Jake Gyllenhaal Cartier

WHEN JAKE GYLLENHAAL was announced as Cartier’s first ever watch ambassador in 2018, the watch world — and those partial to his boyish good looks—took notice. Not so much that it was Gyllenhaal, one of Hollywood’s biggest actors, front and centre of a Cartier watch campaign. But more so the watch that Gyllenhaal was beautifully displaying.

The Cartier Santos.

This has, since 2018, been Gyllenhaal’s watch of choice when it comes to red carpet affairs, press tours and simply walkabouts in his Tribeca neighbourhood. The Cartier Santos—or the “Santos” as its simply known—is by no means a new watch, but its popularity in recent years has undoubtedly soared thanks to three main principles that have remained constant in its 118 year history: simplicity, practicality and innovation (the relaunch of the Santos de Cartier in 2018, together with its partnership with Gyllenhaal, undoubtedly has a big part to play in its popularity, too).

“I think there’s an idea of progressing—of forward movement—that is the essence of the [Santos] watch, even though it was created over a century ago,” Gyllenhaal told Esquire US in 2019.

“I was fascinated to think about the discussions between those two people, between Louis Cartier and Alberto Santos Dumont when he was explaining what he needed it [the watch] to do, and how Cartier came to merge those technical needs with his artistry in that first Santos.”

Santos de Cartier
Wikimedia Commons

A brief history of the Cartier Santos

The Cartier Santos was famously created in 1904 by Louis Cartier for his pilot friend, Brazilian-born Alberto Santos-Dumont. Not only an aviator but a wealthy aristocrat and an affluent member of Parisian society, the meeting—and thereafter friendship—between Santos-Dumont and Monsieur Cartier was inevitable.

So, in 1904, Cartier gifted his pilot friend a timepiece that would revolutionise the industry forever: the very first Cartier Santos—and subsequently, the very first modern watch meant to be worn on the wrist. Cartier recognised this bold new world of aviation and wanted to be at the forefront of creating something revolutionary that could accompany a pilot on his journey.

But don’t be mistaken for the style-driven timepieces of today: the first Santos was a singular timekeeper, sturdy in its square design and designed purely for purpose (on short flights, such as the ones Santos-Dumont would frequent, time was essential, and a pilot didn’t have the means to fiddle around with a pocket watch).

Today, the design of the Cartier Santos is immediately recognisable, renowned for its square case, exposed screws on the bezel, Roman numerals, classic Cartier sword-shaped hands—an overly bold design that truly captures the essence of Cartier’s storied watchmaking heritage.

Cartier Santos smoke green

So, what’s the difference between the Santos de Cartier and Santos-Dumont?

Not a lot, but enough that a trained (watch) eye can immediately tell its differences.

Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that both the Santos de Cartier and the Santos-Dumont derive from the same family: the Cartier Santos. Evidently, they both pay homage to the original Santos watch, most notably, its square design, geometric lines, clean design and technical innovation. Today, the difference the two watches share isn’t anymore than an aesthetic difference—in case size, thickness, and movement.

You’ll find the Santos de Cartier—which was first released in 1978 as the Maison’s answer to the stainless steel integrated sports watch trend of the time—to be playfully sportier, bolder and larger in its design. The Santos-Dumont, on the other hand, is slightly dressier with a more compact design and slimmer profile, perfect for pairing with formalwear, like tailoring.

Both speak to the classicism, elegance and pioneering spirit the Santos has always be renowned for.

Cartier Santos 2023

What does 2023 look like for the Santos collection?

Earlier this at Watches & Wonders, the global watch trade fair for media and retailers, Cartier unveiled a slew of new Santos timepieces in a range of colours and designs.

The Santos-Dumont saw five new versions added to its elegant repertoire in 2023, including three watches in platinum, rose gold and yellow gold with an elevated dial mixed with jasper, jade and dumortierite: three colours that match the cabochon on the winding crown. Each watch also showcases the finely worked guilloché-effect dials. The remaining two Santos-Dumont timepieces comes available in a refined grey or deep navy blue, each with guilloché dials boasting contrasting gold hands and Roman numerals.

As for the Santos de Cartier, Cartier looked to further explore the use of colour. In this instance, by introducing a smokey deep green Santos in both a medium and large size to accompany a medium navy blue/midnight timepiece—both iterations radiating with iridescent dials with graduated colours that have been coated with a thin layer of tinted lacquer, applied by hand. It’s this artisan application that allows for its unique depth of colour.

Tom Cruise Cartier Santos

Which celebs wear the Cartier Santos?

Where do we start? The Cartier Santos resonates with such a wide range of audience, both male and female, and has been seen worn by many legendary persons of influence over the years. Most recently, you simply won’t see the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal without a Santos on wrist. Rami Malek is also partial to the Santos-Dumont, as is Tom Hiddleston.

Watch fanatic Tom Holland has also been spotted sporting his Santos de Cartier in recent years.



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