It might often be overshadowed by the Tank, but the Cartier Santos, which has been given a massive update this year, has a much longer history. Back in 1904, when pocket watches were still all the rage, legendary aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont approached Louis Cartier about creating a timepiece that he could strap onto his wrist so he could check the time while still flying his aircraft with both hands. The resulting timepiece was the Santos-Dumont – not only did the watch come with the unconventional square bezel, it was also regarded by many as the first purpose-built modern wristwatch for men. The Santos de Cartier went on to become one of Cartier’s most influential collections, although with the launch of the Panthère and the celebration of the Tank’s 100th anniversary just last year, the Santos took a bit of a back seat.
This year, Cartier is putting the focus back on the Santos de Cartier collection with a few modern touches. The new updates include equipping the watch with a sleeker and more ergonomic case for comfort of wear. In addition, on the bezel, the eight visible screws are better aligned to flow seamlessly from the lugs to the straps and the bracelets. The biggest update of all is the incorporation of the patented QuickSwitch system, which allows the wearer to switch out their bracelets and straps with ease, all with the click of a hidden button on the strap. Not only this, Cartier also came up with a patent-pending mechanism called the SmartLink for use on its metal bracelets. A Santos wearer can now easily resize their metal bracelets by clicking on a button on each metal link to add and remove links, instead of traditionally using watch tools to do so.
The new Cartier Santos de Cartier is offered in two sizes – medium (35.1mm by 41.9mm) and large (39.8mm by 47.5mm) – and comes with metal options including stainless steel, pink gold and yellow gold, as well as a two-tone model with a steel bracelet and a yellow gold bezel. Inside, the movement is Cartier’s self-winding calibre 1847 MC (which denotes the year the brand was established), with the large version featuring an additional date display. All of them are water-resistant to 10 bars (100 metres) and boast a power reserve of 42 hours. In addition, Cartier also released a skeletonised version of the larger Santos model, which is powered by the manual-winding calibre 9619 MC, and is available in pink gold and stainless steel. This is the first time the maison has cased a skeletonised movement in steel, but it goes to show that Cartier is listening to customer demands – we’re pretty sure this model will be on many a collector’s wish list.
And then of course, there are the watches made to impress. We’ve seen a lot of world-firsts and new records this year, but nothing quite compares to seeing the Cartier Révélation d’Une Panthère. If you wanted to see magic, this is it. The focus of the Révélation is on the dial. The lacquer dial itself is unmarked and there are no hour markers apart from the Cartier logo at 12 o’clock. Suspended over the dial, however, are tiny gold beads that float in a liquid between the sapphire glass and the dial. When you hold up the watch, the beads tumble across the dial to reveal the magnificent head of a panther, just for a fleeting moment, until the beads reach the other end of the dial and disperse.
Extremely fascinating to play with, the Révélation took Cartier five years to develop and the maison holds two patents for the timepiece. The watch comes in three versions: green, red or black lacquer dials, with the green and red versions limited to 100 individually numbered pieces. All of them measure 37mm, and are cased in 18K pink gold with a bezel set with brilliant-cut diamonds. Inside the watch beats the manually wound calibre 430.Of course, it wouldn’t be Cartier without a few high jewellery watches. This year’s Libre collection takes on the classic Baignoire model, but gives the oval case shape a modern twist. The five references in the collection include the Baignoire Débordante, Baignoire Infinie, Baignoire Étoilée, Baignoire Interdite and Crash Radieuse. Going beyond the traditional oval-shaped watch, each of the styles is a new re-interpretation and a disruption of the shape. Each of the five entirely new watches is a limited edition. The elegant Débordante features rings of openworked white gold set with diamonds and black spinels around the oval anthracite dial. The openworked gold is so delicate that it looks almost lace-like. This reference is limited to only 50 pieces. The Infinie is another beautiful piece that, with a radiating bezel, is reminiscent of the watches from the Roaring Twenties. The dial itself is more round than oval, but comes with a concentric pattern made with diamonds, Tahitian mother-of-pearl and black spinels. This watch is limited to only 20 pieces.
The Étoilée is another elegant watch that features the oval with the elongated ends extending to the sides, rather than the top and bottom. The black dial is textured, and surrounded by diamonds on the top half of the bezel and black spinels on the lower half of the bezel. The multi-stranded bracelet is again openworked, and features diamonds on the top half and black spinels on the lower half. Only 12 timepieces are available.
The next two are the slightly wilder creations. First, the Interdite comes with a diamond-set bezel with a white oval dial, over which thick ribbons of glossy black ADLC wrap around the watch face. Fitted on the surrealist watch is a white satin bracelet. And last but not least, the Cartier Crash – an iconic and very much collectible watch. The Crash Radieuse features the unusual dial shape and warped concentric circles on the dial that are printed over the Roman numerals. This is the only watch in the Libre collection that isn’t powered by a quartz movement; inside beats the manual-wound calibre 8970 MC. Both watches are limited to just 50 pieces.