Cartier Just Reissued a Classic Pilot’s Watch from the Early 1900s

A watch from 1904 returns, refined.

Cartier-Santos Gear Patrol Lead Full

This week, the Palexpo facility in Geneva, Switzerland, will become the center of the watch world for the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH, a luxury watch show rivaled only by BaselWorld in relevance and prestige. We’ve got a team on the ground, there to bring you the most exciting releases. Follow our coverage here, and also be sure to check out Instagram. We’ll be posting to our feed throughout the week.

Upshot: Cartier reissued and refined one of its most iconic watches: the Santos de Cartier. Introduced in 1904, it was created at the request Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos who wanted a watch he could wear while flying. Thus, the Santos is claimed by Cartier to be first dedicated pilot’s watch ever made and one of the first-ever dedicated wristwatches at that. So, yeah, this is a big moment for Cartier, especially given that the new Santos debuts the brand’s new QuickSwitch and SmartLink systems, which allow for strap changes and bracelet adjustments on the fly with no tools needed.

Who It’s For: Cartier’s Art Deco aesthetic might suggest an aim toward an older clientele. But the fact that the brand has reissued several pieces suggests it’s trying to appeal to a younger generation drawn to a vintage aesthetic. Case in point: last year’s the Drive Extra Flat, which rocked a sleek profile. Giving the Santos a similarly refined aesthetic will almost certainly be a boon to that strategy as well.


First Impressions: Cartier’s new Santos is more lithe thanks to a reworked case that’s around 9mm thick. The square bezel of the old model is gone and replaced by a rounded one that tapers into the lugs. The length of the watch was also stretched. There are changes to the internals, too: the Santos now features Cartier’s recently-developed in-house 1847 MC automatic.

One of the most interesting additions is the user-friendly bracelet. Its QuickSwitch system allows wearers to remove the bracelet and swap in a strap at the touch of the button. This isn’t particularly novel (for example, Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas has a similar system), but it is useful. What is novel, however, is the SmartLink system which allows the wearer to adjust their bracelet size without any tools. Normally resizing a metal bracelet is a frustrating affair, requiring a tool to push out the pins holding the links together. On the Santos, however, each link has a button that detaches it from the rest of the bracelet.

Insight: The Santos comes in four variations: all-steel, two-tone (steel and yellow gold), pink-gold or yellow-gold. And, it’s available in two sizes: medium (35.1mm wide) and large (39.8mm wide). While the larger timepiece is meant to appeal to men, we found that the medium variant looked more reserved on the wrist. You’ll save money there, too. For example, the steel version in the smaller size is $6,250, a full $600 less than the larger version. Expect those savings to compound on the precious metal versions.

Learn More: Here

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