Consumers (and sometimes, even watch journalists) have short memories. Most believe designers Gerald Genta and Jorg Hysek ushered a new era for luxury watch design: the masculine sports watch. Yet in 1904, Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont was already wearing something the modern watch connoisseur would find oddly recognisable today – the prototype Cartier Santos-Dumont featured contoured case that wasn’t exactly a square nor a circle.
By the time commercial model was launched in 1911, Louis Cartier’s creation – the world’s first aviation watch exhibited a bezel with external screws that would have surprised and intrigued gentlemen of the period – dress watches (they were all dress watches in those days) would never have had industrial elements like screws exposed – it would have been unheard of and unheard seen, and yet, there it was the Cartier Santos-Dumont wristwatch – the Parisian brand’s first timepiece, had all the exuberance of what contemporary watch lovers would recognise as a “luxury sports watch”, making a splash 68 years before Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak designed by Genta.
A 100 years since that fateful introduction, the Santos de Cartier men’s collection became something of a triumvirate comprising the Santos de Cartier Galbée, the Cartier Santos 100, and the namesake – Cartier Santos Dumont. The 80s and 90s rode on the wave of industrial design in watchmaking, reinforced with steel bracelets replete with screws or two-tone gold on steel editions which traditionalists considered a downgrade of the prestigious 18k gold Santos Dumont watch – but nevertheless captured the zeitgeist which governed watch trends in the industry for the last 50 years.
Then 2004 introduced the Santos 100 in celebration of the centennial of the invention of the Santos-Dumont wristwatch, which was a larger than life, modernisation of the Santos-Dumont reference which followed contemporary watch trends, culminating with the launch of the 45mm Santos 100 XL. But finally in 2019, the Santos de Cartier finally saw the re-introduction of a model faithful to the spirit and more importantly the dial design with long, thin Roman numerals of the original 1911 (commercial production) edition.
Launched at SIHH 2019. the revamped Cartier Santos-Dumont was available in two sizes, the S or small edition measuring 27.5mm and the L or large variant measuring 31.4mm in a variety of wallet friendly steel, two-tone, and rose gold models; and for some hardcore watch enthusiasts, the downside of a quartz albeit a high efficiency, 6 years run-time, manufacture Cartier quartz movement. For 2020, the iconic Santos-Dumont with an all new mechanical movement is introduced in an extra-large size, enhancing the initial collection.
That standout signature crown returns, a clear reference to the crown of early Santos models but otherwise, in order to incorporate the new thin 430 MC mechanical movement (a modified Piaget 430P), the new Cartier Santos-Dumont XL watch reveals a completely reworked design and proportions; and as a result, the necessity of introducing new tapered lugs and a tightly integrated leather strap which removes that sliver of “gap” apparent on the smaller quartz models.
On the wrist, the sunray satin-finished dial of the new Santos-Dumont XL is generous and taut – retaining a true focus on style and sophistication from the sword- shaped hands to the beaded winding crown, and completed with a caseback engraved with the initials S=D, the signature of Alberto Santos-Dumont.
New Santos-Dumont XL Price & Specs
Movement Manual winding 430 MC mechanical movement with 38 hours power reserve
Case Lug-to-lug 46.6 mm, 33.9 mm width steel, two-tone and pink gold case
Price S$8100 steel, S$11,200 pink gold & steel, S$21,500 pink gold
New Santos-Dumont L Price & Specs
Movement High autonomy quartz movement with 6 years power reserve
Case Lug-to-lug 43.5 mm, 31.4 mm width steel, two-tone and pink gold case
Price S$5350 steel, S$7,750 pink gold & steel, S$16,300 pink gold