Cartier revamps its Santos timepiece with a more streamlined design while preserving its iconic personality

Cartier has mastered the art of reviving its classic timepieces, tweaking them just enough so that they’re fresh, relevant and more practical, all the while preserving the distinctive features that made them icons.

In 2017, we saw a rejuvenated Panthère collection presented in a wide range of metals, finishes and patterns. Also last year, to celebrate the Tank’s 100th anniversary, Cartier released a series of models and launched a stainless-steel version of the Tank Américaine for the first time.

This year, it’s the Cartier de Santos that's making a comeback. One of the first wristwatches ever made, the Santos was conceived for the Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, who challenged his friend Louis Cartier—founder of the French maison—to create a watch that could be strapped to his wrist so he could tell the time while flying.

Bearing a distinctive square-shaped barrel case with an art deco design that was well ahead of its time, the Santos was born in 1904.

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Fast-forward to 2018 and Cartier presents an improved, sleeker version of the Santos. Marie-Laure Cérède, director of watchmaking at Cartier, says the brand treads carefully when it comes to revisiting iconic models.

“From a creative standpoint, it’s a huge challenge to ‘reformulate’ a timeless watch,” she says. “When you’re working with a design that has withstood decades—a century even—of fashion changes, there’s no room for errors. As such we follow a very specific and thought-out process of introducing improvements to these much-loved classics.”

The first order of business was to determine the values Cartier wanted to communicate in the 2018 re-edition of the Santos. And those were refinement, excellent ergonomics and adaptability. 

“We wanted a simplified, more streamlined design and thought that the profile was a good place to start,” Cérède says. “We made it sleeker to achieve a more compact shape, and had the bezel integrated into the case and bracelet, so unlike in our previous designs where the bezel is but a decorative insert, it’s now a part of the case. The bezel also now has sharper angles to emphasise the square case of the Santos, its shape being a big part of the DNA of the model.”

To cater to a more active lifestyle, the new Santos introduces interchangeable straps that are fitted with an invisible mechanism inspired by the Roadster, Cartier’s first watch to have such a feature. Further, the bracelets can be adjusted for size, with links easily removed or added without the use of tools. And, finally, ticking inside the new Santos is an improved movement with enhanced anti-magnetic properties.

The overall aesthetic of the new Santos remains the same, with its square-shaped case and eight screws on the bezel. And thanks to the screw-down assembly of the case, it guarantees water resistance up to 100 metres.

“At Cartier, we don’t reinvent just for the sake of it,” Cérède says. “There must be a purpose and a clear goal and, in the case of the Santos, it was all about maximum comfort and adapting to our more active, on-the-go lifestyles.”

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