With the dawn of aviation around the corner, one Brazilian aviator saw the need for a particular kind of tool - a pilot’s watch. This aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont, went to his friend Louis Cartier in 1904 and asked him to design a watch for use during flight. This watch became what we know and love today as the Cartier Santos Dumont, the very first tool watch. Evolving through time as a wide-ranging collection, the Santos Dumont has become one of watchmaking’s most iconic designs, famed for creating the humble wristwatch as we know it
Still sold by Cartier to this day, the Santos Dumont is the very pinnacle of timeless design. The reference I have here is the ref. 1576, arguably one of the most desirable Cartier models of recent times. Featuring a polished edged bezel sitting atop a satin brushed case with polished bevelling, the Santos Dumont’s case toys with the reflection of light in a playful manner. Fitted with a classic Cartier guilloche silver dial with black roman numerals, a railroad minute track and blued steel hands, the ref. 1576’s reflects light beautifully.
Moving on from the visuals, the ref. 1576 houses the manually wound 021 MC movement within its 18kt yellow gold case. Based on the Frédéric Piguet 21, the 021 MC was designed to be the thinnest watch movement available at the time, allowing the ref. 1576 to lay flat against its wearers’ wrist. Oscillating at either 18,000 vph or 21,600 vph, depending on the particular period the movement was made, the 021 MC boasts an impressive 42-hour power reserve given its tiny 20.4mm x 1.75mm profile
With the recent resurgence of older Cartier pieces, the Santos Dumont sits front and center as one of the must-haves.