Two takes on the sporty Cartier Santos

The Rake takes a closer look at the latest Cartier Santos watches from Watchfinder & Co.
Two takes on the sporty Cartier Santos
Cartier has been well known for decades, especially amongst royalty and collectors of fine objects, for its jewelry and Tank watches. But it was only in the 1980s that Cartier made a real breakthrough to become well-known to the general public. A possible reason why this had taken so long to happen, is that Tank watches, and also others like the Santos, Tortue or Tonneau, were always made in gold or platinum and, therefore, were not always within reach for everyone. But a change in the maison’s vision in the late 1970s made Cartier accessible to a larger audience. In 1978, the gentleman who was appointed as Marketing Manager of Cartier at the time, Dominique Perrin, came up with a clever idea of launching an affordable sports watch, based on the legendary ‘Santos Dumont’. The watch needed to appeal to a younger crowd and fit a variety of lifestyles.
Alain-Dominique Perrin, Cartier’s CEO from 1975 to 1998, came up with the idea of launching an affordable Santos in steel with gold accents in 1978. (Image:
The answer was steel, a material Cartier had not worked with before for watches. However, in order to give the new watch a sense of luxury still, Perrin and his team decided to launch the model in steel with gold accents. A daring combination, since the mix of steel and gold was not common at all, at that time. Cartier was one of the first companies to spearhead this new trend. So, the Santos was actually born to be a two-tone timepiece. The screws on the bezel and the screws on the bracelet of the watch, in gold, were the right elements to highlight the combination of these two metals. There have not been many timepieces since, even at Cartier, that look so good in two-tone as the Santos. To be precise, the launch of Dominique Perrin’s creation occurred in 1978 on the 20th of October. It took place in the Musée de l’Air in Paris. And what a great choice that was, to organize the Gala over there. Since this is the place where the airplane of aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, named Demoiselles, can still be found. The Santos went on to become a huge success and turned into one of those watches that you had to have. Shortly after, an all-steel model was released that increased Santos’ popularity, quite substantially. Fame, however, also has its downside and it did not take long before the first copies of the watch flooded Europe and the US. This new problem was almost impossible to beat. Despite the fact that Cartier launched different versions, like a Moon phase model, a round, an octagonal model and even a chronograph; the classic Santos was the most copied watch in the world for many years. In 1987, the Santos was drastically revised, renamed and relaunched as the Santos Galbée. The case lost its boxy looks and became more curved, smooth and a better fit on the wrist than the original Santos.
The Cartier Santos Galbée on the left and the 1978 two-tone Santos on the right (© George Cramer)
Then, exactly forty years after the initial introduction of the Santos, Cartier gave the watch its rightful welcome back into the catalogs at SIHH 2018. The 2018 collection of Santos watches came in a medium (35.1mm x 41.9mm) and large (39.8mm x 47.5mm) size, with an all steel, all gold (yellow or pink) or two-tone (yellow gold and steel) case. The large ones had a date window at 6 o’clock; none on the medium ones. And, given the originally intended versatility of the Santos, the different case types were fitted on a matching metal bracelet or on a calf or alligator skin strap. For those looking for something extra, Cartier made a skeleton version of the large sized Santos in steel and pink gold, which showed off la maison’s knack for skeletonized movements. Both these versions came with matching metal bracelets.
Large 2018 Cartier Santos-Skeleton in pink gold (©Cartier)
Over the years, there have been several variations of this icon. Through our partnership with pre-owned specialist Watchfinder, we have added two enticing pieces from this collection to our shop. One offers a chic blue dial and the other adds a contemporary touch with a black DLC bezel. Both are newer models with the balance of the manufacturers warranty remaining.