Many watches claim to have heritage or a unique backstory that makes them seem larger than life, but the Cartier Santos is a timepiece with real history and a unique design that many have imitated. It’s also one of few watches on sale today with a look and feel that can be traced directly back to its beginnings.
The Cartier Santos dates back well over a century and started life as one of the first (if not the first) pilot’s watches. The design took shape in the early 1900s when Cartier made a watch to be worn during flights. Early versions came on straps, but it evolved over the decades and eventually picked up a bracelet option in the late 1970s.
Cartier took the watch in an awkward direction for a while, and in the early 2000s, released a 100th anniversary model that fell flat for many enthusiasts. A few years ago, Cartier relaunched the Santos with a line of watches that look and feel modern in every way. Though they wear the classic rectangular shape and Roman numerals, the new Santos models feature robust water resistance ratings, stunning precious metal options, and different sizes for wrists of all shapes.
Today, the Santos is a versatile watch that works well in both formal and casual situations. It’s attractive on a bracelet or a strap, and its water resistance makes it a worry-free everyday wear timepiece for most people. Cartier also offers the Santos in alternative finishes, such as ADLC steel, with a diamond-like black coating that shines as deeply as any precious metal. There are multiple dial colors, including a unique sunburst blue that stands out, but classic white is still a solid choice.