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The Wristwatch Takes Flight

As the story goes, in 1904, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to friend Louis Cartier about the unreliability and impracticality of using a pocket watch while flying. Therefore, the "Santos" watch was conceived by Louis Cartier to help aviators tell time mid-flight. Since then, this pioneering wristwatch has become an icon, defined by its geometric dial, harmoniously curved horns, and signature exposed screws.

The Santos' case was seemingly inspired by a square pocket watch Cartier had produced, but the highly legible dial design telegraphs a shift to Art Deco style that would define the 1920s and 1930s and continues to define Cartier's design aesthetic to this day.

The case was conceived to be robust and the screws that secured the glass were intended to recall the legs of the Eiffel Tower. Similarly, the blackened Roman numerals suggest the radial layout of Paris' streets and wide boulevards. When the Santos watch hit shelves in 1911, it was offered in various platinum and yellow gold models, all measuring 25mm x 35mm by today's standards.

The 1970s saw the introduction of new "luxury sport" watches highlighted by the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Cartier turned to the Santos during this time to capitalize on the new trend. In 1978, Cartier redesigned and renamed it the Santos de Cartier, giving the watch an integrated bracelet instead of the traditional leather strap. Cartier made the case and bracelet out of stainless steel, a change in course for the brand that had only worked with precious metals before this time.

Today, at Grand Caliber, we have a preowned complete large model Santos watch. This Santos features a mechanical movement with automatic winding. The steel case holds a 7-sided crown set with a faceted synthetic spinel, silvered opaline dial, steel sword-shaped hands, and sapphire crystal. 

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1 comment

  • Have Heuer Autavia Chrono three reg naked original owner family all works any interest

    Thomas Cain on

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