Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian, was the first man to build and fly an airplane in Europe. He did so in October 1906, before anyone on the Continent was aware what the Wright Brothers, working in secret, had accomplished in America three years earlier. Santos-Dumont was also a friend of jeweler Louis Cartier. When he told Cartier that he needed a means of reading the time without taking his hands from the controls to reach for his pocket watch, Cartier designed a wristwatch for him. It wasn't the world's first, but it was likely the first to be worn by a man in civilian life. (Wristwatches, invented in the 1500s, were, until the modern era, either items of fashion for women or the property of military commanders.) Santos-Dumont was, in any event, the person who made wearing them fashionable for men.
The newest incarnation of the Cartier Santos-Dumont watch is a sleek, flat square. It comes in three kinds of gold—pink, yellow and white. The strap is made from alligator, and the stem has a sapphire set into it. Other models in the collection retain the initial design feature of screws embedded in the bezel. Despite its impressive history, on the wrist it is all but weightless.
Scorecard CARTIER SANTOS-DUMONT
WIDTH: 35.9 mm
HEIGHT: 5.6 mm
CASE: 44.5 mm
MOVEMENT: Mechanical movement with manual winding system
PRICE: $10,200 in white gold
CONTACT: 800-227-8437 or cartier.com