Review Of The Cartier Santos

“I think reviving the Santos was one of Cartier’s smartest moves in the past few years. And the numbers of sold watches and the positive resonance from watch enthusiasts and connoisseurs from all over the world confirm this hypothesis.”

A Quick Take For The Busy Enthusiast

Unveiled at the SIHH 2018, the modernized version of the Santos Cartier quickly managed to gain traction and respect within the watch community. The revamped icon (yes, I use this word too often, but this watch genuinely deserves it) was and still is a success on many levels.

The new Cartier Santos features the same rectangular case shape as its predecessors, but this time, the case is a lot curvier than before. Cartier offers the watch in two different sizes, one in medium and one in large. The medium model measures 35.1mm x 41.9mm, while the larger one comes in at 39.8mm x 47.5mm. According to Hodinkee, whose journalists got their hands on this Watch, the medium-sized model wears like a 39mm watch, while the larger one wears more like a 42mm watch. But I think that’s quite subjective since you cannot really tell with rectangular watches. Inside the beautifully polished case beats the Cartier caliber 1847 MC, a basic 3-hand, 42-hour power reserve, in-house developed and produced movement.

Image credits: Cartier

One of the coolest details on the new Cartier Santos has to be the bracelet. Every watch comes with one extra strap, so you have the choice between the polished stainless-steel bracelet or a leather strap. And I have to say, the bracelet looks gorgeous! The brushed links with the polished exposed screws just look so classy. But looking pretty is not all the bracelet can do. Equipped with the Cartier SmartLink system, you can now easily remove and add links, making it easier to adjust the length of the bracelet to your individual wrist size. Also, the quick-change system lets you change from bracelet to leather strap and back, in a very short time.  

The Cartier Santos is currently available in a variant of different colors and metals. Ranging from the classic stainless-steel model all the way to the 18k solid yellow gold Santos, which I’m personally a big fan of. Unfortunately, due to its price tag of around $35,000, this solid gold watch will certainly not be mine in the near future.

Just to sum it up quickly. I think that reviving the Santos, was one of Cartier’s smartest moves in the past few years. The design and the built quality just are superb and can easily keep up with the likes of Rolex and Co. And this is exactly what draws me and many other collectors to it.

A Short History Lesson

Image credits: Cartier

Here is a short history lesson about the iconic (please don’t go…) timepiece. Ready? Good. Let’s turn back the time to the beginning of the 20th century. In 1904, Louis Cartier, the founder of Cartier, made a special watch for his friend and pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont. Alberto desperately needed a timepiece, which would tell him the time, even if his hands were busy flying the plane. That meant, that the widespread pocket watch, which at the time, was in every man’s and woman’s pocket, would not be sufficient. So, Cartier improvised, and created the Santos-Dumont, a little gold watch with exposed screws and a square case. Tadaaa, this is how the first pilot’s watch was born. And yes, I know, the Cartier Santos isn’t necessarily what you would imagine when thinking of a pilot’s watch. But technically speaking it was the first watch worn by a pilot, hence, the first pilot’s watch.

Image credits: Cartier

In 1911, a few years after the initial success of the Santos, Cartier decided to put the Santos into production. After that, they went on and successfully sold the first-ever Cartier Santos in their flagship store in Paris. And ever since then, the Cartier Santos kept on being a success within the watch industry, making it one of Cartier’s pillars in their watch portfolio.

The Movement

Image credits: Cartier

Powering both versions of the Cartier Santos is the caliber 1847 MC. The automatic movement runs in 23 jewels and provides a power reserve of around 42 hours. It is reliable but in no way something special. Besides the Cartier signed rotor, the movement looks average, but in the end, that’s not a deal-breaker, since the watch has a solid caseback and therefore, even if the movement would be the prettiest of them all, you wouldn’t get to see it anyway. The only thing that is noteworthy, is that the Santos, due to the nickel phosphorous components used in the movement, is extra resistant to magnetism. But in my opinion, this isn’t really a big deal and shouldn’t be the main reason to buy it. I would rather focus on the next part of the article, the design of the case and the dial.

The Case and Dial

Image credits: Cartier

Moving on from the average movement to the main selling point of the watch. The design. In particular the design of the case and the dial. As mentioned before, the new Santos features the same rectangular case shape as its predecessors, but this time, the case is a lot curvier than before. The Santos is available in two different case sizes, one in medium and one in large. To this day, I’m still not sure who at Cartier gives those size labels to their watches, but this person is messing with me. I mean it’s the same thing with the Cartier Tank. I recently looked at the available sizes of the Tank, and I got very confused with it. Why are you doing this to me, Cartier? I just want to buy your pretty-looking watches…

Anyway, back to the case sizing. The medium model measures 35.1mm x 41.9mm, while the larger one comes in at 39.8mm x 47.5mm. According to Hodinkee, the medium-sized model wears like a 39mm watch, while the larger Santos wears more as a 42mm watch. As mentioned before, the curves of the updated Santos case, immediately caught my eye when looking at the watch. The curves make the shape of the case effortlessly flow into the crown guards, making it even more pleasant to look at. Speaking of fitting in effortlessly, the polished stainless steel bezel, which features the same exposed screws as the bracelet, blends in perfectly with the lugs. And I just wanted to mention that, yes, the bezel is very beautiful, but please be aware that through the excessive polishing, this thing is an absolute scratch magnet. So, if you are someone who gets anxious over even the smallest of scratches, then this watch will probably give you some headaches and you are better of just getting a good old tank. But we are not done here. Would it even be considered a Cartier without the iconic dial? I honestly don’t think so. The classic, silvered finish dial features the usual dark black Roman numerals, the railroad minutes track, and the blued steel hands. Fortunately, Cartier decided to get rid of the date in the medium version, but on the large version, they somehow forgot to remove it and just left it there, hanging above the 6 o’clock position…

The Bracelet

Image credits: Cartier

Besides the new case, one of the coolest details on the new Cartier Santos has to be the bracelet. By default, the Santos comes on a polished stainless-steel bracelet, which by the way, looks gorgeous with its brushed links and the polished exposed screws. The bracelet fits in perfectly with the new curved shape of the case, adding a lot more class and harmony to the overall watch. But let’s assume you don’t want to have it on a bracelet anymore. What do you do? Well, that’s easy with the new Santos. Cartier delivers every watch with one extra strap, so that, if you ever get bored of the bracelet, which I think is highly hypothetical, you can easily switch it up with the complimentary extra leather strap. Which, by the way, you can choose the color of it yourself. So, no worries you won’t be stuck with the red strap you so desperately hate. Cartier also introduced a new system, which lets you adjust the length of the bracelet within minutes. Cartier calls it the SmartLink system. The revolutionary, patent-pending system, enables you to easily remove or add links, by pressing a small oval push-button on the underside of the links, which then releases the bar, without the need of a screwdriver. That and the overall build quality and design of the bracelet really impressed me.

My opinion

I love the new Cartier Santos. I love that they upgraded and modernized the case and made it fit perfectly into the bracelet. Speaking of the bracelet, it looks absolutely stunning. And with the new Smart Link system of the bracelet, Cartier overtook most of its competition when it comes to quickly remove and adding links and therefore the user experience. And the best part is, that Cartier actually has a patent on it (or pending, not sure as of 2021), which means that not just everyone can come in and copy their hard work.

The only two points of criticism, that I have, are the polished bezel, which looks very good but scratches also very easily. And the second point which I think they could have improved is the movement. Don’t get me wrong, the movement is very reliable and in no shape or form badly executed. But it would have been nice to see a new type of movement, which had a little bit more power reserve or just something that would excite me. But overall, I think that for the respective price points, which start at $6,500, the Cartier Santos packs a lot of punch and is definitely worth your hard-earned money.

Specifications: Price: Starting at $6,500, Case Size: 35.1mm x 41.9mm (Medium) and 39.8mm x 47.5mm (Large), Thickness: 8.83mm (Medium) and 9.08mm (Large), Lug-to-Lug: 41.9mm (Medium) and 47.5mm (Large), Lug Width: n/a, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Cartier calibre 1847 MC, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire 


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