A gem from 2019’s collection, the Cartier Santos-Dumont is everything we want in a modern dress watch. It is slim, iconic, and of sound watchmaking pedigree. Most importantly, its price point is relatively accessible at US$5,850 for a manual wind in steel and US$15,600 in rose gold.
The Cartier Santos-Dumont XL
1904. Louis Cartier granted the wish of his friend, the famous Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont: to be able to tell the time while flying. This was the birth of one of the first ever wristwatches. Featuring a geometric shape and exposed screws, the watch quickly became one of the Maison’s watchmaking icons. The Santos rose to the ranks of a classic that would defy the hands of time.
The Case and Dial
The new Santos-Dumont XL measures 46.6mm x 33.9mm with a thickness of 7.5mm. The case is satin finished, with a thick polished beveled edge with nicely tapered lugs. A screw fastened bezel is mirror-polished for the brushed-polish contrast.
The Cartier Santos-Dumont XL is available in a variety of case metals, stainless steel, two-tone, rose gold and platinum.
The Santos-Dumont is also fit with a beaded crown, set with a blue synthetic spinel cabochon. Using a silvered satin-finish sunburst dial, the watch bears the classic look of its original Santos. The dial is accompanied by roman numerals, blued-steel sword-shaped hands and topped with sapphire crystal.
A slim manual winding Caliber 430 MC is used to power the watch. The 2.15mm thick movement beats at 21,600 vph and has 38 hours power reserve. The movement is based off a Piaget Caliber 430P.
We like the Cartier Santos-Dumont for several reasons. It is stylistically much more refined than its earlier automatic models. It is powered by a time-tested ultra-thin caliber from Piaget. And it is relatively affordable.
The new pointed crown while potentially annoying on the wrist at certain angles, looks wildly special on the Santos-Dumont. Its heritage as a ‘Pilot’s’ watch also gives it a classical sports theme, similar to sister brand’s Jaege-LeCoultre’s Reverso. In terms of affordability, the case and dial finish is very good, and for US$5,850, one can purchase an ultra-thin Piaget caliber in a Cartier steel case. In comparison, a Grand Seiko SBGK005 retails at US$7,400, and a NOMOS manual winding could already cost around US$2-3000. For someone looking at adding a Cartier to their collection, the stainless steel Santos-Dumont might just be the piece he’s looking for.