The Cartier Santos is back! Based on the first wristwatch created by Cartier in 1904 for aviator Santos Dumont, this legendary model had been in the collection since its introduction in 1978 – at least, the modern version of the Santos, with a steel case and screwed bezel. However, the Santos was discontinued two years ago – and for a good cause. A new model is about to hit the stores and Cartier presented its redesigned version at the SIHH. Meet the new Cartier Santos 2018, tested here in steel, large size and with quite some cool features for the strap/bracelet.
The Cartier Santos needs no introduction. It is one of the most iconic watches of the Parisian Maison, and certainly the most coveted men’s offer of the brand. Created in 1904 to accompany aviator Santos Dumont on his intrepid flights, it has gone down in history as one of the first wristwatches to hit the market. The Santos gained popularity at the end of the 1970s when the model was revived in a sporty, bracelet-mounted piece, recognisable by a large number of screws used on both the bezel and the bracelet. Available in steel or steel and gold (quite fashionable in the 1980s), the Santos model was a staple in the collection undergoing updates and facelifts (including the large and modern Santos 100) until 2016, when it was discontinued.
The 2018 Cartier Santos
Cartier usually unveils entire collections at the SIHH: Clé de Cartier in 2015, Drive de Cartier in 2016, the comeback of the Panthère and the 100th anniversary of the Tank in 2017. For the SIHH 2018, the highlight was the revival of the iconic Santos and a brand new collection was introduced, comprising steel, steel and gold and gold versions, two sizes (medium and large) and even a skeleton version. Today, we take a look at the cornerstone of this new line-up, the 2018 Cartier Santos Large Size in steel – which will certainly be the most desirable option for most men.
First, the design. The new Cartier Santos combines hallmark traits with new features. The overall shape and style of the original are respected with a squared case with round edges, a polished bezel with eight screws, a steel bracelet with two screws on each link, a white dial with Roman numerals and classic Cartier blued hands. At first glance, the evolution seems minimal. Yet, when you look at this 2018 Cartier Santos in detail, you will spot the changes.
First, the case (measuring 39.8mm x 47.5mm on this large version) has been reshaped, with more curves. For instance, on each side of the bezel, it feels like the Santos now has two brancards. This is due to the new bezel, which is not perfectly squared anymore but shaped to “touch” the bracelet. This bezel now follows the lines of the case, yet it sticks to the polished finish to contrast with the rest of the watch and still features eight screws. The case itself is also less aggressive than before, with more curved lines and the presence of a large, polished chamfer on the side. This gives the watch a more modern and luxurious feel.
Overall, the new Santos is quite pleasant on the wrist and is 9.08mm thick – not exactly an ultra-thin watch, yet good enough to fit under a cuff. The case is relatively large but the case back is slightly curved and the lugs are short, providing good comfort. Also keep in mind that a medium size exists, with a 35.1mm x 41.9mm case.
Other hallmark features of the Santos are also present. The crown with a sapphire cabochon (Cartier obliges), is still protected by a pointy protection piece. The bracelet is also in the vein of previous versions, with its brushed finish and the presence of screws on each link. Some novelties – very good ones – have been added, but we’ll go back to this point in a few lines.
As for the dial, we find quite a classic offer on this 2018 Cartier Santos. Just like old versions, no guilloché pattern here, but a more contemporary, slightly more sporty flat dial with a silvery-white finish and printed black Roman numerals. The printings appear thinner than they used to be in the past, bringing more elegance and modernity to the Cartier Santos. The display is also classic: hours, minutes, seconds shown by blue hands and a date window at 6 o’clock (the previous models had a date window at 3 or at 4:30 o’clock).
Inside the case and hidden beneath the steel case back is the calibre 1847 MC, first introduced on the 2015 Clé de Cartier. This entry-level, in-house produced movement is automatic, ticks at a modern 4Hz frequency and boasts 42h of power reserve. Nothing extraordinary, but a movement that will do the job perfectly.
Some clever strap/bracelets
As you’ve noticed on the photos, the 2018 Cartier Santos is now available on a leather strap AND a steel bracelet. In fact, both options are delivered with the watch. To change the strap in the shortest amount of time possible (and in the comfort of your own home), Cartier has fitted a quick release button on both the straps and bracelet, meaning that no tool is required to switch. The downside of this system: because the mechanism is integrated into the strap, you can forget about aftermarket options.
The bracelet – which is admittedly quite good and is perfectly integrated into the overall design- also comes with a clever system. In order to adjust the length of the bracelet, Cartier has developed the SmartLinks. By depressing a small oval push-piece on the underside of the links, the bar is released without the need of a screwdriver. Push, release, remove the extra link, insert it again and voilà. We tested it for a few minutes and the function is simple, ingenious and well executed.
The main reason for this development is, of course, driven by practical reasons but also by the increase of online sales. Imagine you order this 2018 Cartier Santos on Cartier’s website, you receive it a few days later, open the box and then… No need to go to the nearest Cartier boutique or a watchmaker anymore to have the bracelet fitted to your wrist. Cartier just solved this issue with the SmartLinks.
Overall, whether in terms of style, quality, and features, this new 2018 Cartier Santos is quite a success. It looks good, feels good and comes with modern ideas, such as the interchangeable strap/bracelet and the quick adjustment system for the steel bracelet. The Santos was quite a statement on the wrist and the 2018 collection feels like a very mature offer. The price is equally interesting, at EUR 6,600 for this large version in steel (prices start at EUR 6,000 for the medium size in steel). Available in stores in April 2018.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.