Article and images contributed by Michael Maximilien:
In some circles, the French brand Cartier is seen more as a fine jewelry producer than as a watchmaker. However, the brand has a long history as a creator of fine timepieces coupled with a unique style which makes it hard to ignore...
The original Cartier Santos was reportedly designed and created by Louis Cartier himself in 1904 for his friend and pioneer, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont. The Santos has been a major piece in the Cartier collection for a long time and in 2004 Cartier released their Santos 100 line which included larger Santos models.
The Santos line has many variations, however, they are all styled like the original. This includes a square case that is slightly curved on both sides which makes it fit effortlessly on the wrist. The dial has the signature Cartier Roman numerals, including the incorrect IIII at four o'clock - this allows the markers on the right to better symmetrically match the ones on the left.
The Santos 100 reference W2020009 (size large) case is in rose-gold and amorphous diamond-like carbon (aDLC) and offers the classic design with rose-gold recessed markers on a black dial. The rose-gold sword-shaped hours and minutes hands join a hair-thin, rose-gold seconds hand for an elegant look. The hours and minutes hands include a small layer of SuperLumiNova coating which makes the watch somewhat readable at night once light charged.
The simple yet stylish square dial design is matched with a protected heptagonal crown in rose-gold with a faceted black sapphire gem cabochon. Turning the crown clockwise winds the watch and when pulled allows the hours and minutes hands to change with a hacking seconds feature, thereby allowing the time to be precisely set. These are all basic features of the base Swiss ETA movement.
One of my favorite parts of this watch is the strap. The Cartier "toile de voile" strap is made of a thick black nylon with a leather doubling interior. While the complete watch stands at just under 140 grams, Cartier's choice of a nylon strap results in a very comfortable and easy to wear timepiece.
The strap can easily be adjusted by pulling the extra nylon strap and folding it on the inside of the formed bracelet. After adjusting it a couple of times, I wore it once for a long US east-to-west coast trip, hardly remembering it was on my wrist the whole day.
Cartier includes a deployment clasp that when closed, has a nicely added piece of rose-gold in the middle of the buckle. Like the bezel, the deployment clasp rose-gold buckle is adorned with black aDLC steel screws, which contrast superbly with the pinkish gold and the black aDLC monture.
The rest of the 51mm tall by 43 mm wide case of the watch is aDLC coated steel that is brushed with slight satin polished rounded corners, giving it a manly yet slightly shiny look and feel. The aDLC coating is supposed to be an improvement on DLC with features such as being highly scratch-resistant and being less prone to fingerprint marks. Just like most Cartier watches, the Santos' caseback is solid and includes the Cartier name in that classic font as well as the model name.
Overall, the Santos 100 makes for a stylish daily watch that can easily be worn at the club or in a business meeting. My only quibble with the Santos 100 is its relatively high-price, $10,400 for the large version (shown here) and $9,250 for the smaller (W2020007). This is especially true when you consider that Cartier uses their caliber 49 movement for this watch, which is a modified ETA 2892.
Naturally, ETA movements are reputable and reliable, however, it would be nicer to see the Santos 100 with Cartier's own in-house movement as it started doing for the Cartier Rotonde and Calibre lines. Such a change would give me the happy comfort of knowing that the same attention to details and superior fit and finish that makes me love this watch on the outside is also on the inside, even when I cannot see it…
There is also an extra-large version (W2020004 and W20124U2 and others) of the Santos 100 that runs in the $14,000 and even more depending on complications (chronograph or not) and also whether the case is rose-gold with aDLC bezel versus the aDLC case with rose-gold bezel as in this one or completely in gold.
If you want a watch that has timeless style with fine craftmanship, is easy to wear, and has a long history, then the Cartier Santos 100 is an easy choice.