The Cartier Santos de Cartier Cronograph watch hands-on
The year was 2007 and an authorized AD for Cartier at the time, Monetti Jewelry and Watches, based in Naples, put one day a Santos 100 Chronograph XL on display, while I was just passing by. Those days, Cartier came with the boldest Santos ever conceived, at a time when big watches were trendy. I don't know whether the Santos 100 XL Chronograph has been successful or not and, to be honest with you, I think it's meaningless but I'm pretty sure instead that the three-hands variant has been a hero of the brand for a long time and still is highly sought-after.
Present and future of the Santos de Cartier
There has always been a Santos de Cartier in the brand's catalog. Last year Cartier launched a fully renewed collection and introduced a new design language along with some new cool features. The 2018 Santos de Cartier is more wearable, far more customizable and technically refined than ever before but not entirely in keeping with the original Santos, in my humble opinion (the new bezel, for example, has not yet grown on me).
According to the collection's new product launch, Cartier was expected to introduce, this year, the chronograph, which confirms once again how creative the French team has been and, conversely, how far has the new design gone from the original style. Maybe it's me, but I still associate a Santos to the original squared design conceived by Santos-Dumont.
A two-button chronograph that looks like a single push-piece chronograph
The Cartier Santos is under my radar since 2007, and the 2019 version is no different. I always liked the Santos 100 XL Chronograph from an aesthetic point of view, extra-large size included, rather than from a technical standpoint, whereas when it comes to the new Santos De Cartier Chronograph is the other way round.
There's no doubt the new Santos de Cartier Chronograph thicks all the boxes regarding technical refinement, it's geared towards the purists of the chronograph and has been designed to mimic the look and feel of the time-only version.
However, the dial looks a bit weird to me. The designers have modified the manufacture caliber 1904-CH MC to power what seems, at first sight, a mono-pusher chronograph: the button placed on the left side of the case starts and stops the Chrono hand, while the crown resets the counter with simple pressure. Brilliant.
Technically refined, but aesthetically controversial?
When the new collection was released last year, it became clear that Cartier intended to make a clean break with the past: the iconic rectangular bezel had been re-shaped, the Quick Switch device adopted along with a new system to easily remove links from the bracelet. The end result is that the new Santos is today regarded to as the easiest-to-customize luxury watch on the market.
Again, the "issue" is the dial: the 12-hour and 30-minute registers are oversized and too big, thus making the Santos de Cartier Chronograph look original but too beefy.
I think this dial actually works well when mated to the rose gold case, but makes the whole package excessive, on the two-tone version instead.
A lost opportunity or a step forward?
If you want to innovate, you have to risk, and finding the right balance between failure and success is often a hard task. Cartier has reaffirmed, with the new Santos de Cartier Chronograph, that the Santos de Cartier is the most modern interpretation of the Santos so far whereas, by unveiling the latest Santos Dumont, has added a collection that is a direct nod to the original Santos.
I would have gone for a standard dial design; nevertheless, I have to admit that each model is rich in details and the watches' finishings are top notch. Finally, operating the chronograph is a pleasant experience: starts and stops are smooth and precise, thanks to a column wheel mechanism with a vertical clutch.
Thoughts, prices, and availability
The Cartier Santos de Cartier Chronograph will hit stores and boutiques next April, in time for summer. On a daily basis, the steel version with ADLC treated bezel is the all-rounder and the most accessible new version, retailing at under €9,000 approximate; my suggestion is to go for the steel and gold one, whose price is around €12,000. The legacy of the original Santos is here.
The most balanced one is the rose gold Santos, but it is for a few people, as it is priced at circa € 25,000. Would I buy one? Before taking this decision, I would wear it for some time.
Additionally, Cartier has not yet launched a full steel version, which sooner or later will be added to the offering in my opinion and I'm more than curious to find out if they're making a Chronograph with a blue dial as they did already with the Santos Automatic later last year. That would certainly help me step through and buy one.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting by Peter Tung)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®