Hands-On: The Cartier Santos Chronograph in Steel

Cartier Santos Chronograph

In the last couple of years, Cartier‘s watch collection has been growing in leaps and bounds, as the brand continues to leverage the technical capabilities contained within its parent company at Richemont. Last year we saw the birth of the Drive De Cartier Extra Flat in Steel, an expansion of the Drive collection that first launched in 2016, and arguably the best price-conscious ultrathin watch on the market today. Last year the brand began the refresh of the iconic Santos collection, but their latest update to the Santos Chronograph is hands-down our new favorite of the pack. Not only does it make use of the brand’s in-house chronograph caliber 1904-CH MC that first appeared in the Calibre de Cartier Chronograph in 2013, though with a special little twist.

Cartier Santos Chronograph

Getting some hands-on time during the chaos that was Watches and Wonders Miami, I opted to examine the entry-point of the collection, which is the steel cased model on rubber strap and fitted with a dark grey brushed ADLC bezel. At first glance, its dark grey rubber strap is near perfectly matched in color to its bezel, and due to the addition of (decorative) screws in the first few strap sections you’d almost think you were looking at a DLC bracelet if you didn’t get a clear look. It’s worth noting that all of these releases are equipped with the brand’s new quick-change strap system that came with the first round of Santos models last year. This model, as well as the solid 18k rose gold model is being sold with both rubber and leather straps included, whereas the duo-tone yellow gold and steel model will be offered with the rubber strap and a matching duo-tone bracelet (priced at $14,300).

Cartier Santos Chronograph

Unlike other members of the Santos line, the new chronograph is only being offered in the brand’s “XL” case, measuring 43.3mm across, 51.4mm lug to lug, and 12.5mm thick. Although it is a bit hefty by Santos standards, on the wrist the piece is anything but overpowering. Other models on bracelet will be rather heavy on wrist, however the lightness of its rubber strap make this version a personal favorite of the collection overall. Regardless of which variant you’re most fond of, where the piece earns a little extra credit is in the clever configuration of its chronograph pushers. Where past Santos chronograph models used a conventional two and four o’clock chrono pusher configuration, the new Santos Chronograph mixes things up a bit, placing the broad rectangular chronograph start/stop pusher on the opposite side of the case at nine o’clock. Its reset function on the other hand is hidden in its crown, and unlike a monopusher or split chronograph, nothing additional has been done to the design of the crown to execute this, giving the watch a look that is more akin to a dual time or GMT watch with a solo pusher to advance its hour hand.

Cartier Santos Chronograph

As with most Cartier watches, great care and attention was paid to creating an understated dial that isn’t short on detailed finishing. Slightly contrasting creamy tones appear in a range of finishes that all work together seamlessly—vertical brushing in the center, faint radial brushing in the track below the hour indices, and circular snailing in its three recessed subdials. All of its hands have a generous application of Super Luminova as well, ensuring the piece has a reasonable glow to it when the lights go down.

Cartier Santos Chronograph Dial

Based on latest intel, these chronographs are expected to start landing in boutiques and digital retail platforms by April 2019, with pricing starting at $8,950.

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Photo Credit: Justin Mastine-Frost, shot @ Watches & Wonders Miami 2019

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