In 1904, Louis Cartier, grandson of the founder of the House of Cartier, Louis-Francois Cartier, made history with the world’s first pilot watch. A friend of Louis, the Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, had mentioned to him that it was very unpractical to use a pocket watch while piloting an airplane. As a solution, Louis developed a wristwatch with a square bezel that could be comfortably worn on Alberto’s wrist via a leather strap. And with that, one of the world’s first wristwatches was born. Louis went on to make an agreement with Edmond Jaeger to mass-produce movements for the watch and the Cartier Santos was presented to the public for sale in 1911. The Santos timepiece quickly took off and has remained as one of the brand’s flagship watch collections.
For over a century, Cartier had developed a number of Santos watches for both men and women. Many of these editions maintained most of the design elements of the original Santos, such as, the curved square shape, exposed screws, blue hands, and Roman numerals, yet reinterpreted the watch in several styles to keep up with current trends. An extremely popular edition of the Santos was the Cartier Santos 1978 crafted for the first time in a combination of steel and gold, thereby making the collection more affordable for a larger audience. The Cartier Santos 100 was introduced in 2004 on the legendary watch’s 100th anniversary sporting larger cases in response to the prevailing trends. The Santos Demoiselle, named after a series of aircrafts built by Alberto, is the smaller sized Santos timepiece made exclusively for ladies and is oftentimes adorned with diamonds.
Depending on the specific models, the Cartier Santos watches are equipped with both quartz and mechanical movements. The Cartier Santos-Dumont line is powered by manual wound mechanical movements, such as the 9611 MC caliber found in the Santos-Dumont Skeleton. In 2016, Cartier re-launched the Santos 100 Carbon with the in-house 1847 MC automatic caliber, underlining Cartier’s commitment to developing more in-house calibers for their timepieces.
Not only a legend in the House of Cartier, but also to the watch world at large, the pioneering Santos watch is a little piece of history. A myriad of styles of used Cartier Santos luxury watches, from pre-owned Santos 100 to secondhand Santos-Dumont to used diamond Santos Demoiselle, can be had for lower prices in the secondary market.