How many men have made their entrance into the world of luxury watchmaking courtesy of the Cartier Tank or Santos? Answer: too many to count… Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier when he took over the workshop of his master. Cartier was the son of a powder-horn maker; a device used to carry gun powder that was usually made from cow or buffalo horn. In 1874, his son Alfred Cartier took on the administration of the company, but it was the family dynasty of Alfred’s sons Louis, Pierre and Jacques which became responsible for establishing the worldwide brand name of Cartier we know and admire today.
Louis turned out to be an excellent businessman, not only with exceptional ability as a jeweller, but also armed with good looks, charm and intelligence; a lethal combination with which to sell luxury goods. His business acumen would eventually see stores open in Paris, London, and New York, and were it not for the Russian revolution, Moscow as well.
Cartier de Santos
In 1904, a good friend of Louis-François Cartier, the Brazilian pioneer aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, complained of the unreliability and impracticality of using a pocket watch while flying. To assist his friend, Louis Cartier and Edmond Jaeger invented the first prototype of a men’s wristwatch, a flat watch with a distinctive square bezel.
The watch was a hit not only with Santos-Dumont, but also with Cartier’s many clients. So it was from this timeless design that the Santos was born. It was the first men’s wristwatch (Patek Phillipe lays claim to making the first wristwatch, but for a woman and as a one-off, although A.L. Breguet was commissioned to make a wristwatch known as La Reine de Naples, for Caroline of Naples, the sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1810 and the watch was delivered in 1812).
Louis Cartier retained responsibility for the Paris branch, moving to the Rue de la Paix in 1899. He produced some of the company’s most celebrated designs such as the mystery clock – a type of clock with a transparent dial and so named because its works are hidden – fashionable wristwatches and exotic orientalist art deco designs, including the colourful ‘tutti frutti’ jewels.
In 1907, Cartier signed a contract with Edmond Jaeger of watchmakers Jaeger-LeCoultre, who agreed to supply the movements exclusively for Cartier watches. By this time, Cartier had branches in London, New York and St Petersburg and was quickly becoming one of the most successful watch companies in the world.
The Cartier Santos and the Cartier Tank have become rites of passage for many a businessman on advancing in his career and looking to improve himself with a trusted, respected brand name on his wrist. For many men the choice is between a Rolex or a Cartier as an instant and convincing statement of wealth, status and achievement. It’s no coincidence that these two brands are among the most imitated by the replica watch makers.
The Santos was an early forerunner to the now hugely popular aviator’s watch. Featuring a geometric shape and exposed screws, the watch quickly became a Cartier classic. The Santos rose to the ranks of a hallmark watch that has remained a firm favourite right up to the present day.
In terms of cost the Santos is at the foot of the luxury scale rather than the summit, but that is not to detract from what is an undeniably handsome and elegant watch. There are many versions of the Santos, or Santos de Cartier as it is often known.
The Cartier Santos 100 Chronograph
Even the chronograph version has many models in various metals, so you can choose one according to your budget. It’s one of the more eye catching models precisely because it is a chronograph and comes in an extra large size, 42.7mm, taking up a more imposing stance on the wrist.
The steel octagonal crown is set with a faceted spinel. The silvered opaline dial features Cartier’s famous black Roman numerals and luminescent sword-shaped black oxidised steel hands. Sub dials are featured at 3, 6 and 12 o’clock. The watch is powered by a mechanical movement with an automatic winding Cartier calibre 8630 and is water resistant to 100 metres.
Spotting a fake Cartier
Due to the enduring popularity of the watch and the brand there are many, many replicas, some poor, some so good they are hard to tell from the real thing without careful examination. A common misunderstanding is that there are A or AAA standard replica watches. The fact is, no one is out there setting an international benchmark for fakes. Deliberately going the fake route is something to avoid at all costs, you are only fooling yourself and ultimately aiding and abetting organised crime. Here is a guide to spotting a fake from an authentic Cartier.
Inscription: One of the simplest ways to tell a fake Cartier watch is to remove the caseback. A genuine Cartier watch will have “Cartier” inscribed on the movement.
Weight: A genuine Cartier watch will have some heft to it, especially when compared to the lightweight fakes. This extra weight is due to the watch’s quality materials used in the production of the watch.
Glass: A genuine Cartier watch has scratch-proof sapphire glass, which won’t be found on the fakes. The sapphire-quality glass of a genuine Cartier is also non-smear, so if you drop a few beads of water on it, they will roll off. Try this test because on a fake Cartier it will smear.
Cabochon stone: The winder of a genuine Cartier watch features a polished gemstone, called a cabochon stone, or a spinel on the top of the crown. If there’s no stone, it’s a fake Cartier watch. If there is a stone or gem it should be securely fastened, not glued on.
Serial Number: This should appear on the back or side of a genuine Cartier. The number will be engraved. A tell tale sign of a fake is that many of them feature a serial number that’s barely etched onto the watch.
Authorised Dealer: One sure way to avoid disappointment is to consult the Cartier website for an authorised dealer, and that way you will never have to worry if the Cartier you proudly wear is a fake.
More resources about Cartier Santos 100 Chronograph on the Official Cartier Website.