Named for famed Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, the Cartier Santos-Dumont was first introduced in 1904. It was designed specifically for Santos-Dumont by Louis Cartier, a personal friend of the pilot. It is still considered the first pilot’s watch, though these days it’s quite a far cry from how we think of that watch style. In recent years, Cartier has been skeletonizing models left and right. This year, the Santos-Dumont is getting the treatment, with an all-new movement featuring a skeletonized micro-rotor movement that pays tribute to the watch’s namesake.

Brand: Cartier
Model: Santos-Dumont Micro-Rotor
Dimensions: 31mm-wide x 8mm-thick
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Case Material: Steel, rose gold, yellow gold
Strap/Bracelet: Leather with matching pin buckle
Crystal/Lens: Sapphire crystal (front and back)
Movement: Caliber 9629 MC
Power Reserve: 44 hours
Operating Frequency: 25,200 vph (3.5hz)
Price & Availability: €27,900 for steel, €36,400 for rose gold, €37,500 for yellow gold; on sale June 2023, yellow gold limited to 150 pieces.

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The new skeletonized Santos-Dumont Micro-Rotor is to be offered in three metals, each case measuring 31mm-wide and just 8mm-thick. The steel and rose gold cases will be non-limited, but production of the yellow gold model with its blue lacquer trim will be capped at 150 pieces. The silhouette is classic: a knurled crown with a cabochon spinel is the only protrusion on the slim case, which features a polished bezel (a notorious scratch magnet) and brushed case with a long, polished chamfer. The yellow gold model’s lacquer trim takes the place of the polished bezel and case brushing. The watches are paired with coordinating leather straps featuring ardillon buckles matched to the cases. If the straps are like the ones on existing Santos-Dumont models, they feature a quick-release tab for easy swaps.

In skeletonizing the movement, Cartier has managed to make the most of the movement work as a dial in lieu of a traditional one. The bridges of the movement form a central square with arms that mark the hours. To highlight these bridge-cum-hour markers, lacquer has been applied: the yellow gold matches its case in blue, the rose gold has burgundy, and the steel a slightly off-tone grey. To be sure, the steel option is the subtlest of these three, and that’s further evidenced in the microrotor that sits prominently at 8 o’clock. This microrotor features a miniature of Alberto Santos-Dumont’s most famous series of aircraft, the Demoiselle, soaring over a partial globe and made to match the respective case material. At the center of the dial, of course, are Cartier’s signature blued sword hands, which are the same across all three models.

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The in-house Caliber 9629 MC automatic movement is entirely new, developed especially for this project, and is rendered in metal to match the case in which it sits. This movement features 212 components, and is marked by the proportionately large platinum microrotor. It operates at 25,200 vph or 3hz, and has a power reserve of 44 hours.

Call it another less-than-day-to-day option from Cartier. The brand blew Watches and Wonders out of the year last year, so expectations were quite high. However, the reality is that achieving what it did last year twice in a row would be some sort of watchmaking miracle. That said, this is an elegant rendition of its oldest wristwatch model with a bit of unique character. The new skeletonized Santos-Dumonts are priced at €27,900 for steel, €36,400 for rose gold, €37,500 for yellow gold will be available in boutiques and through authorized retailers as of June 2023. For more information, please visit the brand’s website

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