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The Perfect Timing Of Santos De Cartier

The iconic watch that set the tone of the 1970s and 1980s arrives on MR PORTER in time for its 40th birthday

The Santos de Cartier watch has an impressive history. Its forebear, the Santos Dumont (invented in 1904 by Mr Louis Cartier for his friend, the Brazilian aviation pioneer Mr Alberto Santos-Dumont) is not only considered to be the very first pilot’s watch ever created, but also the first-ever men’s wristwatch. Equally impressive, the modern version of the watch – which, launched in 1978, took the square case of the original and added a steel bracelet and the watch’s trademarks screw details – was one of the key styles that helped transform Cartier into the globally recognised brand it is today. It was so successful – and visible – in the 1980s, that it became perhaps the signature watch of that period, thanks in part to its appearance in movies from Wall Street to Clear And Present Danger. Since then, it’s been a fan favourite that has continued to receive tweaks – such as the larger sized Santos Galbée XL in 2005 – but always remained true to the original, now-classic design.

Naturally, then, for its 40th anniversary in 2018, Cartier had to do something special with Santos de Cartier. And clearly, they took this task seriously. In 2016, Santos de Cartier watches were quietly discontinued, much to the consternation of many watch fans. Then, at this year’s SIHH watch fair, an all-new Santos range was unveiled – a range that, we are proud to say, is now available on MR PORTER.

As throughout the history of Santos, the key updates here are subtle, but timely. The case, originally inspired by the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower, has been given slightly softer, more elegant curves that fit more comfortably on the wrist. The bezel has been extended towards the strap, which can now be interchanged easily, without tools, thanks to Cartier’s QuickSwitch system. What’s more, each watch comes with two straps – and the movement has been updated to Cartier’s in-house automatic calibre 1847 MC, which was introduced in the 2015 Cartier Clé collection. All styles come in two sizes: medium (at 35.6mm in diameter) and large (39.8mm), the latter of which features a date window at six o’clock. Scroll down to discover the full range, now available at MR PORTER.


The 18k rose-gold Santos De Cartier is, helpfully, available in two varieties. If you’re willing to splash out, you can opt for the watch with a matching gold bracelet and grey alligator strap. If you’re on a more modest budget (or simply prefer the look of it), there’s also a version that comes with a blue calf strap alongside the alligator. Either way, this is, of course, an eye-catching and exquisite investment piece that serious collectors will appreciate.

How to wear it:

The warm hue of rose gold opens up many colour opportunities in your matching outfit. For casual wear, with the gold bracelet, we like the idea of a blue suede jacket, such as the below offering from Italian brand Tod’s. With the blue strap, it will look good with a stone hopsack or grey houndstooth blazer. And with the alligator strap – it’s got to be a tuxedo, surely?

Wear it with:

  • Tod's City Suede Jacket

  • Lardini Stone Unstructured Wool and Linen-Blend Hopsack Blazer


One of the characteristic details of the Santos de Cartier range is the screws, which are mounted across the bezel and bracelet. These were first introduced in 1978 to highlight the gold accents on the watch, and still look most striking in this configuration today. However, the 2018 two-tone Santos also comes with a tan calf-leather strap. With this switched in, it has a much more warm, vintage look, especially in the medium (35.6mm) size.

How to wear it:

The two-tone 2018 Santos is a direct descendent of the watch worn by Mr Michael Douglas (playing Gordon Gekko) in the 1987 film Wall Street. That is, with the steel strap in place, it’s a powerful piece. Wear it in an assured, modern way by swapping the pinstripes for Prince of Wales check, in the form of a blazer from Burberry. With the tan strap, you can take things softer – think unstructured summer tailoring from the likes of Boglioli and Man 1924, with a washed cotton shirt from Milan’s Massimo Alba.

Wear it with:

  • MAN 1924 Kennedy Navy Slim-Fit Unstructured Cotton Blazer

  • Massimo Alba Grandad-Collar Watercolour-Dyed Striped Cotton Shirt


The first all-steel version of the Santos de Cartier watch came a little later than the 1978 two-tone Santos (see above). Yet, it has a special significance within the history of the house: one of the first Cartier watches to be produced entirely in a non-precious metal, this was the watch that really took the brand to the adoring wider public that appreciates it today. It still represents an attractive entry point into one of the world’s revered luxury-watch companies, and with its interchangeable steel bracelet and black calf-leather strap – an online exclusive for MR PORTER this April – is perhaps a more versatile watch than ever.

How to wear it:

With the steel bracelet, this watch has a refined, sporty feel. Pair it with a field jacket and ribbed-knit sweater for the weekend. When Monday comes, you can swap in the black strap, which will look particularly sleek with a grey flannel blazer.

Wear it with:

  • Brunello Cucinelli Cotton Field Jacket

  • Prada Ribbed Shetland Wool Sweater