The Cartier Santos is one of the most recognisable watches of all time. Even if you've never paid the slightest bit of attention to what's on other people's wrists, we bet you'd be able to recognise it even if you didn't know what to call it. Admittedly, the watch you see here isn't the two-tone steel and gold number most associated with this model range. Nevertheless, this skeletonised Santos de Cartier from 2021 is a cracker, and, best of all, it's on sale right now.
Before we go any further, let's take a little dive into the history of the Santos. You see, the Santos line is of vital importance to Cartier. At one point, it traded blows with the Rolex DateJust, another of this style of watch we like to call smart/casual. Smart/casual watches aren't a real category as such, but you can think of them as able to be gussied up with polishing and applications of gold perhaps, suitable for smart attire, but they still have some robust qualities like a steel or titanium case and reliable movements and are great casual companions.
Back to the Cartier. The story begins with Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont who is credited as being the first person to fly a heavier-than-air craft with an unaided takeoff and a flight distance of over 25m. Santos-Dumont was friends with Louis Cartier, who ran a little-known jewellery company called De Beers. Nah, just kidding, it was Cartier, but you knew that, didn't you?
Santos-Dumont spoke about the impracticality of using a pocket watch while operating an aeroplane, something which Cartier sympathised with. As such, he got to work designing a watch to be worn on the wrist, thereby avoiding the fumbling into pockets feeling for your pocket watch. This wasn't the first known wristwatch; that claim goes to Breguet, who made a one-off watch for the Queen of Naples in the early 19th century. The watch Louis Cartier made was the first commercially-produced men's wristwatch, and it was called the Santos-Dumont. One would be worn by the man himself on his historic flight in 1906, but it would be a full five years before the Santos-Dumont went into regular production.
There doesn't seem to be a lot of notable media on the Santos (note the name change) until the 1970s when the quartz crisis arrived. Presumably, the model saw enough success to keep it afloat but didn't break away from the pack in terms of sales. The period from the 70s to the 90s was a rough time for all watchmakers as cheaper and more accurate quartz watches turned the quiet mechanical watch industry on its head. Luckily, the Santos pulled through, probably due partly to the ruckus created by Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe when they introduced their steel sports watches penned by Gérald Genta. This is also around the time the Santos went blow-for-blow with the DateJust and, well, it lost. But it wasn't all bad news. The Santos is seen as more exclusive today thanks to its rarity and the penchant for its manufacturer to make fine watches.
Since then, the mechanical watch industry has transformed itself from a maker of reliable daily pieces of attire to a producer of luxury products destined to be worn on the wrists of the wealthy. Cartier, already a fashion brand, has done a remarkable job of making its watches stand out. Even the Santos, once the faithful companion of the earliest aviation pioneers, is more of a fashion statement than ever with its exposed screws and bolts.
The Santos range has also seen many variations, from the enormous Santos 100 chronograph to the tiniest of ladies' models. It's come in gold, two-tone, stainless steel and titanium. It's an institution, in a way, not only an insight into the world of French Haute Couture but a practical testbed for Cartier's watchmaking prestige.
Take this particular Santos, for instance. With a 40mm wide case measuring under 10mm in thickness, it's got the classic Santos case and bracelet featuring exposed screws on the links and going around the polished bezel. While we'd say this is more on the 'smart' side of smart/casual horology, the 100m (appx) water-resistance rating means it's okay if your pals happen to dump you in the pool, as every Hollywood movie featuring a swimming pool seems to do.
Inside and on display on both sides of the watch is the hand-wound calibre 9611 MC, which is also used in the skeletonised Cartier Tank MC model. It features a 72-hour power reserve refilled by winding the cabochon-topped crown, a Cartier hallmark. There's no date indication with this model or any other function either. The point of the 9611 MC is to show off the internal workings of a mechanical watch and the skills of the people decorating those workings. You might think skeletonising a movement is a simple process. But, when you factor in the reality that every surface of every component must be entirely perfect (because it can be seen from any angle) and how much time is needed to get to that perfection, you begin to understand the high prices commanded by watches like this.
If you've decided you want to get down with the fashionistas and like the look of this Cartier, you can view it in our Cardiff showroom by appointment. Please get in touch with us to find out more. However, if you've already got your heart set on it, you'll love that you can buy it from us online and have it shipped straight to your door! Also, you can pay for it using cryptocurrency if you wish, so there's no need to worry about how to get it into your collection, and our aftercare services will ensure you get to cherish it for years to come.