Hands-On: Cartier Santos Black aDLC WSSA0039 Watch Hands-On

For 2020, Cartier has been expanding the still-fresh and highly satisfying Santos collection with new flavors. While the Santos Chronograph is getting a lot of attention given its additional mechanical complexity, this “stealthy” black variation of the three-hand Santos de Cartier “Large Model” is a fashionable stunner. There aren’t that many Cartier watches you can wear with a black leather biker’s jacket — and yet here we are with this lovely piece in DLC-coated steel.

Mind you, this Cartier Santos reference WSSA0039 is not the first time the Santos has been given the black treatment. Back in 2016, aBlogtoWatch went hands-on with the previous “black Santos,” which was the Cartier Santos 100 Carbon watch. These days, “carbon” in the name of the watch would probably mean that the case is made from carbon. Rather, carbon was used as a reference to the coating Cartier uses over the steel, which is a form of DLC (diamond-like carbon) called aDLC. This 2020 black Santos has a 39.8mm-wide square case that is 9.38mm-thick and water-resistant to 100 meters.

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Hands-On: Cartier Santos Black aDLC WSSA0039 Watch Hands-On Hands-On: Cartier Santos Black aDLC WSSA0039 Watch Hands-On

Of course, this is not an “all-black” watch in the sense that the dial elements are also black. Cartier has the good sense to make sure the Santos WSSA0039 is also legible by having the watch hands and Roman numeral hour markers painted with white luminant. Unlike the sporty red seconds hand on the previous generation Santos 100 Carbon, the monochromatic personality of this black Santos is a bit more hip and modern by today’s standards. Giving the watch a bit of the ol’ Cartier pizazz, the case and rubber strap screws are in polished steel. The effect is to have them catch the light a bit, which draws the eyes better to the watch. Thus, you have the look of a stealth watch, even though this Santos very much calls attention to itself. In the crown is a black-colored spinel cabochon.

Attached to the case via Cartier’s easy-adjust (QuickSwitch) strap-changing system is a case-fitted matte-black alligator strap in addition to the pictured black rubber strap (that is quite comfortable on the folding deployant clasp). Inside the watch is the in-house-made caliber 1847 MC automatic movement, broadly used within the brand, that operates at 4Hz and has about two days of power reserve.

Hands-On: Cartier Santos Black aDLC WSSA0039 Watch Hands-On Hands-On: Cartier Santos Black aDLC WSSA0039 Watch Hands-On

Aside from a healthy portion of classy, masculine sex appeal, the Cartier Santos WSSA0039 in black aDLC is a simply new flavor of the still-novel contemporary family of Cartier Santos watches. What I think would have really completed the look was the availability of a black aDLC steel bracelet. What prevents this from happening is the higher cost of doing the aDLC coating properly on all the steel parts and not having the color wear off over time. That is tricky and would make this already arguably expensive timepiece cost even more money. For example, the Cartier Santos in natural steel on the bracelet costs $700 less than this version with a coated case on a strap.

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Hands-On: Cartier Santos Black aDLC WSSA0039 Watch Hands-On Hands-On: Cartier Santos Black aDLC WSSA0039 Watch Hands-On

Cartier actually has a sort of intermediate model between the two known as the Santos reference WSSA0037. That model has a natural steel case and bracelet but a dark gray dial and matching aDLC-coated bezel (and costs less than the black Santos WSSA0039 given the value of this particular coating process). If you can afford it, this is among the most compelling new men’s Cartier watches of the year. Price for the reference WSSA0039 Cartier “black” Santos is $7,700 USD. Learn more at the Cartier website here.


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