Sunday Morning Showdown: Cartier Santos De Cartier Large Rate it or hate it? Whose side are you on? by Rob Nudds April 12, 2020 MIN READSunday Morning Showdown: Cartier Santos De Cartier Large
In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. This week, one of the classiest classics is up for discussion. We give you, the Cartier Santos De Cartier Large.
Who would have thought it? The Cartier Santos is becoming a regular player on the Fratello rotation. I for one think that makes for an interesting conversation topic. But not all Santos watches were created equal. Some I love, and some I hate. After last week’s drubbing at the hands of RJ (who took home a cool 65% win in the Omega Speedmaster X-33 sweepstakes), I need a win. I can’t wait to find out where the charming Cartier Santos De Cartier Large lands on your list (I’m hoping it’s nowhere near the top). But let’s turn it over to Mr. Hodges to get us started.
Quick: name the most iconic wristwatches in 10 seconds… Ok, times up. I’m guessing if you’re a regular Fratello reader, the Omega Speedmaster came to mind. The Rolex Submariner came next, and you may have had time for one or two more. The Breitling Navitimer? Jaeger LeCoultre’s Reverso? Some of you may have had the Genta designs flash in your mind, so that gives us the Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet and the Nautilus by Patek Philippe, among others.
But I bet the Cartier Santos was not your immediate choice. Yet if the Santos appears in a Top 10 list of the most iconic watches, you would not disagree with it being there. We’ve seen the Fratello readers support the Santos with a 58% Wrist Game win in the past. But that was the outgoing Santos Galbée in full gold, with chocolate sauce and sprinkles. What about a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream that is the Cartier Santos de Cartier in stainless steel?
It’s so Cartier they named it twice…
There is a strange aura that follows the Santos from one generation to the next. It arrives with a big bang before quickly dissipating. The last major update to the Santos came in 2018 when the model was reintroduced following a 2-year hiatus. The newer Santos De Cartier models updated the movement from the ETA base of previous models to the in-house 1847 MC.
Also introduced was the Cartier QuickSwitch technology that allowed tool-less strap/bracelet changes. Cartier was even kind enough to supply an additional leather strap with the purchase of any model sold on a bracelet as standard. Seeing as the lug connections are exclusive to Cartier, it made sense to do so. Still, we’ve learned never to take anything for granted (much less a luxury brand’s generosity), so the gesture was very much appreciated. We have seen Vacheron Constantin do the same thing with their Overseas range, so Richemont clearly see a benefit to this and is happy to apply the same policy across multiple brands.
The contentious element that may have seen interest wane in the new Santos, including Rober-Jan Broer, is the tapered bezel. For me, this design element is less prominent in the steel model so it is a non-issue. But I’m keen to hear your thoughts, Mr. Nudds…
Wow, sorry, Ben. I must have been asleep. Forgive me. It’s not you. Really, it’s not. It’s the mind-numbingly boring Cartier Santos you’ve selected for our debate this week. Yeesh, talk about heavy lifting…
Okay, where to start. To clear this up, there are a few things I actually like about this model. So while my overall takeaway is one of extreme apathy, my criticism would be paper-thin were I not to acknowledge where Cartier got it right before I barrel into where the brand got it wrong.
Firstly, I love the clasp. The bracelet itself is pretty cool, too. I like the style and execution. The clasp, though, is something altogether more refined. It is robust, reliable, and really nice to operate. I applaud it. It makes a good bracelet great. How that bracelet attaches to the case, however… Well, I’ll get to that in a moment.
The tie-shaped blued hands are a dream. Louis Cartier is said to have come up with the idea for blueing watch hands and, as such, I refuse to acknowledge any Cartier as Cartier without blue hands. Here they pop in all their glory against the crisp (read dull) white background.
Ben: So far, you’re making this very easy for me, Rob. You sure this is a debate?
Rob: Hang on, hang on. I’m getting to it. One more plus point to go… Finally, I like the case finishing and the contrast between the highly polished bezel and the brushed case middle with its polished chamfers. That’s it. now to the fun stuff…
Yawn. Seriously, who cares? Sure, the Santos has a great history that more than justifies its long shelf life. Although it looks like the kind of model a brand would bring in to an established range to “modernize” a classic, its DNA goes way back to the early days of aviation. And so while I prefer the rectangular elegance of the Tank (and, in fact, the majority of ladies’ collection), I concede Cartier can have a square watch in its collection without coming in for criticism.
But why, oh why, did the designers have to make it so damned big! Customers tend to settle on a watch in one of two ways. They either follow the brand route or the product route. Either they identify a brand that speaks to them before exploring that collection until they discover a watch that pleases them, or they identify the type of product they want and find a brand that provides that style of a timepiece.
Ben: Not sure if you’ve been living under a rock for three decades, but there was this trend in the ’90s of big watches. We’ve steadily seen the gentleman’s Rolex increase in diameter from 34mm to 40mm. So why can’t Cartier also stay up to date with modern customs as well? Now, over-sized watches are a sin, but this Santos De Cartier still remains highly comfortable at sub-40mm width.
Rob: Sub-40mm? Yeah, right. It’s 3-6 measurement (sans crown) is 39.8mm. But you know what that makes the theoretical corner-to-corner measurement of a square that diameter? Over 56mm. You can shave a couple of millimeters off for those rounded edges, but that’s it. If that’s your idea of a comeback, I’ll make some space for you under my rock. You’re gonna need it…
For me, Cartier’s watches are elegance incarnate. Its name and its catalog ooze class. This is the kind of brand that could batter the competition black and blue with a silk hanky. It is style. It is grace. And, in my opinion, it is most certainly not big.
Ben: It’s a testament to the core of this watch that even when enlarged, the package remains proportional. Now that industrial yet dressy design can be enjoyed by the husky gentleman. And earlier you called the dial “dull”. Ever heard of the phrase “less is more”? It doesn’t need to be flashy and over-embellished. The white dial provides a perfect canvas to display the italicized Roman numerals and rail-track minute markers. Simply saying C A R T I E R and A U T O M A T I C is more than enough. And don’t forget the hidden signature at 7 o’clock for that surprise-and-delight factor.
Rob: You might think it’s a lightweight criticism of a model. To pick on a model’s diameter as the central point of one’s argument might seem discriminatory. What if an NBA player wants to buy a Cartier but can’t find a model to fit? The modern sales director would clamor to fill that void. I, on the other hand, would say “tough.”
Ben: I’m pretty sure your turn as a sales director at Cartier would be very short-lived. Regardless of tradition, who would deny the publicity an NBA star brings by sporting a Cartier? Even more so if the watch fits and sits well on the star player.
Rob: If we’re talking Muggsy Bogues, I’m with you. If you’re trying to tell me LeBron should drop Audemars Piguet in favor of Cartier, I’m not buying it.
Not everything has to be for everyone. In 2020 we fall into that trap too often. Sure, I could wear fishnet stockings on a daily basis if I wanted to, but it doesn’t mean they would suit me (they don’t, by the way). It’s sad when we like and admire something that just doesn’t work for our build and body type, but who cares? There’s loads of other stuff to choose from. And while I appreciate Cartier’s need to sell watches, surely the brand didn’t have to go this big with the Santos. I appreciate its thinness. I really do. It’s not an unwearable watch (its horizontal diameter is 39.8mm). But it lacks the character of its diminutive forerunners. And to me, that’s a real shame.
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About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
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