Cartier Continues To Defy Time With The Enduring Appeal Of The Santos Collection

A timeless series that serves as a testament to the brand’s enduring legacy. 

Cartier Continues To Defy Time With The Enduring Appeal Of The Santos Collection

Image: Cartier

The following article was produced in partnership with Cartier.

Who knew that when Cartier changed the game with the first release of the celebrated Santos de Cartier collection, ushering in a new era of haute horlogerie with the world’s first modern men’s wristwatch, we’d still be talking about it with such reverence that it continues to be one of the most sought-after iterations and designs of the contemporary horological market.

Cast your mind back to the early 20th century; Louis Cartier, esteemed grandson of the French Luxury Maison’s founder Louis-François Cartier, was at the helm at the turn of the century. Under his leadership, Cartier expanded its interests beyond the postcard-perfect rues of Paris, with new locations in London and New York.

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Cartier launched the Santos de Cartier collection at this year’s Watches & Wonders. Image: Cartier

In 1904, the Art Deco movement was in its infancy but the burgeoning French city was still the cultural melting pot of the era, filled with Europe’s bohemian intellectuals, artists and writers who flocked to the vibrant milieu of Montmartre to drink vermouth at cafés in Paris’ most iconic postcodes. 

It was here, amidst this cultural ferment of Paris and fueled by the avant-garde influences of the era, that Louis Cartier’s innovative spirit thrived, earning the brand the title of “Jeweller of Kings and the King of Jewellers.” It was here that Cartier unveiled one of his most iconic horological creations.

Widely considered to be the first men’s wristwatch in history, the Santos de Cartier reflected the changing times. It was designed for Cartier’s friend, the Brazilian pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont, who wanted a pragmatic (and stylish) instrument for when he took flight and it instantly made an indelible impression for its unique design and cultural significance.

The signature aesthetics of the Santos collection would become hallmarks of the Art Deco style. Image: Cartier

Typically, pocket watches were still men’s instrument of choice as they were practical and effective, and well there was no better alternative. Cartier’s Santos collection would challenge the norm and quickly became emblematic of timeless modernity, fostering Cartier’s reputation of quiet luxury. 

Later, Cartier would release the modern iteration of the Santos de Cartier collection, coinciding with the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s. It incorporated the Maison’s pioneering two-toned steel and gold design and an integrated bracelet with visible screws – a fitting tribute to Santos-Dumont’s aircraft all those years ago. 

This year at the annual Watches & Wonders event in Geneva, Switzerland the Parisian Maison launched novelties across their most iconic Santos de Cartier collections. 

Available in two sizes – a medium-sized 35.1 mm case and a larger 39.8mm – the 2024 releases returned to the foundations of Louis Cartier’s first designs more than a century ago: clean lines, geometric shapes and the use of exotic materials, which would later become hallmarks of the Art Deco style.

The Santos de Cartier Chocolate Brown dial is available in medium and large. Image: Cartier

On the dial, the larger Santos de Cartier novelties are available in either a sunray brushed chocolate brown dial or an anthracite (coal) dial with a satin finish and maintain the collection’s signature two-toned steel and yellow gold design. For collectors who appreciate a smaller profile, Cartier has also released the chocolate brown dial in a medium-sized 35.1 mm diameter, fitting neatly underneath the cuff of a dress shirt.

Under the hood, the Cartier Santos features the Maison Creation mechanical movement with automatic winding, the calibre 1847 MC – a nod to the year the French luxury house was founded and a testament to Cartier’s ethos of where form meets function.

Elsewhere, Cartier has introduced a revolutionary dual-time function to its prized pilot watch, a first for the famed French watchmakers. It’s an impressive evolution to a watch that has become renowned the world over for its striking visual aesthetics, and this year’s update to the brand’s 40.2mm model goes beyond a mere facelift, elevating Cartier’s signature pilot watch with an innovative new feature.

For the first time, Cartier has released Santos de Cartier with a dual-time function. Image: Cartier

The Swiss-made timepieces come with either a stainless steel bracelet with the brand’s “SmartLink” adjustment system or in premium calfskin and an interchangeable steel folding buckle.

Much like the pioneering spirit of Alberto Santos-Dumont, to which this revered collection owes its name, each release in the Maison’s Santos de Cartier collection reflects Cartier’s dedication to craftsmanship and innovation; a timeless series that serves as a testament to the brand’s enduring legacy. 

Although the pieces have worn many faces through the years, Cartier continues to defy time with the enduring appeal of the Santos collection.