Cartier is a word like gold that conjures thoughts of prestige, wealth, and taste. The name alone is worth much, adding a thick degree of immediate attention whenever it is applied to an item. Maybe you think that is an unfair characterization? Consider your rebuttal carefully. Think of your family and friends, and the possible strangers on the street who when asked whether they desire something from Cartier would respond with anything other than "of course." I got to play with one of these magical little items for a while. One that is close to entry level model from the brand, though still pricey, and still Cartier. This is the newer Cartier Roadster S. Part of the brand's desire to keep their product name relevant in anticipation of some years where typically high spending in their boutiques will likely wane a bit. Plus, it is good for any luxury brand to have as full a product line as they can - from the entry level to the super high-end. Cartier is not only pushing higher and higher with their elaborate and thoughtful in-house made movement based watches, but are interested in being more accessible to people on the lower end of the luxury scale.
Saying "lower-end" is a bit of a misnomer. The Cartier Roadster S still starts at $4,200, high roller figures to many. At the same time, a Cartier watch is worth saving up for compared to many other timepieces. Cartier makes a pretty polished watch. They have been doing so for a while, and mistakes they make in design are few and far between. Serious watch lovers are going to be most interested in pieces like their new Calibre collection that includes a brand new in-house made automatic movement, but Roadster fans will like this new watch. The Roadster S is certainly a Roadster, but a scaled down version. Further, people who find the original Roadster watch to be a bit strange in design will like the Roadster S. It retains the same shape, but with a different personality. I tend to think of it is a good "starter Cartier." It is not going to be easy to go from higher-end Cartier to the Roadster S, but the opposite situation in easily feasible. Nevertheless, the watch is a simple, yet highly satisfying timepiece for the vast majority of watch wearers.
The Roadster S loses the complex sapphire crystal with magnifier lens that is visually part of the crown assembly. It also does away with the screws on the face of the watch as well as the a slightly more complex case construction. While most Cartier watches have blue crown cabochon crystals, the Roadster line doesn't. In essence the Roadster is Cartier's version of the tonneau-shaped (sort of barrel-shaped) watch. They have done it well, and while I don't typically like this watch shape, I like the Roadster. Coming in various sizes, Roadster watches have "small, medium, large, and extra large sizes." Cartier considers the Roadster S to be large. I am going to place it in the medium category though. While the case is technically about 46mm wide, that is due to the rather large crown and bulge in the middle of the case. As you can see the Roadster S is not a large watch. Though it is very comfortable. Not too thick, the curved case sits on the wrist without any fuss. It hugs your arm as well, and does not slide around (at least not on the rubber strap version). Looking at the side of the case you can see that the whole thing is curved, even the sapphire crystal (just a bit). The steel case enjoys a high quality polish on par with Cartier's reputation. Many people who find the original Roadster watch a bit odd in style will likely find the Roadster S easier on the eye. Though I must admit the regular Roadster is a style that grows on you.
Cartier offers the Roadster S in two styles - an all steel version on a metal bracelet, and this steel model with and aDLC bezel on a rubber strap. This version is the most sporty piece by far - likely one of the most sporty watches Cartier has ever released. Light, and agile on the wrist, it is a good watch for activity. The rubber strap can be adjusted to be tight, making for a secure fit. Just a few years ago Cartier started to play with aDLC - a slightly different application of DLC (diamond like carbon) coating. It goes over steel (or other metals) and makes it black (or ostensibly other colors as well). aDLC is good because (if done right) it gives a uniform look, and is very scratch resistant. To my knowledge, Cartier doesn't "do black" often, and aDLC is one of their first ventures into having black timepieces. Their first was an aDLC coated version of a Santos watch. Only the rubber strapped version of the Roadster S comes with the aDLC coated bezel. It has a nicely brushed finish to contrast with the polished case. It makes for a good look that runs into the black rubber strap. The strap is patterned a bit (only at the end parts) to look like the links on the metal bracelets. The steel bracelet version of the watch has a slightly smaller version of the bracelet used on the standard Roadster. A curious style bracelet with long, thin metal links.
Dial is very impressive, and totally Cartier. The sapphire crystal, while curved a bit, is exceptionally clear. Lots of AR coating and a perfectly even crystal thickness ensures a totally glare and distortion free look in most viewing angles. Other watch makers need to look to Cartier to model their crystals and AR coatings. You'd barely known anything was over the dial at times. Using a slightly more simple version of the Roadster dial style, the Roman numerals and inner hour marker ring make the watch enjoyable to read. Overall the dial on the Roadster S is very similar to that on the Roadster. There is a new outline on the ring of where the bullet shaped magnifier lens used to be to retain that shape. I love that Cartier uses a black colored disc for the date with a silver colors font. Super classy. The watch hands are simple and legible, with applied SuperLumiNova.
Inside the watch is Cartier's automatic Calibre 049 - which I believe is a base ETA 2892 movement. A solid movement that works fine, but isn't anything fancy. It is a good movement to have in a sport watch given its relative level of durability. While this is no action-adventure watch, with its lighter weight, 100 meters of water resistance, and secure fit on the wrist, you could easily be "active" with the watch and not have it impede you too much. Though I tend to not recommend people do wild things in nice watches.
I don't have many issues with the watch, but I have a few quips about the rubber strap. One thing I do like is Cartier's use of quick release on the case for the straps. You can easily remove the straps (or bracelet) without any tools from the case. That is a good touch, and the system on this watch works well. Actually, the strap release mechanism was developed and patented by IWC, which is the system used here I believe. IWC is a sister Richemont Group watch brand along with Cartier, and IWC licensed this technology to Cartier. I included a nice closeup image of the strap release mechanism. The strap is fine, but the clasp is where the issue is. First, the system of tucking in strap excess to hide it is good in theory. However it uses a basic tension system here with nothing really securing it. What this means is that the strap will loosen over time, or if pulled on. Forcing you to "tighten" it. The straps tuck in on both sides of the clasp to ensure you can position the clasp at the bottom of your wrist. Wearing the watch, I found that I needed to occasionally adjust it for a good fit. It is easy enough to do, but isn't a perfect system for a luxury watch. This isn't an issue of course with a metal bracelet, but at least with the strap you can afford yourself a more precise fit. Next, the excess rubber strap creeps out from under the strap. Not a big deal, but you will see it coming out a bit from time to time. Last, I wish Cartier would develop locking clasps. They use tension clasps on most of their watches. These simply use a bit of pressure to 'snap" a clasp closed and into place. A jolt can undo the clasp, or wear and tear over time can make them fit less securely. Rolex on the other hand is know for nicely engineered locking clasps and bracelets. Cartier should really look into developing such things for themselves. I am not an expert on every Cartier deployment clasp out there, but they need some (or more) locking clasps on their watches. The exposed clasp itself is quite simple. Looks like a letter "C" with a vertical line through it. No Cartier name (unless the "C" is for Cartier), and it is relatively minimalist (though nicely polished).
Unlike many, many high-end watches, mainstream society knows and respects Cartier. As part of my review I took the Roadster S to Las Vegas to see how it fared in "flaunt your wealth" territory. Say what you will about Las Vegas, but there are few other places in the US where so many people wear decent watches. While the Roadster S is relatively unassuming by Cartier standards, the Roadster shaped is pretty well-known. I imagine many people were thrown by the black rubber strap (not exactly typical Cartier character), but it should have been clear what I was wearing. If anything, I felt as though I was adorning a Las Vegas approved timepiece - vital to ensuring you are properly received by tip hopeful helpers. You don't always want "stealth wealth," and on the "notice my nice watch list" should always be a Cartier. Cartier doesn't load the Roadster S with many surprises, but it does not disappoint either.
Price for the Cartier Roadster S is $4,200 as seen on a rubber strap, and $4,600 on a steel strap. You can even buy them direct from Cartier via their e-boutique online.