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Flying High With Cartier

As the French watch brand lands on MR PORTER, we demonstrate how the steel Santos de Cartier timepiece is perfect for a weekend in the mountains

It’s been a long, winding drive, but you’ve arrived, just as evening is creeping in: a Mr Mies van der Rohe modernist masterpiece, perched eyrie-like in the Vermont mountains. The powder will be perfect come morning, but, yes, you also can’t wait to come back in the summer, to throw another notorious pool party. It’s a lifestyle of elite globalism that Mr Louis Cartier and his très intéressant societal circle of early-1900s Paris would recognise: his contemporaries, after all, included Messrs Jules Verne, Gustave Eiffel and a wiry Brazilian bon vivant called Mr Alberto Santos-Dumont. In 1904, this magnificent man desired a watch to read hands-free in his pioneering flying machines, so Mr Cartier gave him one. The so-called Santos has barely changed since, save for the addition of an integrated bracelet. It’s this versatile and masculine steel-on-steel version you want on your wrist when you don’t even know what time zone it is, let alone the dress code.

The world’s first watch for the wrist, the original Santos de Cartier, was designed with a square bezel, clamped fast by eight unabashedly rivet-like screws – and four corners flowing into the strap in homage to the splayed legs of the Eiffel Tower. This wasn’t just because by 1904 the originally temporary structure had already become an icon of the Paris skyline, but because Mr Santos-Dumont also had a penchant for flying hair-raisingly close to it. Today, 114 years on, the latest evolution of Santos de Cartier is a subtle but potent cocktail of tweaks on the original format, from its instantly interchangeable straps to the precision presence of Cartier’s in-house 1847 MC movement (perhaps the most important innovation in this latest revamp of the line).

How To Wear It

The steel-on-steel bracelet wristwatch has been around as long as wristwatches, but the so-called “integrated” steel watch, where case and bracelet flow into each other seamlessly, is a 1970s trope that will never go out of fashion. The Santos de Cartier wasn’t originally on a bracelet, but it didn’t take long – those sinuous lines curving from case band to strap attachment practically demanded it. While a steel bracelet Santos de Cartier might seem a sartorial investment, don’t make the mistake of keeping it for Sunday best. Instead, keep it casual… Just ensure there are plenty of textures and soft layers to offset the steeliness. Think shearling jacket, distressed jeans, billowing printed linen scarfs, fussy leather accessories, Persol sunglasses… anything that disguises the fact you probably don’t own that Vermont chalet.

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