New for SIHH 2018, Cartier unveils their updated Santos de Cartier Collection. Gone is the simple square bezel, and included is a tapered, shapely bezel that extends to the lugs to give an elongated (dare I say, less old-fashioned) look without compromising the square shape of the dial. However, the real star of the show is what Cartier is calling their “QuickSwitch” and “SmartLink” bracelet systems.

The Collection was inspired by a partnership between the famous Brazilian aeronautical engineer Alberto Santos-Dumont and the brand. Spawning from a complaint that it was difficult to check his pocket watch in flight, Louis Cartier set out to create what the brand claims was the “First purpose-driven wristwatch” in 1904 by adding a thin leather strap with a small buckle. Arguably, it was also the first pilot’s watch (and some would claim the first modern wristwatch). Pilot watches have come a long way since then, and while it would be hard to compare the Santos de Cartier collection with any modern iteration of what would be considered a “traditional” Pilot’s watch, the update is fitting for a modern landscape, and I personally feel it gives a much-needed renovation to the collection.

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The Santos de Cartier Collection comes in a variety of different flavors – a full steel set, a two-tone steel and gold, a full gold, and a pink gold set. Each case measures in at 39.8mm with a 9mm thickness. While some may say that’s a little thick for a dress watch, I think the updated tapered corners will help this slide under a cuff nicely. The bezel keeps its familiar 8 screws, but fans of the brand will immediately notice the slight change in shape – instead of a solid square bezel, Cartier has tapered the corners to flow into the lugs, almost disguising the break in the bracelet and case and giving the watch some more sex-appeal, less sharp lines, and a nicely framed dial.

There are two dial variations to the Santos de Cartier. The first is the traditional, slightly refined white dial with Roman numeral indices and a date at 6 o’ clock. This variation of the watch utilizes Cartier’s 1847 calibre. The second is skeletonized and utilizes Cartier’s 9611-MC calibre that “floats” inside of an oversized Roman numeral frame. This is my favorite of the bunch as I feel it embodies a lot of Cartier’s out-of-the-box design DNA. Because of the screw-down crown design, each watch carries a water resistance rating of up to 100m.

However, the real winners in this updated collection are the strap and bracelet options, with the “QuickSwitch” and “SmartLink” technology behind them. Cartier puts a lot of importance on their strap and bracelet system because it was such an integral part of the development of their first wristwatch. Because of that, Cartier designed these straps around comfort, ergonomics, and flexibility. They wanted the watch to have the ability to tailor to any situation – quickly and comfortably. So, for that reason, when someone purchases a Santos de Cartier, they will be presented with both a bracelet matching the case material and a leather strap.

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If you’re like me and swap straps often, then you know the cumbersome and oftentimes downright frustrating effort it is to change your strap. The “QuickSwitch” mechanism allows for the wearer to simply press a small rectangular button underneath the watch band to release it from the case – no spring bars, screwdrivers, or mounts are needed. This isn’t exactly new technology, but I have noticed and been surprised at the number of brands dragging their feet on implementing it. I was excited to see the Tag Heuer Connected with this feature, and I am hoping more brands will see and adopt it.

The “SmartLink Self-Fitting” technology allows for a wearer to adjust the size of the bracelet, once again, without tools. Each link will have its own button that when pressed, will release from the link above it allowing for quick and easy sizing you can do on-the-go. In theory, this sounds cool though I can already hear the gripes about the screws being “purely decorative.”

Overall, the update to the Santos de Cartier Collection brings some modern adjustments to an arguably dated watch design. I feel that the new technology and strap options encompass Cartier’s balance of jewelry, fashion, and watches – and the harmony that can be met between them. We will update you with pricing as soon as we confirm with the brand.

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