Alberto Santos-Dumont is a name that’s well-steeped in the pages of history. You’ll find an airport in Rio de Janeiro christened after him, as you would a street in Paris. He’s also immortalised on the official Brazilian presidential aircraft, and a crater on the moon. For all his contributions to modern aeronautic engineering, it’s no surprise he had a timepiece named after him too: The Santos de Cartier.
The only difference is that this watch wasn’t merely named after him, but also made for him. Santos-Dumont was a visionary in the world of aviation, having invented 22 flying machines, including the airship, helicopter, monoplane and biplane. He famously piloted the first hot air balloon flight in 1897, and a decade later, invented the Demoiselle — a predecessor to the modern aeroplane.
He is known for his penchant for flying ridiculously close to the Eiffel Tower — even crashing once — and his work in pioneering innovations in the aeronautic world with imaginative solutions, such as using Chinese varnished silk, and piano strings for hot air balloons. However, his larger-than-life personality was not only defined by his ingenuity, but also by his unorthodox approach to clothing.
He valued comfort beyond conformity, choosing to wear his cap backwards, while his aviator goggles and custom-made coat were criss-crossed with cables and hooked up to the commands of his aeroplane. He also disliked checking his pocket watch while flying. A complaint to his close friend Cartier resulted in the birth of Santos de Cartier — the first men’s wristwatch ever made — which allowed Santos-Dumont to check his flight performance while keeping both hands on the controls.
Forty years after the Santos timepiece’s last big overhaul in the late 1970s, the classic has resurfaced again with better ergonomics, sleeker lines, and more elegant curves. The case, originally inspired by the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower, now boasts softer, more form-fitting curves that hug the wrist comfortably.
The bezel extends to the strap, which, in the spirit of innovation, has been updated with Cartier’s QuickSwitch system, allowing for easy adjustments without tools. Each watch comes with two straps, lest you feel constrained by one, and the movement is now the in-house automatic calibre 1847 MC.
The Santos de Cartier was clearly made for a modern man in mind back in 1904, and this holds true more than a century later — only now you’ll find one for every personality too.