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Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

Launched at SIHH 2019, the Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” is among the very, very few genuinely new watches of the fair, which I reckon has at least a long shot at raising the pulse of watch-lovers. So many regurgitations, misses, and/or flat-out unattainably priced watches have been launched that the humbly sized, yet boldly styled “Night Owl” could really make a case for itself — were it not for its pricing. There’s always got to be a catch, right?

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

Images by David Bredan, except where noted otherwise.

When our meeting with Cartier started — in one of the seldom-encountered, aptly sized and well-lit rooms of the fair, with plenty of pieces for us to photograph and check out — it was the Noctambule that both Zach and I first reached for, while Ariel was quickly growing fond of the new Santos Chronograph (hands-on here). We started taking photographs, charging the lume, and appreciating the smaller size compared to last year’s skeleton Santos, when Cartier dropped the bomb: pricing is expected to be €21,000, around $24,000 USD when the piece is launched in June, 2019.

We don’t normally highlight prices so early on in our articles because it is on everyone to decide whether a piece is in their price range, or not — but this watch, I feel, could do a lot more damage in a sensible price category. Anyhow, more on pricing and how the Noctambule stacks up against other Cartier pieces in the closing of this article. For now, here is all that is to be known about it, for those ready to shell out this much.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

Image by Zach Pina.

While last year’s steel skeleton Santos was an “Extra Large” model (as Cartier likes to call it), for 2019, the Noctambule comes in a “Large” size. This means a 39.8mm-diameter and a 47.5mm lug-to-lug size — kudos to Cartier for providing the latter measurement, as that is what truly matters in terms of wearability. For reference, a 40mm Rolex Submariner has an almost identical lug-to-lug size. Case thickness on the Noctambule is 9.8 mm, thanks in part to the curved profile of the Santos case.

Overall wearability, then, is much improved over the Large model for, I would say, everyone with a wrist circumference under 7.5 inches. The Large case not only looks better, but it feels better, too. A pleasant surprise was the steel case’s 100-meter water resistance, something often gracefully omitted from skeletonized or otherwise “refined” timepieces. I have said this many times before, and I’ll say it again: every luxury watch without a minute repeater should sport at least 100 meters of water resistance — anything under is cutting corners, as far as I’m concerned.



Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

The Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC Noctambule comes with the recently launched Cartier QuickSwitch easy strap changing system; a short video presentation is embedded just above. For most watches Cartier fits with QuickSwitch, it also packs an extra strap in the box — just so the owner can actually put the system to use, a nice gesture. Funny enough, despite the 100-meter water resistance, the Noctambule does not come with a rubber strap, rather, it is supplied with a black and —check this out — a gray alligator leather strap. A greater puzzle than that, though, is the folding clasp, which was awfully difficult to close and a pain to set up (though the latter you hopefully need not do often). Closing it securely should, in my opinion, be a lot more comfortable and easy to perform. These are not the product aspects in which you would expect a brand like Cartier to fall short.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

The three-piece case is crafted from stainless steel that Cartier had ADLC coated – that is Amorphous Diamond-Like Carbon, claimed, and generally accepted, to be a lot more resistant to scratches than traditional PVD coatings, which do tend to scratch if you look at them the wrong way. How well the ADLC fairs, in the long run, is something I am looking forward to testing out sometime in the future. What I can already appreciate about the Santos Skeleton ADLC Noctambule’s exterior is how the alternating surface treatments have been executed: a deep, glossy, black polished line runs along the upper profile of the Santos case, while the side, as well as the top of the case exhibits well-defined brushed surfaces. The massive crown guards are a fun element on a skeletonized watch, and so is the black crown set with a blue spinel.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

The front is covered by a distinctly domed sapphire crystal. If Grand Seiko calls their crystals “High Definition” (which they do), then this particular piece is the opposite of that. I was wondering why I struggled with taking a super-crisp image of the details of the movement until I realized it was not my trusted D810 and its 60mm macro lens that was letting me down. No, rather it was the crystal that I believe has a different curvature on its outside, as it does on its inside. Anyhow, the overall outcome is a slightly, but noticeably distorted, view that I think could be better.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

The hands, Cartier says, are steel sword hands, and that sounds as cool as it looks. They have bright polished edges with black luminescent material in their center — more on that in a moment. Their backdrop, namely the plates and bridges of the Cartier Calibre 9612 MC, have been thoroughly skeletonized, relieving them of every bit of disposable material, leaving just the massive, typical-Cartier Roman numerals intact. The center of the dial, as well as the very thin edges of the numerals, is vertically brushed, surely a pain to execute with such refinement. That said, the overall skeletonization, as well as the movement, itself, has a distinct machined look to it — arguably further enforced by the blacked-out, high-tech design. This is more of a taste thing, perhaps, than an objective criticism, but I do find the complete result to be somewhat lacking.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

I dare not speak for Cartier here, but they evidently made an effort to spice up the Santos Skeleton ADLC Noctambule by lighting up the upper bridges of the watch. It takes a very powerful light source (camera flash, UV torch, etc.) to charge the black Super-LumiNova of the Noctambule, but once you manage, it glows with a relatively bright blueish-green hue. Black lume is scarcely used because it is among the darkest-glowing luminescent materials with the shortest glow times — but this not being a professional diver watch, or a watch designed for other nonsensical use scenarios, I presume most will humor the use of black lume here.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

To see a Cartier glow like this, highlighting its skeletonized Roman numerals over a hand-wound, mechanical movement… This is enough to move even the most faded watch lover, surely! What I am trying to say is that I applaud, and greatly appreciate, Cartier doing something like this: it is an objectively bold-looking watch that is both elegant and technically interesting, while packing a “feature” that people can actually appreciate and enjoy on a daily basis — unlike, say, a perpetual calendar, that is fascinating a grand total of five times per year, for a few hours at a time, as it switches at midnight at the end of those five odd-length months in the year. Compared to that, the Noctambule is on another level on the “watch wearing fun experience chart,” if you ask me.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

As far as the origin of the movement is considered, it is the same construction that I noticed in last year’s article. The 9612 MC Cartier caliber in the Cartier Santos De Cartier Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” appears to be based on the 96xx MC family of Cartier movements. Just look at the regular 9602 MC and you’ll see the very same layout of keyless works, gear train, jewels, screws, and so on — although that particular movement has a big date feature fitted onto its dial side, the caseback looks identical.”

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

Last year, we covered hands-on Cartier’s first affordable more competitively priced skeleton with the Santos Skeleton in steel, on the new steel bracelet here. With that 2018 version retailing for just over $26,000, I rightfully regarded it as a very aggressively priced venture for a Cartier of such visual complexity. Before that, skeletonized Cartier pieces used to cost well north of $50,000; just look at this Clé Skeleton for $56,000, or this Crash Skeleton for $78,500. Both are fantastic-looking pieces but cost twice, or three times as much as does Santos — which is a lot more, even with their technical differences taken into account.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

More to the point, anyone who shelled out $47,900 for this Santos-Dumont Skeleton from a few years back (still featured on the Cartier website), with basically the same movement and same overall design (albeit in titanium, rather than steel, whoop-dee-doo!) will surely be quite displeased with Cartier, as it has launched essentially the same watch for half as much. Ouch!

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” With Luminescent Skeletonized Caliber For 2019 Hands-On

And yet, I somehow feel that the 24 large ones for this year’s Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” is still a bit too much. I say that because the question here is neither how it compares to other Cartier pieces, nor if the Noctambule is a fun piece. Rather, the question at hand is: is it $24,000 fun? That is for everyone to decide. Personally, I just don’t think it is.

The price for the Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” with its luminescent skeletonized caliber is €21,000 or around $24,000 USD, and it is expected to hit the boutiques in June, 2019. Find out more about it and other skeletonized Cartier watches on their website.

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  • Jeffrey Miles

    Its not a bad looking watch, the skeltonised movement is attractive, however I have to agree with the author – its very overpriced. If I wanted a big chunky watch I honestly would opt for something like a Rolex Deep Sea for a fraction of the price (if you can find one I guess on sale) -, and will hold the value on the second hand market.

  • MeaCulpa

    Jebus, 24 grand and if you look closely at the movement screws they look damage and dirty.

    • To be fair, some watch at shows like SIHH and BaselWorld are prototypes which the brand hurried to complete in time for the show. I don’t know if that is the case for this watch or not.

      • MeaCulpa

        Fair point, at this price – and from an established luxury brand – it still doesn’t instil confidence in the finished product.

  • SuperStrapper

    Fully lume charged it does look pretty cool, but I still wouldnt pay 1/4 of this for a santos. That’s not me suggesting the watch is 4x overpriced, just the santos has too high a hill to climb for me.

  • Martin Francis

    “A bit too much”…. Indulging your talent for ironic understatement again David ? ? Leaving on one side the price, I’m afraid I find this particular exercise in design unconvincing and somewhat telephoned in. The Chrono that Ariel reported on earlier I could appreciate and understand even if it was not to my particular taste, but this simply fails; clumsy, uninspiring and lacking even in honest vulgarity as a saving grace. No thank you.

  • David Bredan

    I stand corrected, well spotted! Text updated.

  • David Bredan

    It has a special frame for it too, so I doubt it’s just a prototype. Maybe a “security device” to prevent “unauthorized” opening of the case, so it’s not just ordinary screws holding the case together.

    • Swiss_Cheese

      Ahh, ok. Cheers David.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    It’s really sad to see what Cartier are coming out with these days.
    I haven’t felt this upset since Mary lost her sight on Little House On The Prairie.

    • Sheez Gagoo

      The Drive collecton is in my humble opinion one of the best that came out recently. This particular scene from “Unsere kleine Farm” was the funniest of all. I can tell her: “Listen, everything just looks like Laura Ashley exploded”.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        The drive is nice if a tad boring against which I suppose will be the classic Santos 100 now. As for your heartless comment about Marys predicament. I’m just glad she found love in the blind school.

  • Pete L

    Not for me. Still too expensive and just uninspiring. Great comment about all luxury watches outside of minute repeaters having 100 m water resistance. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Rob Crenshaw

    Thanks for spotting that, it removes one of my concerns. The Large size is great for the skeleton model because it allows more area to view the frame and movement. With a dial there’s too much negative space.

  • Rob Crenshaw

    Looks like I’m the only one here defending this watch! Because I’ve had the SS Skeleton since September 2018, and have bought probably 15 watches since then, my opinion is not without merit.

    The SS model is essentially the same price as this, the added cost of a bracelet is offset by the dark finish and lume. I’m trying not to sound snobby, but this is luxury good pricing, not value proposition. We all know a Rolex is going to hold its value better, but we also all know exactly what experience a Rolex is going to offer: a safe choice me too watch. Plus it’s not like the choice of this watch precludes a Rolex. Since I bought the Skeleton I’ve bought 4 Rolexes: 2 ceramic Daytonas and 2 Milgauss, and have plans for 3 more soon, a DJ41, Pepsi GMT, and President. They are all very nice watches, but none has the wrist presence, unique visual interest, or exclusivity of the Skeleton Santos. And that is a key point: it’s such luxury pricing that it becomes Veblen goods – it’s attractive because the buyer is guaranteed exclusivity.

    Statements like “this watch is 2-4x overpriced” mean only “I cannot afford it”, and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the mindset of luxury goods clientele. Cartier et al do not produce goods as value items for Joe the Plumber, so it should not be surprising that their products are priced to keep him from buying them.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      I’m more a value for money kinda guy. I’m not a plumber

      • Rob Crenshaw

        Maybe you should be, I hear it pays well. 😀

      • Independent_George

        TL;DL version of earlier post. What Raymond says.

        • Rob Crenshaw

          I’ll always read. No tl;dr for me. 🙂

    • Marius

      “Statements like “this watch is 2-4x overpriced” mean only “I cannot afford it””

      No, they really don’t.

      There’s another article on ABTW about a limited edition Swatch for $1,500. Eminently affordable, unquestionably overpriced.

  • Larry Holmack

    Pretty cool looking…but at that price, I’ll wait for someone to make homage version, because we all know someone will make one.

  • Alex A

    Love it!

  • Rob Crenshaw

    It’s worse than you think, I counted just under 80 watches the other day, and there are only 6 Rolexes: a meteorite WG Daytona, Everose YM, and the four I already mentioned (all new from AD at MSRP). I don’t know how much they all cost, I don’t care and thus don’t keep track. The cheapest one was $75 and the most expensive $90K. I find it hard to spend more than $100K on a watch, I’d rather buy a car.

    Like you, I don’t like used watches, so I only buy new, NOS, or indistinguishable from new. Perhaps Cartier is still establishing their Veblen pricing, and the current Noctambule might be had for cheaper in 2 years. Unlikely because the industry is moving to tighter brand control over distribution, for example I had to prepay the Skeleton for them to allot me one. In other words, if they are building closely to order, then there might never be excess inventory to mark down.

    Regardless, it makes little difference to me if I want a watch *right now*. It might or might not be cheaper, but that’d be 2 YEARS of not being able to wear it.

    And to be clear, just because I mentioned that Rolex is a known standard does not make me a Rolex man. I actually dislike my white dial ceramic Daytona because it feels douchey. It is the watch that all the 20-30 something professionals (what we used to call yuppies) aspire to own to demonstrate their path of success. I much prefer the black one.

    And I agree about the Royal Oaks, which is why I bought 5 in the last year: a 42mm khaki green Offshore Diver, a Ti & Pt Chrono, and 3 15202s: SS, RG/Blue, and just recently all YG, which I’ve not yet unwrapped from the plastic. All AD at MSRP.

    And it’s not ballin’, I think it’s a mental illness. 😀

  • DanW94

    If gifted, would wear.

  • FrankD51

    The movements may be signed ‘Cartier ‘ but they are coming out of Roger Dubuis’ workshops.

  • gw01

    Love the LUME, not the price 🙂

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Yes. we’ve had colour TV here for a while now. 🙂

  • This needs a matching metal bracelet, the leather one looks off. So “futuristic”, beautiful watch!
    (Is that a pleather bracelet? Cheap.)

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