fuselage, was connected to the rudder and fins by cables. On the 23rd. of  October 1906, after a day full of pitfalls, the “n°14 bis” won the Archdeacon Cup. Then, on November 12th., it took the Aéro-Club award. Alberto Santos Dumont thus became the first aviator to complete a flight of 220 meters verified by an official organization. “n°14 bis” Santos-Dumont  € 7050,- 

The absolute King of the collection is without any doubt the Santos-Dumont ‘La Demoiselles XL’ produced in a limited edition of just 30 pc. Elements like ‘Panama’ styled strap and dial and the modern styled Breguet hands, make the watch stand out. These important details do not give the watch a vintage look, but a more a style of its own. This very different-looking, extra-large model, with its textured dial that matches the bracelet, is a real collector’s item!

– Santos-Dumont Demoiselles, limited edition of 30pc. –

It was delivered in a lacquered wooden box, containing a luxurious brown alligator leather travel case, an extra brown alligator strap, and a pair of Santos cufflinks in rhodiumized white gold. Despite the fact that this was the most expensive Dumont watch so far, the timepiece was sold out in a pretty short time.  La Demoiselle” Santos-Dumont € 42.400.-

 In 2020 The Arab Watch Club presented to their members a custom order Santos-Dumont XL in pink gold with a black ADLC bezel. Just 15 pc. were created for the members of the club of collectors.

– Santos-Dumont in pink gold with ADLC coated bezel –

In 2021 La Maison released two new Santos-Dumont models. The first one is in an XL model in platinum, with a ruby in the crown. The watch was limited to just 100 pieces and it had a lovely bright blue dial, with non-Roman numerals.  This version was presented with a luxurious wooden box and cufflink set.

– The exclusive box set –

As good-looking as the blue model was, the second one, the Santos-Dumont in steel with a pink-gold case and a copper tone dial with non-Roman numerals, may be stealing the show.

The watch was much more affordable, about a third of the price of the blue version, very attractive and produced in a series of 500 pieces, but of course, the watch came in the standard red Cartier box. Personally, this would be my choice.

Santos-Dumont XL 46,6 x 33,9mm, steel/gold 500 pc. € 8.450 ex.VAT  (June 2021)
Santos-Dumont XL 46,6 x 33,9mm, platinum 100 pc. € 30.400 ex.VAT (Sept. 2021)

Just a month ago, October 2021, a really amazing Santos-Dumont XL in steel with salmon dial and Arabic numerals was made for the  Dubai Watch Club. The watch surprised me tremendously. It was a numbered edition of just 50 pieces, while a rose gold version was available for ladies, produced in a limited edition of 30 pieces. This really is a small series, that was produced exclusively with/for the Dubai Watch Club members in the UAE. Cartier absolutely gave the watch all the elements a collector would dream of. The model, which cost about € 6500.-  had all details right, like a steel case and bezel, a mat lacquered salmon dial, cool Breguet style hands, like the most expensive Dumont in the collection, the ’Santos-Dumont Demoiselles’,  red Arabic numerals, and the Piaget 430 MC caliber, as the other models have. – A huge bravo to the ‘Dubai Watch Club’, and Cartier, because this to me, has now become the best looking Santos-Dumont, ever produced by Cartier!

– On the left is the steel ‘Dubai Watch Club’ version, on the right is the platinum one in an edition of 100pc. –

Two months later, during the first week of December 2021, Cartier UAE was scheduled to release, for the Middle East, a limited edition of 100 pieces, of the Santos-Dumont XL platinum with green Arabic numerals, again on a ‘Sun Ray’ dial and like all platinum models, equipped with a nice ruby in the crown. The release date is however a bit adjusted, but that is a matter of days. At the same time, La Maison will also introduce a bold and really superb-looking Santos-Dumont matching pen, limited to 1000 pieces. The price of the watch is set at AED 91,000 (Euro 21.820.-) and the pen is set at AED 4,200 (Euro 1007,-) Both items will not be available outside the UAE.

Collectors often complain that the Limited Editions that Cartier is releasing, in the ‘Cartier Privé’ series, and beyond are often sold out too soon. Like for instance the platinum Cloche. Of course, this is true, I have to agree, but remember that these timepieces are real Limited Editions, and it is also the exclusivity that makes them worth having or collecting. After all, Cartier is not Omega or Panerai, where a Limited Edition is normally 1000 pieces or even more.

The Santos-Dumont was until 2008, one of the more exclusive models in the Cartier collection, and it has always been the favorite of serious collectors. But nowadays the watch can be found at any price from roughly € 4000.- for the steel version with quartz caliber to over € 40.000.- for a Santos-Dumont Skeleton. The relegation goes so far that people often talk about the Santos when the discussion is about a Santos-Dumont. And of course, it doesn’t help that both models, the Santos and the Santos-Dumont are completely mixed up on the official website of Cartier.

Until about the mid 80′, Cartier’s Historic models were just produced in precious metals. But it didn’t stop with just the Tank Basculante in steel. The Santos-Dumont, Tank Americain, and this year, the Tank Louis Cartier, that listens to the name ‘Tank Must,’ followed all in a cool steel case. Which for sure will be a great development for the young and new collectors. But the serious Cartier Fanatics tremble and wait for what’s to come. Let it be clear that Cartier has made her plans for the coming years and I am sure that La Maison will certainly surprise us again, during the Watches & Wonders fair in Geneva, Spring 2022.

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