Cartier is widely credited with creating the world’s first purpose-built pilot’s watch, back in 1904: the Santos. This year, the brand introduces a new but related line, the Santos-Dumont.
Following the success of its revamped Santos collection last year, Cartier has introduced the new Santos-Dumont – a collection of elegant quartz watches that pay homage to the original model.
The Santos began life in 1904. At the time, many a gentleman sported a discreet flat pocket watch that could be slipped into a trouser or waistcoat pocket without affecting the line of his suit. However, for the pioneering Brazilian aviator and inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont, reaching for a pocket watch while flying was problematic. People were strapping round pocket watches to their wrists or fitting their movements into cases on straps, but Santos-Dumont wanted a stylish device by which he could tell the time without taking his hands off the controls.
His friend Louis Cartier came to the rescue, designing a purpose-built wristwatch bearing his name. Contrary to our contemporary concept of a pilot’s watch, it had a dainty square gold case inspired by the lines of the Eiffel Tower, with exposed bezel screws and Roman numerals. Defying convention paid off for Cartier – not only was his creation the world’s first wristwatch, but also the first pilot’s watch.
In 1911, he put the Santos into mass production, selling it to the public in his flagship Parisian boutique. Over the years, he created many variations on the original, all featuring the same distinctive case, screws and numerals.
Introducing the Santos Dumont
In 2018, the Santos received a major revamp when the house of Cartier introduced its new SmartLink and QuickSwitch concepts across a range of models. At this year’s SIHH, meanwhile, as well as adding new models to the Santos collection, the brand also introduced a high-efficiency quartz line: the Santos-Dumont.
Encased in 18-carat gold, two-tone gold and steel, or all steel (see page 42), the understated Santos-Dumont features an unchanged square case shape that’s a mere 7mm thick, Roman numerals, visible screws, a beaded winding crown and a blue cabochon – all enduring hallmarks of the original.
It’s powered by a high-efficiency quartz movement with a longevity of approximately six years – twice as long as traditional movements. To achieve this feat, Cartier has both reworked and resized the movement to reduce its energy consumption, and combined it with a new high-performance battery.
The Santos-Dumont collection comes in a large 43.5mm x 31.4mm case size or a medium 38mm x 27.5mm size, and is presented on an alligator-leather strap.
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