The integrated bracelet has had its heyday and is now a fading trend despite the constant deluge of new watches attempting to capitalize on its popularity. Despite the hype of this design, one iconic watch seemed to float by with a price point (relatively) uninflated by the craze that surrounded the likes of the Royal Oak and Nautilus. The watch in question is the Cartier Santos de Cartier, a watch that by all means had every feature going for it and yet seemed to miss the boat when it comes to hyped-up waitlist watches — and I am okay with that. The lack of insatiable demand meant Cartier could continue to produce and iterate without the constant pressure to one-up itself with each iteration. This has created a well-rounded and diverse collection with lasting style, whether you choose a classic steel case with a white dial, a precious metal case with a skeleton dial, or a simple color change in this review.
Cartier is no stranger to experimentation, with the Santos de Cartier getting new colorful iterations each year. We saw the introduction of blue dials and DLC cases following wildly popular black DLC iterations from previous years. While these models leaned heavily into an aggressive sportier side of the model, Cartier seemed to have a focus on traditional, elegant designs for 2023. The green dial Cartier Santos released at Watches and Wonders 2023 seemed to scoot by under the radar, overshadowed by other popular pieces like the Santos Dumont Micro-Rotor Skeleton, Privé Tank Normale, and the internet’s current favorite tiny watch, the Baignoire. This striking green has stayed in my mind as a bold and elegant iteration that deserves some time in the spotlight.
Getting the basics out of the way first, the case is unchanged from its curved square profile. Two case sizes are available which Cartier describes as medium and large measuring 35.1mm/39.8mm in diameter and 8.83mm/9.38mm thick respectively. The subtly curved case provides a comfortable contour to the wrist giving the Santos de Cartier a second-skin feeling. The sides and top of the case are finely brushed with highly polished bevels softening the squared-off edges of the case. A screw-down crown features a blue spinel gem set into the crown — a signature of Cartier’s watches. The crown is flanked by two polished crown guards. Finally, a fully polished bezel is found on top of the watch and held in place by eight slotted screws. This seems to be the biggest detractor from the Santos de Cartier because it is an absolute magnet for scratches and the misaligned screws may be a bother. The highly polished surface seems marred if you glance at it too long, but simultaneously, it adds a flash of appeal for many. This flash is enhanced by a curved sapphire crystal that, in combination with the screw-down crown and solid caseback, achieves a passable 100 meters of water resistance.
Beneath the crystal is the primary difference with this latest iteration — a deep evergreen sunburst dial that gradually fades to near-black at the edges. This rich verdant hue is surprisingly warm and luxurious. While green has been used ad nauseam over the past year, this shade has a lasting elegance instead of more trendy tones. Applied polished Roman numeral indices are present around the periphery, with a white printed square rail track for increased to-the-minute legibility found proximally. Neither features any luminous material. The large model features a square date window found at 6 o’clock with a color-matched date wheel while the medium is time-only. Polished Roman sword hands are used for hours and minutes and feature luminous material while a simple needle seconds features none.
Behind the dial is the in-house Cartier Calibre 1847 MC. This automatic bidirectional self-winding movement’s name refers to the Maison’s founding year and is roughly based on the ETA 2892. The 3.8mm thick caliber provides an unremarkable 42 hours of power reserve and beats at 28,800 vph. Incabloc shock-protected movement should have Cotes de Geneve finishing, but it is not visible through a solid caseback. This is a proven movement that has been used throughout the Cartier catalog since 2015.
In recent years, I have become extremely appreciative of well-designed, comfortable metal bracelets. The Santos de Cartier has one of the most comfortable and easy-to-use bracelets in the industry. The SmartLink system is a breeze compared to any alternative bracelet sizing method out there. Additionally, the QuickSwitch system makes switching to the included green alligator strap a breeze, but it does limit the aftermarket options. Ariel previously discussed the SmartLink system in depth after its debut. However, the equipped butterfly clasp does not feature any on-the-fly adjustment which is extremely detrimental to constant comfort. At this price point, and with this high level of functionality for sizing and strap swapping already present, I would expect a small amount of adjustment to be implemented into the clasp. This is the primary reason I have not added a Santos de Cartier to my collection yet.
Butterfly clasp aside, the bracelet and its nearly seamless integration into the Santos de Cartier case is a recognizable design that is robust, functional, and elegant. The watches are versatile and timeless, yet were not caught up in the hype of other prestigious brands. If this style is still something you’re chasing, there is truly no reason to pay a premium or wait years for allocation when the Santos de Cartier is readily available. Whether the green dial is your speed, is purely subjective, but the more options we have, the better. I look forward to seeing what iterations continue to join the Santos de Cartier family in the future. The medium Santos de Cartier is priced at $7,050 USD, with the large model getting a slight price hike at $7,750 USD. You can learn more about Cartier and the Santos de Cartier on the brand’s website.