10 Things You Should Know About the Santos de Cartier And the Man Who Inspired It


Bold and fearless—these are two characteristics commonly associated with the Santos de Cartier timepiece. This classic wristwatch by the luxury watchmaker honors the values that drive past and present gamechangers share today: energy, generosity, and a fierce desire to share with the world. Here are interesting facts you should know about this timeless piece.

1. It was the first modern wristwatch.

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Crafted with precision, designed to transcend time. The Santos de Cartier watch. #SantosdeCartier #BoldandFearless

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From its unconventional square shape to its visible screws on the bezel, the Santos challenged all timepiece archetypes known in its time. Since its creation in 1904 and relaunch in the late 1970s, the Santos de Cartier has served as a benchmark for a type of relaxed elegance that holds to this day.

2. Louis Cartier named it after a prominent figure in the history of aviation, Alberto Santos-Dumont.

Alberto Santos-Dumont

A good friend to Louis Cartier, Alberto Santos-Dumont was a notable figure in the aviation world. As he was almost always in the air, he needed a wearable piece to help keep track of time, and the traditional pocket watch was not enough. Thus, as an homage to his friend, Cartier created the first purpose-designed modern wristwatch and christened it the “Santos.”


3. Alberto Santos-Dumont is the portrait of a modern man.


Santos-Dumont’s style, personality, and desire for innovation made him the figurehead of modern aeronautic engineering. At only 14 years old, he piloted the first hot air balloon and invented the La Demoiselle aircraft series, the predecessor of the airplane, a decade later. He had a functional yet trendy sense of style, which reflected the aesthetic of his generation: comfort catering to a new modern lifestyle.

4. Santos-Dumont was a pioneer in the aeronautic community.

He was a society man. He made sure his drawings and designs for flying machines were freely available for everyone to use and further develop. Santos-Dumont was responsible for designing 22 flying machines, including the airship, helicopter, monoplane, and biplane. Through his expertise, he reinvented manufacturing techniques such as the use of plywood and using piano strings for hot-air balloons.

5. The Santos de Cartier is a symbol for Santos-Dumont’s successes.

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The Santos de Cartier was revolutionary in how it defied the design and function of the modern wristwatch. In a group of people known for changing the world, Santos-Dumont is recognized for the strength of his independence and perseverance as a pioneering aviator. Functionality, the ability to design his own equipment or clothes to suit the modern lifestyle, and modernization were the trifecta that contributed to his successful career. His creations and achievements in aeronautics were encapsulated by the Santos de Cartier, such that its purpose and design make it a timeless piece that endures through all generations.

6. The watch once had a salmon-colored dial. 

To celebrate its 90th anniversary, Cartier released a new version of the beloved classic in 1996. The watch had a lovely vintage design that featured a striking salmon dial.

7. The two-tone steel design was launched in 1978. 

Before 1978, the Santos only came with a leather strap. Now, we recognize the steel watch as one of the model’s signature looks, along with the square shape, blued-steel hands, and exposed bezel screws.

8. The watch once had a rectangular case.

As iconic as its square case is, it is little known that one version of the Santos featured a “TV-shaped” case released in 2005.

9. The new generation of Santos de Ca.

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The newer renditions of the Santos de Cartier showcase two modern features: the QuickSwitch system and the SmartLink system. The former allows the wearer to change from one strap to another in seconds, while the latter feature lets users easily adjust the size of the bracelet without having to use tools.


10. This year, the Santos de Cartier underwent some design changes.

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At this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève (SIHH) 2019, Cartier released two revamped models: the Santos de Cartier Large Gradient Blue Dial and the Skeleton “Noctambule.” The first model features a dark blue dial with white Roman numerals and date aperture at six o’clock but still features the Chemin de fer or “railway” minute track design. The second model is inspired by a prototype created in 2006, the Tank Louis Cartier Noctambule. Translating to “night owl,” its skeletonized design forms the Roman numerals that glow green in the dark, with a plate painted in Super-Luminova. The Santos de Cartier Large Blue Dial is now available R stores and online, while the Noctambule will be available from the second half of 2019.

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