“Cartier, Cartier, where forth art thou Cartier”. This is the presumable cry of most lovers of watches, I would certainly want one on my wrist and a few others in my safe. Until then I’ll have to make do with a review of once of the great luxury timepieces – The Cartier Santos-Dumont.
History tell us that the Santos-Dumont timepiece was one of the first watches made. In 1904 as a good will gesture by Louis Carter for his pilot friend Albert Santos Dumont, he created something that would allow Dumont to be able to tell the time while in flight. This began the timeline of an iconic watch which has aged like fine wine through the decades and is a staple classic for an premium watch collector.
Whilst there have been variants made since then, this classic should not be confused for the Santos de Cartier, which although is very similar, it has a slightly different dial design and seven-sided crown. The Santos-Dumont watch remains classically simple following a square geometric shaped case, with selection from a small (38.5mm lug to lug) or large (43.5m lug to lug) model which works on. You also get the choice of a steel, rose gold and steel, rose gold or rhodium case finish, all with a blue or black leather strap for optimum comfort. This is certainly something suitable for fuss-free smart casual meetings or even with evening wear.
What makes a timeless Cartier timepiece if not for its iconic dials. The Santos-Dumont, being one of the first watches has managed to retain a very classic look and feel. Coming with a single register satin-brushed dial, the format and Roman numeral numbering follows that of a grand-father clock. There is also a version that hosts a sleek calendar aperture and comes with power reserve function. Blued-steel sword-shaped hands lend to its great but historic simplicity resulting in optimum readability, with no distractions or fiddly bezels. This watch simply put is perfect for those who literally want to tell the time with reliability.
The large model rose-gold and Rhodium finish Santos-Dumont slightly differ with black oxidised steel sword shaped hands, either with a grey satin-brushed or silver grained dial. The numbers are also slightly thicker with indices on the inner part of the dial. I personally prefer this version as although the watch retains its simplicity, these added touches give it a certain visual lift and certainly makes you feel like you are one of the early 1900s elite.
Cartier have always been known for their premium cases and the Santos-Dumont does not disappoint. Without the need for fancy rotating bezels and additional pushers. The clean setting of the steel/rose gold references come with exposed screws giving a very up-scale vintage look and feel. All Santos-Dumont watches are also covered with sapphire crystal glass as standard and a stainless steel caseback.
The large rose-gold and steel model also comes with a gorgeous steel case, but in addition, it has an 18K rose gold bezel and a steel beaded crown hosting a blue synthetic cabochon-shaped spinel. As the top range large model, the rhodium finish Santos-Dumont watch comes in a 18K white gold set with 59 brilliant-cut diamonds placed beautifully around the cased. The faceted crown set also comes with a brilliant-cut diamond, totalling 2.48 carats. The square-tank shape of the watch is a debatable one and can easily be a hit or miss with many. Personally I have an affinity with round case which seem to sit better on my wrist, saying that, I certainly would not reject a Santos-Dumont as part of my collection.
Cartier is a premium household name and with that comes the standard expectation of quality. In fact, Cartier are that confident in the quality of their timepieces, that they offer a 2 year international warranty as standard with all their watches. This can also be further extended to up to 8 years.
As an avid fan of leather straps, it was good to see that Cartier have kept it very simple with the Santos-Dumont watch. There is an offering of premium semi-matt alligator skin straps (in black or navy blue) accompanied with a steel ardillon buckle for optimum comfort. As there isn’t a stainless steel bracelet option available, this might turn off some interested parties. If that is the case, then the Santos de Cartier is a great alternative, as this largely retains the look and feel of the Santos-Dumont but provides interchangeable Santos metal bracelets.
The movement of the watch is powered by the 690 quartz battery caliber which provides about 6 years of battery life. I can hear the sighs already, as quartz models are a no-go for man, preferring mechanical options instead. If the quartz movement isn’t for you, then the large model rose-gold Santos-Dumont model does have manual winding although that can also be a hit or miss with many. Cartiers are known to be quite thin and the Santos-Dumont has a thickness of only 7.3mm with water resistance of up to 30m (although I highly doubt anyone will be going for a swim anytime soon in a Cartier).
Price is not really a conversation to be had when talking about a Cartier. In simple terms, the price provided for the watch is certainly worth the quality at hand. So it was good to see that this Santos-Dumont collection comes at a much more affordable and conservative price point compared to ther premium Cartier watches. There might be slight differences for certain references depending on where you aim to purchase it, but in most instances, the cheapest model of the Santos-Dumont starts from £3000.
The Rose-gold case variants push the price between the £7,000 and £10,000 mark (manual winding model will set you back around £14,000). The ‘piece de la resistance’ which is the rhodium-finish 18k white gold Santos-Dumont with 2.48 carat diamond encrusting will cost a whopping £42,900.
Review: Cartier Santos-Dumont
A thin and classic timepiece has been re-imagined by Cartier. Great for day-to-day wear and comfortable, yet noticeable enough for questions. The Santos-Dumomt elegantly does what it does best - tells the time.