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Introducing: Cartier Santos-Dumont Limited Editions

Cartier Santos-Dumont Le Brésil, La Baladeuse and No. 14 Bis Limited Editions

Aviator, icon, dashing wearer of Panama hats, Brazilian pilot and inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont was a pioneer, designing and prototyping his own epic flying machines. He’s also to thank for giving us (by being friends with a certain Monsieur Cartier) the world’s first pilots’ watch.

The Santos has, since 1904, been a mainstay of the Cartier collection in one form or another and for 2020 the Parisian jeweller come watchmaker is paying homage to that legacy – and that of the man who inspired it – with a quartet of limited edition Santos-Dumont watches.

The first three are all of a similar built, meaning a 43.5mm x 31.4mm case and equipped with a 430 MC calibre hand-wound movement, complete with a 38-hour power reserve. Each has the same signature Santos-Dumont bezel with its industrial screws and elegant lines, pure streamlined modernism. The difference comes first in the finish and then on the caseback.

Santos-Dumont “Le Brésil”, limited to 100 pieces

Cartier Santos-Dumont "Le Brésil"

Cartier Santos-Dumont "Le Brésil" Caseback

Let’s start with the “Le Brésil”, a tone-on-tone platinum case and silver dial combo, capped with a ruby (rather than the usual sapphire) cabochon on the crown. That ruby is the only pop of colour across the board, which highlights the various finishes – brushed, polished – in contemporary savoire fair.

Flip the watch over and you can see where it gets it’s name, with a fine engraving of the Santos-Dumont flying machine that gives the watch its name. This is where the capsule collection’s theme comes in, with each watch attributed to a different one of the aviator’s creations – in this instance a hot air balloon, dubbed “Le Brésil”. Only 100 of this edition  will be built.

Santos-Dumont “La Baladeuse”, limited to 300 pieces

Santos-Dumont “La Baladeuse”

Cartier Santos-Dumont “La Baladeuse” Caseback

Chronologically that means that next up is the “La Baladeus”, which was a sort of elongated balloon / zeppelin affair. The tribute watch in front of the engraving is classic Cartier, a yellow gold case and matching champagne dial with black roman numerals and a blue sapphire cabochon. This is the most classic of the collection and is limited to 300 pieces.

Santos-Dumont “No. 14 Bis”, limited to 500 pieces

Cartier Santos-Dumont “Le 14 Bis”

Cartier Santos-Dumont “Le 14 Bis” Caseback

Third up we have the “No. 14 Bis”, where contrast is king. This is the entry-level of the full quartet, with as two-tone stainless steel case with yellow gold bezel. Throw in a black dial and contrasting white indexes and you have the most modern of the Santos-Dumont models. There’s a lot more going on aesthetically and it’s the least elegant, but it’s by far the most accessible, both in price point and because it’s limited to 500 pieces which, in fine watch terms, is a good amount.

On the reverse is arguably the most interesting of Santos Dumont’s flying machines, if only because it’s the strangest. The “No 14 Bis” is known as the ‘kite of compartments’, and essentially required the aviator to stand on top and steer the fins and rudder with what amounted to reins. Early pilots were insane.

Cartier Santos-Dumont “La Demoiselle”, limited to 30 pieces

Cartier Santos-Dumont 'La Demoiselle' Limited Edition

Which brings us to the final model, the one we’ve been saving until last not just because it’s chronologically the last in the series, but because it’s slightly different from the rest.

“La Demoiselle” clocks in at an extra-large 46.6mm x 33.9mm, a good chunk of platinum bigger than the other trio, and pays homage to Santos-Dumont’s major success as an inventor, his first mass-produced flying machine. It’s still quirky bordering dangerous compared to today’s aircraft, but at least the engraving on the back is recognisable. Kind of.

Cartier Santos-Dumont 'La Demoiselle' Limited Edition

Cartier Santos-Dumont 'La Demoiselle' Limited Edition

While it’s equipped with the same manual-wind movement as the rest of this limited edition collection, “La Demoiselle” has far more going on dial side. If the caseback is a tribute to the aircraft, then the dial is a tribute to the pilot. Said dial imitates the woven texture and cream colouring of Santos-Dumont’s famous Panama hat, as does the matching strap. It’s a great little touch and makes this the most unique piece in the collection. That and the fact that it’s limited to just 30 pieces. Once again it’s finished with a touch of warmth through a ruby cabochon, but this time comes with a pair of cufflinks to match with red tiger’s eye inlays.

Just by being friends with Cartier, Santos-Dumont gave us one of the most important watches ever made; it’s good once in a while to remember that he was a pioneering aviator as well. With this four-piece capsule collection, consider us reminded.

Price & Specs:

Model Name: Santos-Dumont “Le Brésil,” “La Baladeuse,” and “No. 14 Bis” Limited Editions
Ref: WGSA0034 (Santos-Dumont “Le Brésil”), WGSA0027 (Santos-Dumont “La Baladeuse”) and W2SA0015 (Santos-Dumont “Le 14 Bis”)
Case/Dial: 43.5mm diameter x 31.4mm height x 7.3mm thickness, platinum (Le Brésil), 18k yellow gold (La Baladeuse), steel and 18k yellow gold (No. 14 Bis)
Water resistance: 30m (3 bar)
Movement: Calibre 430 MC, manual winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 38h
Strap: Grey alligator strap (Le Brésil), Green alligator strap (La Baladeuse), grey alligator strap (No. 14 Bis)
Price: 17,800 CHF (Le Brésil), 13,600 CHF (La Baladeuse) and 6,850 CHF (No. 14 Bis), limited to 100 pieces (Le Brésil); 300 pieces (La Baladeuse); 500 pieces (No. 14 Bis)

Model Name: Cartier Santos-Dumont “La Demoiselle”
Case/Dial: 46.6mm diameter x 33.9mm height x 7.5mm thickness, platinum with ruby cabochon in crown
Water resistance: 30m (3 bar)
Movement: Calibre 430 MC, manual winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 38h
Strap: Panama fabric with additional strap in brown alligator leather
Price: 41,600 CHF, limited to 30 pieces

More details at Cartier’s website.

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Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.