At SIHH in 2019, Cartier released something very special, and oddly, it was powered by stock standard quartz. The Cartier Santos-Dumont was met with a standing ovation, not just because it was remarkably faithful to some of the earliest watch designs from Cartier, but it was also slim and relatively affordable thanks to that humble quartz movement. The real boldness of the piece was in its diminutive size and thinness. It was something of a redefined version of masculine style. And it was a bullseye. Perhaps the only thing it lacked, for the watch journalists who care deeply about such things at least, was some more moving parts. Cartier has answered those prayers with the release of the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL with a manual winding movement. The new movement will be available in steel, two-tone and rose gold.
Looking past the movement just briefly, let’s talk about that XL new case. It’s not as significant as you might think. The case measures a still very wearable 46.6mm by 33.9mm and is genuinely slimline at only 7.5mm thick. This is only 0.2mm thicker than the quartz references from 2019, which is an impressive concession considering how the slimness of the 2019 reference caused unanimous praise. The rest of the case is very well proportioned, and closely resembles the original Santos watches from the 1920s. Blending the vertical brushing of the case surface with polished lines on the side of the watch and the bezel successfully delineates each surface as distinct from one another. The same case profile, bezel with exposed screws and cabochon-capped crown have all remained from the original design — a refreshing decision from Cartier to trust in the strength of their design archive.
The lugs of the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL taper downward slightly to meet the curve of your wrist, which also contributes to softening the 46.6mm lug-to-lug length. The caseback is solid, unfortunately preventing any view of the Piaget-derived Cartier caliber 430MC. This might be the only thing that could be improved upon, as there is very little else to distinguish the watch from its quartz cousin at a surface level. The caliber 430MC allows the incredible thinness of the watch, thanks to it standing only 2.15mm tall. The tradeoff is a power reserve of only 38 hours, meaning the watch will require winding almost every morning. Not an issue at all, and arguably a pleasure if you pick this watch up for the beating heart of its hairspring.
Arriving at the dial of the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL, we are greeted with the tour de force, Cartier design writ large. The exploded Roman numerals, railroad minute track and blued sword hands belong together in a way that is self-evident, and is one of the clearest examples of a coherent brand identity that you will ever find in watchmaking. The silvered dial features a sunburst effect that further emphasises the radially arranged dial elements, and successfully draws the eye and keeps it there, without resorting to loud visual cues such as colour or complication.
The new Cartier Santos-Dumont collection is the extension that would inevitably be sought by the large section of the market that wants a beating heart in their luxury timepiece. With the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL, the introduction of a slim mechanical movement adds significantly to the overall offering in the collection, and will no doubt turn many of the heads who were not convinced by the original quartz pieces.
The price of the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL in steel is €4,700, in steel and gold is €6,500, and in pink gold is €12,500. They are set to launch in May.
To reflect on the quartz version in comparison, see this video from SIHH, 2019.