The year was 1904 and Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to Louis-François Cartier about the impracticality of using pocket watches mid-flight. Wasn’t there a better way to tell time while soaring through the air? Cartier soon created one of the world’s earliest wristwatches, which featured exposed screws and a square bezel. An instant icon by the time it arrived in stores, the Santos-Dumont remained a brand calling card for decades to come. At this year’s Watches & Wonders, Cartier introduced limited-edition versions of the signature model, which hasn’t lost its eye-catching edge.
Retaining the geometric design of its distinguished predecessors, the new Santos-Dumont watches are naturally a sight to behold. The rarest amongst them is “Le Brésil,” which is named for Santos-Dumont’s very first flying machine. Limited to 100 pieces, it packs a silvered dial with 12 polished metallic Roman numerals and sword-shaped hands into a platinum case. Also featured is a ruby on the winding crown and signature engraving on the caseback.
Next up is “La Baladeuse,” named for the single-seater aircraft that Santos-Dumont flew over Paris in 1903. It comes limited to 300 pieces and features a yellow gold case, champagne dial, sapphire winding crown, blued sword-shaped hands, and patinated green alligator-skin strap. Flip the watch over to discover an engraved profile of the motorised airship.
Last but not least is the “n°14 bis,” which is limited to 500 units. It combines a steel case with a yellow gold bezel, anthracite grey dial, blue spinel winding crown, and gilded steel sword-shaped hands. Both the model and its caseback engraving pay homage to the trophy-winning aircraft of the same name, which was commonly described as a ‘kite of compartments.’
Each limited edition Santos-Dumont is powered by manufacture 430 MC mechanical movement with manual winding. Equipped with 18 jewels, it delivers a power reserve of 38 hours and measures in at 2.15mm thick. The brand also released a Santos-Dumont “La Demoiselle” watch for the ladies, which features the same signature movement. The past is alive and well and available in limited supply.