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Is the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL the Santos We’ve All Been Waiting For?

Is the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL the Santos We’ve All Been Waiting For?

Cartier Santos-Dumont XL

Cartier unveiled the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL last week, a mechanical version of their much-beloved ‘classic’ Santos collection. With a Piaget movement, wonderful proportions and stunning looks, is this the Santos we have all been waiting for?

Let’s face it: amongst Cartier owners, most couldn’t give a toss whether their watch included a quartz or a mechanical movement. And, frankly, why should they? The design of a Cartier, whether it’s a Tank, a Ballon Bleu or a Santos-Dumont, speaks for itself as a beacon of elegance and beauty. Perhaps we could regard a Cartier as the ultimate fashion watch and one which can unashamedly be one. However, when Cartier does go mechanical, it rarely messes around.

Last week, in the midst of international panic, Cartier released their answer to the need for a mechanical offering in the ever-classic Santos-Dumont range. For those unfamiliar with the Santos-Dumont, this is the Cartier collection which is most similar to the original watch worn by Alberto Santos-Dumont and does not have the bracelet usually associated with the Santos. To me, it’s by far the loveliest collection currently made by Cartier.

Cartier Santos-Dumont XL
Copyright: Cartier

Praised by the likes of Stephen Pulvirent, the quartz offering was a small affair and, without seconds, it was easily mistaken for a mechanical timepiece. However, Cartier has updated this with a very well-needed Santos-Dumont XL with a movement sourced from Piaget.

A Piaget Heart

Immediately, the choice of a non-in-house movement in a watch which is €4,700 in steel seems questionable. This is especially problematic when it is well and truly outgunned by Omega and Panerai for the same money with only a 38-hour power reserve and a 3Hz beat rate. However, like anything, not all is as it seems.

Cartier Santos-Dumont XL
Copyright: Cartier

You see, the calibre 430 MC or, in Piaget’s nomenclature, the 430 P is the very movement which powers the far more expensive ultra-thin Piaget Altiplano. In this way, you really are getting high-horology credentials but in a typically classical way. Also, as a consequence of this movement’s 2.1mm thickness, the case of the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL is only 7.5mm thick.

The Aesthetics

Cartier Santos-Dumont XL
Copyright: Cartier

Speaking of dimensions, the case of the new Santos-Dumont XL is 33.9mm wide by 46.6mm from lug-to-lug — not nearly ‘XL’ enough to detract from the elegance of the design. Even so, it does remain large enough to be genuinely wearable for most men as an everyday watch as well as being a dress watch. Similarly, the quality is flawless with bevelled edges, a screwed bezel and a leather strap which has metal end-links in order to fit flush with the case. Whilst the strap isn’t given such attention on more affordable, quartz offerings, we see that Cartier really is pulling out all the stops for this range.

Where the dial is concerned, this watch offers a style which is perhaps the best we have seen in recent years where referencing the original function of the Santos-Dumont was concerned. As is widely known, the Santos-Dumont was intended to be a pilot’s watch and, with a sunburst silver dial on multiple layers, the Santos-Dumont XL presents a very dynamic interpretation of the style. Inevitably, it pairs this dial finish with blued hands and the inimitable Cartier Roman numerals to finish off the look.

A Remarkable Recipe

Cartier Santos-Dumont XL
Copyright: Cartier

As stated, Cartier is in a unique position. They are able to appeal to both the uninformed or uninterested with beautiful and classically correct designs and to seasoned collectors with seriously exciting models and complications. However, it’s very easy to lost the middle ground: an enthusiast who wants a more accessible watch with design and mechanical and historical pedigree. With the Santos-Dumont XL, though, Cartier has perhaps made the perfect mix. Available in steel, rose gold or two-tone configurations, there’s also a model for everyone.

Availability: Steel: EUR 4,700 / Steel & Gold: EUR 6,500 / Rose Gold: EUR 12,500


  • Dimensions: 46.6mm x 7.5mm x 33.9mm
  • Material: Stainless Steel / Stainless Steel & Rose Gold / Rose Gold
  • Crystal: Sapphire
  • Display: Thermally blued hands / Square sunburst-silver dial / Printed Roman numerals
  • Water Resistance: 30m / 100ft / 3 ATM
  • Movement: Cartier 430 MC (Piaget 430 P): Time / 38-hours / 21,600 vph, 3Hz, 8 ticks-per-second / 18 jewels / Manually wound / Hacking

Learn more on Cartier’s website

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