There’s certainly a first for everything—and in this case, the Cartier Santos is known as the first watch designed for the wrist. Showcasing a timeless and iconic design, and exuding sheer elegance and refinement, the Santos is an unconventional dress watch for the ages. Peruse our entire pre-owned collection to find a variety of references available in different sizes, materials, and strap or bracelet styles.
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Cartier Santos: A Complete History
Widely recognized as the first watch designed for the wrist, the Cartier Santos has broken barriers between traditional watchmaking and modern design. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people were actually strapping pocket watches to their wrists and fitting old movements into modified cases with straps. However, the Santos was always a wristwatch, from its conception and release in 1904. That year, Louis Cartier designed a watch for his friend Alberto Santos-Dumont who was a Brazilian aviator in need of a timepiece that he could check with ease during a flight. Cartier was up to the challenge, creating a small gold watch with exposed screws and a square silhouette—a first of its kind.
In 1911, Cartier officially moved the Santos into production, selling a more refined version of the original prototype. Keep in mind that this took place five years before the Cartier Tank was created. Interestingly, early Santos models were produced in partnership with Jaeger-LeCoultre who created the small hand-wound movements. Although various iterations of the watch have been released over the years, defining characteristics and design hallmarks include the square dial with Roman numerals, the square case, and the screws on the bezel. The famed bracelet style also warrants a discussion.
In 1978, Cartier released what is now known as the first “modern” Santos watch which was a two-tone steel and yellow gold model with a polished yellow gold bezel, and a new bracelet that was reminiscent of the bezel’s screw design. This time though, the screws were yellow gold, complementing a stainless steel bracelet. More recently in 2004, Cartier released a Santos 100 collection to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Louis Carrtier making the first piece for Santos-Dumont.
Interested in browsing other luxury watches with a similar style or history? Peruse our pre-owned suite of stainless steel and dress watches. Or, check out our assortment of pilot’s watches—although the Santos isn’t considered a true pilot’s watch, it is praised to have been the inspiration behind this style.
Explore Exquisite Santos Models
As the world’s leading platform for buying, selling, and trading pre-owned luxury watches, we strive to curate an exclusive suite of Santos watches that can’t be found anywhere else. Check out a few of our favorite pieces, and learn more about the collection’s value when you read, “Cartier Santos: The Best Watch for Your Money.”
Slightly smaller for those who prefer a more subtle case, this 29mm automatic piece boasts an 18k yellow gold bezel, an ivory guilloche dial, and a stainless steel and 18k yellow gold bracelet. Functions include hours, minutes, seconds, and date.
Paying homage to its namesake, this manual-wind watch features a rose gold case, silver dial, and brown alligator strap. Functions include hours and minutes.
How Much Is a Cartier Santos watch?
Like any pre-owned watch model, the Cartier Santos varies in price depending on a number of factors like condition, material, functionality, rarity, and official documentation. However, our current inventory ranges in price from $6,950 to $74,950. Most mid-price models are between $25,000 and $35,000.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Cartier Santos
How do you change a Cartier Santos watch strap?
On the new 2018 Santos models, you can easily change the watch strap tool-free using the Quick Switch system. All you have to do is gently push a tab underneath the bracelet by the lug. To see how this is done up close, watch this expert tutorial.
How do you wind a Cartier Santos?
To manually wind a Cartier Santos, the crown must be pushed into the case which will tighten the spring and activate the movement. Turn the crown in a clockwise direction to wind. It’s important not to overwind the spring once it’s fully wound.
Is the Cartier Santos discontinued?
No, the Cartier Santos collection is not discontinued. Some models have ceased production, but there are still new releases. In 2018, for example, Cartier enthusiasts were thrilled at the reemergence of the collection. And in 2019, they added a chronograph variation and a fully lumed skeleton version to the collection.
Santos Pricing Guide
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