A myth and a legend

Cartier brings the eminent Santos into the 21st century with virtuosity.
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Santos de Cartier is designed for a perfect fit on the wrist of a bold and fearless man

The jeweller of kings did not have to court celebrity — that came naturally to Cartier, a maison whose reputation for finesse and originality preceded it. It was the first to design a timekeeping instrument intended for the wrist in an age when pocket watches were strapped onto wrists or old movements fitted into modified cases with straps.

Santos de Cartier was a revolution in its time, inspired by a similarly radical figure — Alberto Santos-Dumont, a record-setting Brazilian aviator who designed 22 flying machines ranging from airships and helicopters to monoplanes and biplanes, and was the first to fly around the Eiffel Tower in Paris. He reached out to his friend Louis Cartier for a timepiece that did not require manual interference, allowing him to keep his hands on the controls of his aircraft. Cartier acquiesced and Santos’ namesake gold wristwatch was presented to him in 1904, the world’s first modern wristwatch featuring a transgressive square profile and exposed screws along the bezel.

Cartier Santos Automatic 39.8mm 18-Karat Pink Gold 

Evoking the symmetry of Parisian geometry, as extolled in the four angular corners of the Eiffel Tower, and a hardware tribute to the proliferation of mechanical steel structures associated with the golden age of urban architecture, the same square face and exposed eight screws of the original form the template of the new iterations. Updates to the intelligent proportions characteristic of the collection reflect changing modern aesthetics, such as the sleeker integration of the bezel with the case and straps for stylistic dynamism.

Versatility is exercised throughout the numerous models, available in medium or large sizes, clocking in at 35.1mm and 39.8mm respectively. Materials range from vogue to precious, spanning stainless steel, pink gold, yellow gold and a pairing of stainless steel with yellow gold. Silvered dials keep time in Roman numerals, with the large models featuring a tidy date window at 6 o’clock. While the new timepieces are equipped with the 1847 MC Automatic Calibre, the Santos de Cartier skeleton watch keeps time  with the manual-winding 9611 MC and 9619 MC Calibres within the steel and pink gold models respectively.

Cartier Santos de Cartier Galbée 

The movement reverberates with ambition, immune to magnetic influence and resistant to variations in humidity, temperature, pressure, impact and acceleration. Increased accuracy is coupled with water resistance of up to 100m for optimum performance and reliability over the years — truly a timepiece intended to endure.

Established on the philosophies of speed and progress, the tenets ring true throughout the design, all the way down to the ergonomic straps. The original Santos de Cartier was fastened onto the wrist of Santos-Dumont with leather, then a new material in watchmaking. Innovation continues in new straps or bracelets, tailored to modern preferences in a range of materials and colours. Steel, gold, calfskin and alligator leather link the modern cases from lug to lug. The straps or bracelets are interchangeable thanks to the Cartier QuickSwitch system, while the cutting-edge SmartLink self-fitting technology allows the metal bracelet to be easily adjusted to the nearest link.

Capturing the style and hunger for progress that permeates the Santos de Cartier is a campaign starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Award-winning British director Seb Edwards directed a 60-second campaign video inspired by Santos-Dumont and the intrepid, thrill-seeking spirit that drove his devotion to the skies. A story of irrepressible ambition captures his lust for adventure and almost mythical pursuit of take-off in this visual retelling laden with poetry and imagination.



“I wanted to create a Fellini-style fantasy world to tell the thrilling story through the eyes of Cartier, in the most immediate way possible,” says Edwards. “I tried to capture the spirit of Alberto Santos-Dumont and his obsession with flight, speed and danger. I tried to imagine what his dreams might have looked like and came up with some wild imagery, a kind of abstract fantasy.”

And succeed Edwards did, with legends — both man and timepiece — that assert the joy of living with one’s head in the clouds.


This article first appeared in 'Retrograde', the luxury watch magazine by The Edge Malaysia. Get the magazine at your nearest news stand, complimentary with every copy of the Sept 24 issue.


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