It was just last year that Santos, one of Cartier’s oldest designs, underwent a major relaunch that saw a number different models introduced in a range of sizes and combinations of materials. This year we even saw a fantastic entry level quartz offering in the Santos-Dumont line, an easy entry point into Cartier watchmaking. But for the most part, these new Santos watches were classic executions of what is one of the very few truly legitimate icons of watch design. I try to resist using the “I” word, but I think that with the Santos it’s justified – I just do.
This year we got something much less expected that also points back to a more recent specialty of Cartier, the purpose-built skeleton watch. Skeletonized watches, of course, began with watchmakers and engravers whittling away at standard calibers to strip away all but their essential framework for the sake of beauty. Cartier, by contrast, was one of the first watchmakers – along with Richard Mille and Roger Dubuis, it should be added – to design its skeletons as such. With the Cartier Santos de Cartier Skeleton ADLC Noctambule, the last part of which means “night owl,” we have a Santos whose skeletonized baseplate has been designed to stand in as the dial, with large Roman numerals radiating from a square that envelops the central axis.
By designing a skeletonized movement from the word go, Cartier was able to purposefully turn the baseplate into a proper display. The case has been fully blacked out in ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon) and the movement and hands generously filled with Super-LumiNova. The result is a most modern take on the Santos – it’s a visually stunning wristwatch that looks stealth during the day, and then just plain sings when the lights go out. A skeletonized watch may not be the first thing that comes to mind when I think of an aggressively lumed dial, but that is exactly what the Santos de Cartier Skeleton DLC Noctambule is, and I have to say that this design really works.
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Credit to: Jon Bues