Cartier Santos Automatic/Quartz Steel, Gold Watch Review: 100, Demoiselle, Dumont
Santos watches constitute another classic Cartier department: a collection that accommodates a range of movements, two-tone steel&gold configurations and, perhaps more importantly, a long and unique history. The iconic design of a soft-squared bezel flanked by muscular, forceps-like slanted lugs left a lasting impression on generations of watchmakers, and engendered dozens of emulations across the industry.
Adventurous and avant-guard, Santos is held from steering too far into fantastical territory by a strong combination of visual and architectural traits; the screws that attach the bezel to the case literally seem to hold the design together. Then, they themselves become decorative elements (later reflected by Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Baume&Mercier Riviera).
Despite the series of careful aesthetic weight and balance, Santos seems to conceal a few little doors that lead into some grotesque garden – an elusive quality that no doubt lends the watches that particular charm which made them so popular and desirable.
The various two-tone models, the use of color, be it on the dials or the bands, the readiness to experiment with form and materials – these traits reaffirm the versatility and depth of Santos collection.
Interestingly, Santos brand of design has a practical explanation. Created at the turn of the 19th century, and offering a new, modern type of time measuring accessory – namely, the first wrist watch – Santos incorporated all the latest trends of industrial styling.
Because steam was still the chief source of energy, considered by many as the pivot of progress, steam related objects – rivets, clinches, metal sheets, pipes – captured the imagination of contemporary designers, who translated and stylized these shapes and forms to fit into fashion accessories. Eventually, this became the source of the screws, brick bracelets, and pipe-like bezel twists of Santos watches – with, of course, a “futuristic streak” injected by then artists.
In a way, these timepieces embody steampunk – a futuristic aesthetic movement that never really took off from the sketchbooks, destined to generate a trend in alternative science fiction. It's a nostalgic, yet at the same time classic design that continues to captivate people's minds.
100 is by far the most familiar Santos line. Cartier take a creative, even liberal approach to current manufacture, introducing off-beat materials (palladium, rubber) into the case, experimenting with color (ladies pieces in particular), and calibers (chronograph movements).
Depending on materials, each watch can function as either semi-casual semi-dressy timepiece, as a sports/diving instrument, or as a pure luxury timer – Cartier lavish gold and diamonds on dedicated models for that purpose.
Dumont and Demoiselle offer more strictly traditional formal/business and jewelry (including haute joaillerie) oriented watches respectively, securing the collection's reach into familiar luxury provinces.