In 1904, Louis Cartier was approached by his friend and famed aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont. He needed a watch he could easily operate while flying his aircraft, as his pocket watch just didn't suffice. From that conversation, one of watchmaking history's greatest creations was born: the Santos. Since then, the Santos continues to be one of the most beloved models produced by the Cartier brand. Buying a Cartier Santos watch means owning one of the first wristwatches ever made for the civilian market. Enjoy our wide selection of exceptional used Cartier Santos watches for sale.
The Santos is not only a significant watch for the Cartier brand but also for the watch industry as a whole. The creation of the Santos spurred both the birth of the pilot’s watch and the popularization of the wristwatch. It all began in 1904. Legend has it that Louis Cartier was enjoying a drink with his friend and aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont. As the two were chatting, Santos-Dumont commented on his need for a watch that could be read easily while flying. His pocket watch wasn’t ideal for tracking flight times and was too unwieldy to maneuver during flight. So, he asked Cartier if he could design an alternative.
At the time, wristwatches were reserved for military use or worn as pieces of women’s jewelry. Pocket watches were still in vogue for men. To meet Santos-Dumont’s needs, Cartier fashioned a more masculine wristwatch with a leather band that fastened with a buckle. It was then that the Cartier Santos was born.
Santos-Dumont was not just a prominent figure in aviation. He was well-known worldwide, and people took note of his new timepiece. Soon, the stereotypes of wristwatches as a jewelry item began to dissipate, and the Santos began to grow in popularity. Cartier quickly recognized that he needed to be able to mass produce the Santos. So, he decided to partner with Jaeger-LeCoultre to provide the movement. Still, it was not until 1911 that the Santos was made available to the public.
The design of the Santos only saw minor adjustments for the next several decades. Then, in the 1970s, the brand introduced a variation that ultimately became highly influential in the watchmaking industry. It was a simple, less formal, and more affordable iteration featuring two-tone as opposed to the original gold. This particular Santos model was important because it signified a new era for Cartier, one that embraced the concept of affordable luxury. Their approach instantly resonated with the younger generation of watch buyers, and the Santos’s popularity soared once again. Soon, other brands began to make similar variations on their models, and the Santos became one of the most highly emulated watches on the market.
For the next several decades, the Santos continued to hold a strong presence for the brand and within the industry. Cartier released a number of new variations, most notably the Santos 100 in 2004 that commemorated the model’s 100th anniversary.
Despite the success of the Santos into the new millennium, the model started to vanish around 2016. It was sold out in stores around the globe, including official Cartier retailers. People were perplexed and wondered what was happening with the iconic model. Then, in 2018, Cartier fans rejoiced with the long awaited reemergence of the Santos collection.
Since then, the brand has started to push the bounds of watchmaking with the collection. In 2019, they added a chronograph variation as well as a fully lumed skeletonized version. The latter is the Santos de Cartier Skeleton ADLC Noctambule, which means “night owl.” It features a totally unique skeletonized baseplate designed to stand in as the dial. Cartier has completely blacked out the entire construction in amorphous diamond-like carbon (ADLC). This serves as a stark contrast against the Super-LumiNova-filled movement and hands.
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