My first encounter with a Cartier Santos was in my late teens (early-mid 1990s). The owners of the local cafeteria annex snooker place were completely Cartier powered. Cartier Santos on the wrist, wearing Cartier glasses, fingers covered with Cartier rings, and on the other wrist Cartier bracelets and so on. I knew about this watch, but I can’t recall where this specific knowledge came from. I guess this is applicable for a lot of people that would recognize a Cartier Santos for just being a Cartier Santos. I actually do remember that I asked the end-boss of the cafeteria about his Santos watch. He proudly told me he was a Cartier fan, and collected many things Cartier. When I dig a bit deeper in my memories, I think the guy told me he bought it from this retailer, in The Netherlands. I lived in a small village in the east part of the country, not a Cartier dealer in the area, so I was amazed he had to travel quite a bit for this Cartier habit.
Somehow, the Cartier Santos doesn’t only make me remember these fine hardworking people from the local cafeteria, it was also the choice of wrist gear for movie actors, TV celebrities and, well, gangsters. Somehow the Cartier Santos disappeared a bit from the stage, the watches were relatively small (although Cartier did introduce the Santos 100 in in 2004) and in 2016 the collection was completely discontinued. A pity, because from a design perspective, the Cartier Santos is definitely an icon. It is actually a watch that I considered a couple of times, especially the Santos Galbee XL. However, it remained to be a relatively small watch. The Cartier Santos 100 was never an option for me, as it was a bit too far away from the original model.
When the Cartier Santos was discontinued two years ago, it was immediately clear to us that this was kinda ridiculous. It would only be a matter of time that Cartier would re-introduce the classic Santos, with a new in-house movement. Before, the Cartier Santos Galbee was powered by an ETA movement and it seems there’s no place anymore within Cartier (and Richemont in general) for these Swatch Group owned movements. If you can do the math, 2018 had to be the year that this re-introduction would take place of the new Cartier Santos with in-house movement. A 40th anniversary is a perfect reason to commemorate one of the greatest watch designs. Although some people are very certain that Gérald Genta had his hands in the design of the Cartier Santos (bezel with screws, integrated bracelet, crown shape), this has never been confirmed by either Genta or Cartier. We also should not forget that in 1978, these ingredients were used by more watches (than only Genta’s designs).
To be brutally honest with you, I was very excited about the upcoming Cartier Santos. It was actually the watch I was looking forward to the most, before going to the SIHH in Geneva last January. It was pretty obvious – at least to me – that Cartier would be loyal to the original design, but that it would have an in-house Cartier movement and perhaps that it would have a bit more modern dimensions. It had all of these things, and luckily enough I had a separate appointment with Cartier to try on the new Santos before we had the group presentation. During these group presentations, a lot of watches are being shown and passed around, and I wanted to be sure to have enough time to study and try the new Santos.
Together with Bert (who took care of all the photography), we sat down with Cartier and had a look at the new Santos models as well as some other models. The new Cartier Santos comes in in two sizes: medium and large. This might imply that a small version will follow later on. Anyway, the medium sized Cartier Santos is about the same as the previous Santos, the Galbee XL version. The medium size has no date and the large size has a date window at 6 o’clock. The large version measures 39.8 x 47.5mm and the medium version measures 35.1 x 41.9 mm.
Both versions have the in-house developed and manufactured Cartier caliber 1847 MC movement. This movement has a power reserve of 42 hours. The Cartier Santos will be available in steel, gold/steel, gold and with bracelet and straps. A total overview of what will be available can be found here, in our initial publication on the new Santos.
When I tried the new Cartier Santos on the wrist I was immediately smitten by it. Great iconic design, now in a decent men’s size. Especially if you have, like me, large wrists. The Santos Large fits perfectly with its 39.8mm (width) x 47.5mm (length) dimensions.The bracelet fits like a glove and can now be resized very easily, by using the pushers and pins.
Just like almost every other Richemont Group brand I saw in Geneva, Cartier also has a system (they call it the Cartier QuickSwitch system) for swapping bracelets and straps without having to use a specific tool. Very easy, but somehow it also frightens me a bit. If the construction doesn’t work properly for whatever reason, there’s the risk of losing your watch. If a manufacturer ensures the bracelet is connected to a watch with screws or spring, and you don’t and can’t touch it, the risk is much smaller in my opinion. However, it is an easy system to use and I assume that Cartier tested this day & night before putting it on the market. It makes me wonder why you would change the bracelet of the new Cartier Santos, because it is simply stunning. However, that said, Cartier offers an extra strap free of charge with every purchase of the Santos.
Isn’t there anything to criticize on the new Cartier Santos? Well, there certainly is. When I tried the full gold and full steel versions, it didn’t really bother me, but especially when you try the bi-color version of the Santos (and that’s to me the one that reminds me most of the 1978 original), you will immediately notice that the shape of the bezel changed. Where the lugs are located, the bezel suddenly changes direction and complete cover the upper and lower side of the watch. I can’t help it to wonder why on earth someone changed the shape of the bezel of such an iconic design? What were they thinking? It looks way better if we pull the upper and lower sides of the bezel a bit more towards the bracelet? Makes absolutely no sense to me and it actually ruined a good design, especially for the bi-color version. The steel and full gold models are more forgiving, as there is not a big contrast between the bezel and the rest of the case.
In the end, I believe that this new Santos will be a good seller for Cartier (again). The sizes are good and the quality is really there. It feels awesome on the wrist and the finishing of case and bracelet are very impressive. The pricing is also very fair, starting at €5500 (excluding VAT) for the large stainless steel version. However, I would have loved to put the gold/steel version (€8300) on my wishlist – and very high up there, mind you – but the new bezel made it a no-go for me. I just can’t wrap my head around why they have changed this important design aspect of an icon. It is for me hard to believe that the managing board at Cartier thought this was a good idea and an improvement over the original design. Because it is not. It more or less forces purists to opt for the full steel or full gold version(s). I love the Cartier Santos though, even this weird looking bezel can’t change that.
More information via Cartier on-line.
Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in... read more