Hands on review of the Cartier Santos-Dumont XL in steel

Jun 28, 2020,13:31 PM

This is one of the good news that Cartier is offering this year (yes there are others like the comeback of Pasha for example!): The restyled Santos-Dumont is now available in a handwind version after the presentation of the last year's high autonomy quartz version.

To be frank, there are few details to distinguish the two watches apart from the slightly larger case size of the handwind version: the latter has a size of 46.6 mm x 33.9 mm compared to a size of 43 , 5mm x 31.4mm for the quartz version. The case heights are similar, 7.5mm for one and 7.3mm for the other.

I must admit that I was looking forward to this watch. The Santos-Dumont Large Model with quartz movement is undoubtedly a very pretty watch which, moreover, doesn't even give the feeling of being animated by a movement with a battery given the absence of a second hand. But in all the imagination attached to what a Cartier Santos-Dumont must be, that is to say an elegant watch embodying a certain idea of ​​style or even of dandyism, I could hardly imagine it with a quartz movement. Simply because the small daily process of winding the mechanism is part of the concept, especially when the crown is adorned with a pretty cabochon. I even have difficulty understanding why Cartier didn't go directly to the handwind version and didn't offer only one larger size by choosing between the Large Model and the XL, the quartz then being reserved for smaller sizes. But Cartier surely has its commercial reasons and I imagine that some people remain reluctant to manually wind the watch. In addition, an automatic movement would have thickened the case and was therefore to be excluded in this context.

In fact, I have a small preference for the size of the Large Model which I find more suited to a dress watch. That said, it would perhaps be excessive to want to confine it to this use and this is the reason why the XL size can quite be conceived. The Santos-Dumont with its square bezel shape and the presence of screws is a watch with great aesthetic versatility which can be worn both with a suit and during weekends with a more casual outfit. I really like this case, fluid, slender and with character. I find it in any case better proportioned in its XL version than the Large Santos Model which is for me too big and a bit too massive. And let's not forget either that the Santos-Dumont has a great virtue: it has no date display which gives it a very pure style and I appreciate that the peripheral row of Roman numerals is preserved, without any window which could alter it.

The satin sunrays effect of the dial is beautifully reproduced and contributes to the charm of the watch. Without offering stunning finishes, the handwind Santos-Dumont XL is nevertheless executed with care and perfectly matches the image I have of a Cartier watch: it is simple, it is elegant and the case is not round. It also includes all the characteristic elements of the brand's style such as the Roman numerals, the "secret" signature in the V of VII, the peripheral railway scale, the pretty "sword" (glaive in French) hands in blued steel and of course the cabochon which is a blue synthetic spinel.

I also remind you that the 430MC movement (which is in fact the Cartier version of the Piaget 430P caliber) gives an extremely soft and pleasant windingexperience  which is an excellent point considering the small size of the crown. Its power reserve is short (a little less than 40 hours) by current standards but it is not a very serious problem since the watch must be wound on a daily basis . Of course, inattentive people will have to be careful since the Santos-Dumont is a two-hand watch and doesn't have a second hand which could serve as an operating indicator.

The Santos-Dumont XL is equipped with a blue alligator strap (a little stiff at the start) in its steel version (pink gold and two-tone versions are also available) and a pin buckle. I am very happy not to have to undergo the Cartier folding clasp which I absolutely dislike because wearing the bracelets very quickly.

One thing is certain: the Santos-Dumont XL ticks almost all of the boxes. It is well proportioned (the XL size works fine in the end), its dial is attractive without being spectacular, manual winding is pleasant and it manages to effectively transcribe this feeling of elegance and style inherent in the great classics from the house of Cartier. . The price of 5.650 euros in the steel version (7.800 euros for the two-tone version and 15.000 euros for the rose gold version) is in my opinion well positioned for a watch with undeniable charm from a renowned brand.
In a way, it perfectly embodies Cartier's strategy, more in tune with market realities and which is refocusing on its fundamentals.

+ a welcome handwind version consistent with the Santos-Dumont style
+ the very soft winding experience
+ the presentation of the dial
+ the pin buckle

- a short power reserve
- I have a preference for the size of the Large Model, more suitable in my opinion for this type of watch


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Great review FX, thank you!

 By: Geo : June 28th, 2020-22:52
I think this model is a winner, be it the XL or the Large model. And I am very glad that Cartier released the model now with a mechanical caliber. It is all a matter of taste of course, but in this case, the XL is my favorite, in all steel. GEO

That's actually a good watch at a good price!

 By: patrick_y : June 29th, 2020-00:24
This is a great timepiece for someone just starting out on fine watchmaking! Thanks for sharing! Handsome looking watch. I'd wear one!

Thanks for sharing!

 By: Arronax : June 29th, 2020-05:15
Love the case and proportions, struggling with the missed opportunity of offering a guilloche dial, ruins it for me.

thanks for sharing your review!

 By: terbaboom : July 3rd, 2020-02:05
i like the L size but not quite the quartz movement. haven't been able to try on the XL yet.

Thank you for the review and the photographs

 By: Age_of_Surfaces : October 14th, 2020-18:06
I bought both sizes of this watch in quartz earlier this year. They are gifts for my brother-in-law and his partner (he is a Brazilian working in aviation, hence the connection to the Santos-Dumont). I chose quartz because they are newcomers to watches, a...