Cartier also has the steel Cartier Santos 100 case brushed (very well, I might add) with attractive, polished, beveled edges along the sides of the case that look fantastic. The gold bezel is all polished, and I appreciate that it is yellow versus rose gold. The most angles you’ll find on the case are in the geometric seven-sided crown which has a large blue spinel crystal cabochon in it (Cartier used to use sapphire but typically prefers spinel these days, as it is easier to industrialize and offers the same look). Cartier is very skilled at making deceptively simple cases which excel due to careful visual refinements and select details which work together to make something that works very well. This is an apex of fine European luxury watch design because of its subtle nuances and timeless appeal.
Also notice the simple good looks of the trademark Cartier-style dial. Totally symmetrical with only the time (and no date), the light silver dial is the epitome of a Cartier with its black Roman numeral hour markers and sword-style lumed hands. Such dials work well in Cartier’s Tank watches, but presented as a square in a square case, I think this design looks its best. Yes, the dial is simple, but it is also rather legible and very graceful. When you really want to celebrate conservatism that works and isn’t boring, you can opt to put on a Cartier Santos 100.
Yes, inherently the Cartier Santos 100 is a simple timepiece with few gimmicks. Seasoned watch lovers may yawn at the lack of technical excitement, but that isn’t what the Cartier Santos 100 is all about. This is one of Cartier’s watches for “everyone” (who can afford it), and it makes up for its lack of having a special movement or features with solid good looks that are beautiful. Oh, and with 100 meters of water resistance, you could also categorize the timepiece as a “real sports watch.”
I hope that in the future Cartier may decide to slip in an in-house made movement, which I think for a lot of collectors will increase the value proposition, as this isn’t an entry-level-priced timepiece. For now, the Cartier Santos 100 has a base Swiss ETA 2892 automatic movement which does the job of being reliable and telling time decently.
Cartier uses a seamless strap attachment system which means there are no gaps between the case and the strap – which is nice. The comfortable leather strap has difficult-to-see stitching (which I prefer) and a butterfly-style deployant clasp. The clasp itself is cool-looking with a design meant to suggest the look of the bezel with its steel and 18k yellow gold construction and two visible screws. Moreover, the clasp is as well finished as the case, with additional detailing such as angle beveling. As I tend to do, I will mention that while the adjustment system allows you to carefully choose the length of each side of the strap allowing for a very precise fit, it is not designed to allow you to adjust the size of the strap very often. So initial sizing is a bit of a pain, but once you size the strap, it looks very nice on the wrist.
On the wrist, the Cartier Santos 100 sells itself and is overall a beautiful and easy-to-live-with timepiece. If I had more bad things to say about it, I would. But for what it is, this is a great watch, even though I would consider it pricey. It will not be the most complicated watch in your collection, but that isn’t where the appeal is. People enjoy watches like the Cartier Santos 100 for its classic design and versatile wearing appeal. It succeeds in being a classic that is both well-made and unique enough to serve a distinct role in your watch collection. Price for this reference W20072X7 Cartier Santos 100 watch is $9,650, and for the record, the steel-only model is $7,000. cartier.com
>Model: Santos 100 reference W20072X7
>Price: $9,650 USD
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Guy who wants a luxury watch with a known name that will nevertheless not blend into the crowd but still offer years of enjoyable wear.
>Best characteristic of watch: Beautifully refined design that works where many others have failed. Excellent detailing and a combination of a good name with a popular look that, again, isn’t generic. A classic, without a doubt.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Costly and simple, which can have an effect on its value proposition for collectors, even though detailing and quality are high. Strap size adjustment system can be a bit frustrating to use but, once set, isn’t a bother.