Alberto Santos-Dumont was one of the greatest pioneers of his time, contributing incommensurably to the development of human flight in the late 19th and early 20th century, though, perhaps, his most notable achievement of all time was not something he invented himself, but rather something which was invented for him.
It was in 1904 that the intrepid aviator approached his friend Louis Cartier, founder of the now-legendary jewellery maison, about creating a timepiece that could be work on his wrist, as checking his pocket watch was becoming troublesome for him while he was in-flight. Understandably, having access to the time was incredibly important to the inventor while he was conducting his experiments, though keeping his hands on the controls when flying through the air for the first time was also rather pertinent.
Louis Cartier is credited as having produced the first ever men’s wristwatch for his friend, and the rest is, as they say in the classics, history.
Cartier has, to this day, produced an incarnation of this groundbreaking piece of sartorial import. Now, the range includes something wholly modern: the Santos de Cartier Noctambule.
This flash timepiece is a refreshed take on the original, maintaining its near-square oblong case, but updating the aesthetics with a liberal lick of SuperLumiNova on the hands and futuristic Roman numeral markers. The black polished steel case with ADLC coating paired with the black alligator leather strap are both elegant and masculine, and the true beauty of the design is displayed after dark.
This is an appropriate homage to Santos’ flight of June 24, 1903, when he first took one of his flying machines to the skies during the dark of night, guided by a spotlight on the ground.
Also offered is the Santos de Cartier Skeleton Steel ADLC, a skeleton watch which is a lighter interpretation of the Noctambule, sporting a grey strap to complement the brushed steel (though a black one is also included), giving the whole piece a very neutral, smart aesthetic. They’ve added SuperLumiNova to the Skeleton Steel in an unsparing fashion too, keeping with the edgy look of its darker counterpart.
These two new timepieces join the rest of the range, which remains traditional in style, with the screws still on the outside of the case, and the two-hand dial reminiscent of a time before watches became inherently complicated.
Both watches are powered by a manual 9612 MC movement, and are water resistant to 100 metres.
The Santos de Cartier Noctambule & Skeleton Steel pieces retail for AUD$37,500.