31 May 2023


By In Brands, Cartier, General

Cartier is known for its extreme attention to shapes and extreme originality in watch design, which were initially designed as wrist instruments and later became wrist jewellery. So, the Cartier Santos is an icon in the world of luxury watches, a legendary model that marked the beginning of the modern era of wristwatches. The history about the Cartier Santos created by Louis Cartier in 1904 has already been written in depth through a dedicated article, but today we’d like show which are the latest steps and updates introduced by Cartier on the Santos collection.

Photo courtesy of hausmann-co.com

Today, the Santos has evolved into a range of models that reflect the elegance and attention to detail that the Cartier brand represents. The Santos 100 version (2004 to 2017), previous to the current one, has a more robust appearance and a big case in both, diameter and thickness.

Photo courtesy of 1stdibs

From 2018 at SIHH, Cartier has returned to focus on the Santos model, a watchmaking icon that has not been renewed since 2004. The changes that can be immediately spotted concern the change in thickness compared to the Santos 100 and Santos 100XL, and the new bezel shape that changes from square with rounded corners to a more sinuous style that connects with the new bracelet designed to look all-in-one with the watch case. Then, greater importance is given to the satin-finishing and polishing of the steel, as to demonstrate the maison’s absolute dominance in the field of jewellery. The hour markers are expressed by classic Roman numerals, the sword-shaped hands in blued steel matches the classic blue of the cabochon set in the crown and they remain coherent with Cartier’s design language.

Photo courtesy of Instagram @b1948

However, the real innovations introduced by the new Santos are not hidden within the watch case, but they are placed inside the bracelet thanks to its two new systems: QuickSwitch and SmartLink. QuickSwitch allows the bracelet to be changed without tools, through the simple pressure of a dedicated button inside the latest bracelet link, which allows the wearer to be able to change the steel strap with a leather strap quickly and very easily.

Photo courtesy of Cartier.com

On the other hand, each SmartLink link is made up of a button that allows the attachment bar to be removed or added, depending on the size you want on your wrist, without having to go to a dealer or watchmaker. Both the systems contributed to strongly increase the interaction between the watch and its wearer, gaining an upgrade in terms of ergonomics.

Photo courtesy of Cartier.com

The aesthetics of the steel bracelet are thought out in every detail, especially considering satin-finishes and polished screws, in addition to the previously mentioned patented systems. The watch is offered in two versions: medium size for slimmer wrists (such as women’s wrists) and large size designed as a men’s version. The Cartier Santos certainly stands out as one of the most versatile watch on the market today, both a sporty watch and dress watch, especially, if you prefer, with easy bracelet replacement. The most interesting dial is probably the version presented at SIHH 2019, blue dial with gradient intensity. But we should also mention the new green dial introduced in 2023, with reference WSSA0061 medium size and WSSA0062 large size. Therefore, Cartier is also getting on the train of green dial watches that has been popular in recent years. Coloured dials are at their best in full sunlight, in other light conditions they are rather dark.

Photo courtesy of  berrysjewellers.com
Photo courtesy of  chrono24

The Santos watches produced, include: steel models, steel and gold (aka two tone) models, with diamonds, with a chronograph function, and both models made entirely of rose gold or yellow gold. Among these, the Santos Skeleton configuration certainly stands out. For Santos, it is the most successful configuration that rapidly went “out of stock” when it was launched in 2018. An extremely modern exercise in style for the Maison, successfully executed, being the watch a perfect blend of elegance and avant-garde. This wearable work of art is driven by a hand-wound mechanical manufacture movement, with calibre 9611MC and a power reserve of approximately 72 hours.

Photo courtesy of mrporter.com

The Cartier Santos, over the years has been declined in several models, including the Santos Galbée, Santos Ronde, Santos Demoiselle and obviously Santos 100/XL (become Santos) and Santos Dumont. Today, Cartier has focused on two latest models, Santos, previously explained, and the original Santos Dumont that has been redesigned in a more modern configuration appealing to enthusiasts and others. The Santos-Dumont watch line, has a more refined and discreet design, with a thinner and slimmer case than the model mentioned above. The crown becomes bullet-shaped, recalling the original 1904 design, similar to that of the Cartier Tank Must.

Photo courtesy of reddit.com

It was originally presented with an exclusively quartz movement with a power reserve of about 6 years. Then for some specific versions, with a mechanical movement with manual winding. It comes in different sizes: small, large, extra-large so that it can be worn on all wrists but always maintaining its extreme recognisability. The strong reference to the Santos-Dumont aviator’s watch returns in this sense, with a square shape, slimmer and with a leather strap that in this case becomes an elegant alligator strap. The most unusual models are mainly limited editions, including versions made in 100 pieces in platinum or 500 pieces in rose gold and steel. Among the most interesting editions are those presented at W&W 2022 in three variants: platinum, gold, and steel.  They are coated with a thin layer of hand-polished lacquer for the case and bezel. The translucent lacquer emphasizes the watch and gives it extreme elegance. The case measures 43.5 x 31.4 mm and houses the 430MC hand-wound movement. The three versions will be available in limited quantities. The platinum version with burgundy lacquer, will be limited to 150 pieces; the rose gold version with beige lacquer, will be limited to 250 pieces; the steel version with black lacquer will not have a limited number of pieces, but the production period will be limited.

Photo courtesy of Cartier.com

Last but not least, the latest proposals made with an almost maniacal attention to detail (as with the Cartier Masse Mystérieuse), the Santos-Dumont Skeleton made in 2023, in three versions with different materials: steel and pink gold, which are not limited editions, and yellow gold, which is an edition of only 150 pieces

Photo courtesy of reddit.com

The previous Cartier Santos Dumont was conceived as a Cartier dress watch without personality, instead since its presentation at SIHH in Geneva in 2019 it has begun to carve out its own path, no longer in the shadow of its older brother, who embarked on a different one the year before, but becoming an icon of elegance and classicism of the Cartier brand.

Photo courtesy of burdeens.com

However, regardless of the model chosen, all newly produced Santos carry the same touch of class and quality that Cartier represents. The finish of the materials is flawless, with the light and shadow play creating a fascinating shade on the dials and hands.

In short, Cartier with the Santos and Santos Dumont has re-proposed an icon of the past in a modern key, succeeding in one of the most difficult tasks, avoiding both the unrecognizability of the model and too much resemblance to the previous one, calibrating every intervention made on these watches to the best of its ability. Today, Cartier’s Santos is instantly recognisable on the wrist, on a par with an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, a Patek Philippe Nautilus or a Rolex Submariner.

Written by Antonio Branca

Born in 1994, first a passion for watches and then for architecture and Harley Davidson. As with buildings he has a great interest in materials, technologies and timepiece design.