The Cartier Santos de Cartier 2018 watches hands-on
All watch-making enthusiasts have two periods of the year circled in red on their calendars, mid-January (SIHH) and mid-March (Baselworld). Now it's the turn of the Salon international de la Haute-Horlogerie in Geneva that has brought, as always, many new features, especially from the Cartier maison. Above all stands out the launch of new Cartier Santos 2018, which will replace the "Santos 100" collection, launched for the first time in 2004. A very long cycle for this collection thus ends, a new one opens that foresees the launch of a Cartier Santos Chronograph at the SIHH 2019.
The Cartier Santos is an icon of the brand, and boasts a more than centennial history. It was introduced in 1904 at the request of the Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos, father of modern aviation together with the Wright brothers; he wanted a watch that could easily be consulted during flights. It is, therefore, not only one of the first watches in history to boast an inscription, but also one of the first pilot watches, although different from those we are accustomed to, that had precise specifications and were intended for military use. As time went by, it became an icon of style and elegance. How many times have you seen the square case and the screws of the bracelet reproduced on other watches? None, except in some vulgar attempt at imitation.
The renewal of an icon brings with it some natural risks, but Cartier has carried out targeted interventions and has brought about some relevant innovations, further increasing the value of the Cartier Santos 2018 and making it extremely up-to-date and appealing, even to the youngest and to those whose wrists are not yet ready for a Cartier Santos 100 XL. There are two available versions of the Cartier Santos 2018, a "Medium" size, mainly designed for the female public (or for slender wrists in general), and a "Large" one, for the male counterpart (ladies could also approach the Large, as they already do for many watches), which also presents the absolute novelty of the calendar at 6 o'clock. The case has been totally redesigned and the new dimensions are 35,1 by 41,9 by 8,83mm for the medium and 39,8 by 47,5 by 9,08mm for the large respectively (width - length from lug to lug - thickness).
The most obvious change is the drastic reduction in thickness, which considerably modernizes the watch, both from an engineering to a stylistic point of view, resulting more wearable than the Santos XL, and placing it among the first choices for those who want a sporty "dress-watch" or something similar to that. Despite this latest feature, 100 meters of waterproofing are still guaranteed, and to this a resistance to magnetic fields is also added.
Another important aesthetic novelty on the Cartier Santos 2018 is the modification of the bezel. As one can see, it is no longer a square ring in gold with a constant section, but it extends towards the bracelet thus reducing the gap between the case and the bracelet/strap, and increase the feeling of an integrated bracelet. Purists may not appreciate this detail, but I must say that it works very well, as it gives the feeling of a greater wrapping of the watch-bracelet set (much more integrated design) on the wrist. We understand then that the reduction in thickness has been necessary to create a Cartier Santos 2018 with a combined design, with the bracelet, much more integrated, a necessary choice considering the design of the bezel.
As I wrote earlier, there needs to be a certain balance between innovation and tradition, and to consolidate tradition, in this case the recognizability, position and number of screws (on the bezel and the bracelet) have remained unchanged. No Santos could be defined as such without this detail, which identifies both modern Cartier Santos 2018 as well as vintage ones. The dial is white with the indexes expressed in Roman numerals, sword-shaped hands in light blued steel, such as those on the Cartier Drive de Cartier about which I wrote recently, and the color of these hands is evoked by the classical blue cabochon set in the crown. It is the typical Santos dial, very classical and readable, with the tidbit of the "Cartier" inscription almost mysterious within the index at 7 o'clock, a detail that I adore.
The caliber that drives this watch is the reliable 1847 MC with automatic winding and 4Hz, already present on the Drive, with about two days of power reserve (more could have been dared in this case) and, for the first time, anti-magnetic. It is not fully clear which technologies have been used to make the new Cartier Santos 2018 anti-magnetic, but recent developments within the group, as well as the sharing of technologies, accelerated compared to the past, could suggest something similar to what Baume et Mercier has done with the Baumatic, but it has not been confirmed.
If the innovations presented so far were not enough, the "killer-detail" that will make you fall in love with the Cartier Santos 2018 is the total re-engineering of the bracelet, obtained with the introduction of QuickSwitch and SmartLink systems. In the watchmaking field, systems for the easy replacement of bracelets (or straps) and the mesh are not a novelty, but their application to a luxury watch is not as common as one might think, but it is precisely the field in which the need was most felt. It allows for a great customization and adaptability to every occasion, with a few simple gestures, even for the most inexperienced.
QuickSwitch is a spring system that keeps the bracelet/strap fastened to the lugs, allowing for the hooking and release of the latter with a simple push of a button at the back, and without any play between the parts. The grip of the anchorage is excellent, we have tested it at the SIHH 2018 and with the purchase of the watch, a leather strap is also supplied as a replacement, in addition to the canonical bracelet. SmartLink is, on the other hand, an ingenious way to add or remove meshes without the aid of any tools.
It consists of a small button at the back of some links, that allows you to release the metal bar that acts as a zipper and, therefore, to easily adjust the size of the bracelet to perfection according to your wrist size. Both of these systems are designed to maximize the client's experience and satisfaction, making your Cartier Santos 2018 unique with a great possibility of customization. Cartier sells watches also through its e-commerce and not always those who buy one have the time (and wish) to turn to the brand's watch shops or boutiques to perform this type of service. Finally, the tangible risk that those who have to eliminate one or two meshes will scratch the bracelet is reduced.
The available versions of the Cartier Santos 2018, like any self-respecting Cartier, are many: steel, steel and 18kt gold, 18kt yellow gold and 18kt rose gold, all solid with a metal bracelet and a leather strap (the rose gold version even supplies 2 straps). There are then some totally skeletonized versions with manual winding calibers, and the indexes that act as support for the visible movement. They are really beautiful, but have a different price and sales target, we enter straight into the realm of high-end watchmaking. The range of choices is therefore wide, such as that of price. We goes from the $6250 for the steel Cartier Santos 2018 "Medium", to about $60,000 for the skeleton in rose gold. A 10X that meets all needs, waiting for Cartier to also make a Cartier Santos Chrono version.
After 100 years of history, the Cartier Santos 2018 is incredibly up-to-date, thanks to the numerous innovations introduced, to the updating of its design and to the staggering increase in its versatility. More could have probably been dared on the mechanical side, considering Cartier's capability as a watchmaking company: two days of power reserve are indeed not enough. It's a great classic and someone my age could call me "old-fashioned" for what I'm about to say: I'm 24 years old and I would by a Cartier Santos 2018 with my eyes closed; if Cartier's goal was to approach a younger audience with a spending capacity in the range of below 10k€, he hit the target. The other ingredients are its iconic design and the most famous case in watchmaking history, a must for every watchmaker enthusiastic.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Andrea Frigerio @Horbiter®