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The Cartier Santos, created in 1904, was one of the original Cartier wristwatches made for men. Designed for Louis Cartier's aviator friend Alberto Santos-Dumont, this iconic timepiece spearheaded the transition from pocket watches to wristwatches. Combining form and function, the rugged yet elegant Santos features a square bezel and exposed screws that provide a distinctive look. Available in various metals, dial colors, and straps, the Cartier Santos watch collection encompasses the brand’s signature blend of innovation, versatility, and timeless Parisian styling. Over a century later, this luxury watch remains a cornerstone of the storied Cartier collection.
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Customers can also rest at ease knowing each Carier watch Bob’s sells is 100% certified. WatchCSA, the industry’s leading certification entity, issues certifications for all watches in our inventory. Each watch also comes with the Bob’s satisfaction guarantee, ensuring customers are receiving the best in both luxury timepieces and customer service.
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The Cartier Santos was born out of necessity and friendship. In 1904, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier that using a pocket watch to time his flights were cumbersome. Seeking a solution, Cartier created the Santos - one of the first modern wristwatches made specifically for men.
Inspired by the belts and straps that secured early airplane controls, Cartier designed a practical watch with an innovative wrist strap, square bezel, and exposed screws. The result was a pioneering timepiece that allowed Santos-Dumont to easily check the time during flight.
The iconic design also incorporated Cartier’s timeless style and luxury touches, establishing the Santos as a landmark achievement in 20th century watchmaking. Its balance of form and function revolutionized watches as both fashion accessories and technical instruments. Over a century later, the Santos continues to be a pillar of Cartier’s legacy.
"The Cartier Santos is an icon that exceeds all expectations. Its revolutionary design merges form and function in perfect harmony. With its squared case, exposed screws, and practical leather strap, the 1904 original epitomized Parisian style meets technical innovation. Every Santos since pays tribute to this legendary watch that pioneered the transition from pocket to wrist and remains a pinnacle of horology and fashion today."
- Paul Altieri, Founder and CEO of Bob’s Watches
Through the decades, Cartier Santos models have shown impressive value retention and steady price appreciation, affirming the icon's enduring popularity since 1904. As one of the world's first pilot watches and a pioneering square-faced timepiece, the Santos combines stylistic innovation with precision watchmaking in a most coveted way.
Whether vintage or contemporary, models in steel, gold, and diamonds have proven to be sound investments on the secondary market. Rarer limited edition Santos watches with unique design details or materials command exceptionally high prices at auction.
While pricing fluctuates due to factors like materials, condition, and availability, the Santos continues to uphold its reputation as a historic and valuable timepiece for collectors. Much like Cartier's iconic panther, the Santos is unlikely to ever go out of favor. Its rich heritage and bloodline make it a jewel that only accrues value over time.
The cost of a Cartier Santos spans a wide range, influenced by the materials, complexity, and pedigree of each timepiece. Entry-level steel models with automatic movements start around $4,000 - providing an accessible option for those aspiring to own this storied watch. For those wanting to invest in a precious metal Santos, prices rise to $25,000+ for gold and $20,000+ for diamonds and other exotic embellishments.
Vintage and limited-edition pieces tend to fetch even higher premiums at auction, sometimes entering six-figure territory. Regardless of budget though, the Cartier Santos always carries prestige as an iconic luxury watch. Its signature square case and exposed screws remain hallmarks of a revolutionary 20th century design that still delivers sophisticated aesthetics, precise movements, and lasting value today.
disc. = discontinued
The stainless-steel Cartier Santos exudes a timeless, understated elegance with its classic square case and roman numerals, while the gold Santos adds a touch of luxury flair with its lustrous solid gold case and bracelet. For those seeking an everyday watch, the rugged and scratch-resistant stainless-steel model is a practical option that can be dressed up or down, but the gold version makes a glamorous statement piece befitting special occasions and formal attire. Ultimately the choice between the stainless steel or gold Cartier Santos comes down to lifestyle needs and personal styling preferences.
Inspired by early 20th century aviation, the Cartier Santos Dumont is distinguished by its slender, elegant silhouette with Roman numerals and sword-shaped hands, while the larger Cartier Santos 100 features a modern square case and bracelet design reminiscent of the 1904 Cartier Santos original. The Santos Dumont offers understated sophistication especially with its leather strap options, whereas the Santos 100 makes a bolder statement suited to modern tastes with its robust steel or gold builds and reconcile bezel screws. Ultimately whether one selects the slimmer, dressier Cartier Santos Dumont or the more substantial, daring Cartier Santos 100 collection comes down to personal styling sensibilities and presence preferences when donning this historic Cartier watch line.
The classic iconic square Santos watch is available in a range of sizes from small to extra-large with quartz or mechanical movements. Offered in steel, gold, or two-tone steel and gold.
A slim, elegant model inspired by early French aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont. Features Roman numerals and sword-shaped hands on a rectangular case. Available in leather strap or metal bracelet options.
A daring, skeletonized version that showcases the mechanical movement inside through the transparent dial and openworked strap. The case design follows the lines of the original 1904 Santos-Dumont model.
A women's Santos featuring a softly rounded case profile contrasting the signature Santos square shape. Typically offered in stainless steel, two-tone, or diamonds.
A classic square case Santos model with modern refinements like a wider bracelet and bezel screws. Available in multiple case sizes with quartz or mechanical movements.
A ladies' Santos distinguished by a slimmer profile case and elegant elongated lines. Offered with or without diamonds in the bezel or on the bracelet.
Launched in the 80s. The physical attributes were more drastic compared to other Cartier Santos watches. It set itself apart with its round case, round dial, and octagonal bezel. Its releases were in gold, stainless steel, as well as two-tone editions of the watch. This timepiece was also available in both automatic and quartz models.
Quartz Movements - Many Santos models utilize reliable and affordable Swiss quartz movements. These battery-powered calibers deliver accurate timekeeping with minimal maintenance required.
Automatic Mechanical - Classic self-winding mechanical movements are featured across the Santos line ranging from ETA to in-house Cartier manufactures. These include workhorse calibers along with the Cartier 1847 MC and 1904 MC movements offering enhanced precision and decoration.
Manual Winding - For a traditional feel, Cartier equips certain Santos editions with refined manual winding movements like the Piaget 430P or Cartier 9917 MC. The classic feeling of hand winding a watch appeals to discerning collectors.
Skeletonized Mechanicals - Captivating open worked calibers handcrafted in-house by Cartier are visible through skeletonized Santos models. The skeletonized movements reveal the inner workings while retaining reliable timekeeping.
From practical quartz to dazzling skeletonization, Santos’s timepieces house a spectrum of reliable movements to match usability needs and horological appreciation.
Compact Sizing - For those preferring smaller, elegant proportions on their wrist, Cartier offers ladies' Santos models scaled down to 24mm, 25mm, or 28mm case sizes. These demure Santos watches have delicate presence but still exhibit the defining angular Santos design.
Classic Sizing - The medium 31mm case size up to the unisex large 35mm size represent the sweet spot that maintains the ideal balance of wrist presence and compact rectangular form for which the Santos is renowned. Understated but still boldly stylish.
Oversized Options - Catering to modern sensibilities and the demand for statement timepieces, oversized Santos editions have case dimensions spanning 38mm to 41mm. The Santos de Cartier XL steals the show with its hefty extra-large scale statement but retains the distinguished Santos DNA.
From diminutive details to dramatic impact, the Cartier Santos collection encompasses models in a versatile selection of compact to bold case dimensions suitable for any wrist size preference or desired aesthetic impression.
Stainless-Steel - From affordable steel quartz models to high-end mechanical editions, stainless steel is a mainstay material offering rugged durability. Steel is utilized for cases, bracelets, crowns, and casebacks on various Santos models to provide corrosion resistance.
Gold - From 18K yellow gold to rose or white gold, many Santos watches feature solid gold or two-tone gold and stainless-steel constructs for added luxury appeal. Gold adds a polished, elegant note to models ranging from Santos Galbee ladies’ variants to bold men’s XL gold editions.
Leather - Fine leather straps handcrafted in exotic and classical leathers can be found on numerous Santos executions notably on the Santos Dumont collection. From crocodile to calfskin in an array of hues, Santos leather straps deliver versatile flair.
Carbon - Modern carbon fiber cases and bracelets lend a motorsports-inspired edge to collections like the Santos de Cartier Carbon and Carbon Skeleton. The carbon material is tech-savvy, lightweight and extremely durable.
Titanium - Prized for its lightweight sheen and durability, titanium cases and bracelets add technical flair as seen on contemporary Santos offerings like the 100 Carbon Titanium.
From classical golds to pioneering carbons, the Cartier Santos is crafted from diverse yet carefully curated materials essential within the Cartier watchmaking tradition spanning over a century’s time.
Learn more about the collection by reading our Cartier Santos Ultimate buying guide.
The Cartier Santos holds excellent value over time due to its instantly recognizable and iconic design alongside Cartier's esteemed reputation for watchmaking excellence. With various models ranging from vintage editions to exclusive limited runs, Santos timepieces tend to either retain or gain value on the secondary market as they become more sought-after by discerning collectors.
The Cartier Santos makes for a relatively safe investment watch due to steady and often appreciating resale value in both vintage and modern examples. With models such as the early Santos Dumont and limited-edition Santos’ commanding increasingly higher prices at auctions, the historical significance and enduring design intrigue of Cartier’s Santos line renders most examples as sound investments for watch collectors.
The Cartier Santos stands out as special among watch designs for its pioneering innovations that helped shape modern watchmaking, like being one of the first wristwatches and one of the first to use a square case and exposed screws. First created in 1904, the Cartier Santos continues being relevant and recognizable over a century later due to its elegantly functional and versatile design incorporating Cartier’s dedication to skilled craftsmanship.
As an iconic watch design known for its elegance and versatility, the Cartier Santos has garnered favor from discerning celebrity collectors and fans spanning from early aficionados to modern patrons such as Rihanna and Jake Gyllenhaal. The Cartier Santos' balance of prestige, recognition, and styling manages to retain relevance across eras as a celebrity-approved timepiece.