Nostalgia rules at Cartier this year, with the reinvention of the Santos model created for a legendary aviator at the turn of the 20th century.

Looking sleeker, slimmer and very modern today, Santos de Cartier has been part of the House’s permanent collection for more than a century, its industrial chic sensibility resolutely intact regardless of the change in time, trend and iteration. This renewed focus has even led Cartier to appoint Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, who shot to fame in films like October Sky, Brokeback Mountain and Nocturnal Animals, as the face of Santos de Cartier. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gyllenhaal is the first ever celebrity to star in a Cartier campaign – and, for a luxury maison founded in 1847, that’s a huge honour!

With so much excitement surrounding Santos right now, it is time to get reacquainted with the classic icon.

Also see: Photos from the La Panthere De Cartier Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur

1. It was named after an early icon in aviation

Alberto Santos-Dumont is an aviation pioneer in many ways. For one, he designed 22 flying machines including the predecessor to the aeroplane, La Demoiselle, in 1907. He was the first person to pilot a hot air balloon in 1897, the first to fly around the Eiffel Tower, and the first to break three records for a “heavier-than-air” aircraft when he took his 14 Bis biplane into flight.

A descendant of a Brazilian family of coffee producers, he is revered in his birth country as the inventor of the modern airplane, more so than the Wright Brothers. And since he achieved most of his accomplishments in Paris, he has a street named after him in the city.

Louis Cartier, the grandson of founder Louis-Francois, forged a friendship with legendary aviator and engineer at the turn of the 20th century. One day, Santos-Dumont shared with Cartier about the difficulty of checking the time with a pocket watch while flying. The conversation led Cartier to create what is now known as the Santos wristwatch.

Also read: 3 Classic Aviation Watches That Will Take You Back In Time

2. It is said to be the earliest wristwatch made for men

You may be surprised to learn that the first wristwatch ever invented wasn’t created for a man but for a woman. That privilege went to Caroline Murat, sister of Napolean Bonaparte, who commissioned Breguet to make the piece in 1810. Breguet delivered it in 1812. Pocket watches remained the standard time instrument for men for almost another century until Dumont’s custom Cartier watch in 1904.

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Square bezel, symmetrical lines and sapphire-set crown define the Santos model. (Photo: Cartier)
Above Square bezel, symmetrical lines and sapphire-set crown define the Santos model. (Photo: Cartier)

3. An unconventional design that shook up the industry

With its square bezel and eight functional screws deliberately left on display, the first Santos was a rebel against the classical round shape of pocket watches. The pared-down symmetry was matched with a square railway track in the dial centre, Roman numerals and sapphire-set winding crown – design codes that have since become signatures of the Santos timepiece.


4. It transcends time

For 114 years old, Santos doesn’t feel aged at all. Practical yet elegant, Cartier has only made it more desirable with thoughtful updates for the modern men. The new collection replaces the Santos 100 that was launched in 2004 and now comes with two new mechanisms (patents pending) developed by Cartier.

The first is the QuickSwitch system that allows one to change straps with ease, be it steel or gold bracelets as well as calf and alligator leather. Then there is the SmartLink that adjusts the length of a metal bracelet to the nearest link without the use of a tool

Performance-wise, the 1847 MC automatic calibre is a new movement equipped with anti-magnetic measures including nickel phosphorus components and a paramagnetic alloy shield.

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The QuickSwitch strap system. (Photo: Cartier)
Above The QuickSwitch strap system. (Photo: Cartier)
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