Over the past dozen or so years, Cartier has made a habit of releasing attention-grabbing skeletonized watches. It started with the Santos 100 in 2009, and this year Cartier is introducing the Cartier Santos-Dumont Squelette Micro-Rotor Skeleton in a trio of metals.
The three skeletonized Cartier Santos-Dumont Squelette Micro-Rotor models are powered by Cartier’s new caliber 9629 MC, a micro-rotor caliber comprised of 212 components that Cartier says it took two years to develop at its manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The centerpiece of the new Cartier Santos-Dumont Squelette Micro-Rotor Skeleton collection is the yellow-gold version, which will be limited to 150 examples. The case and bezel use blue lacquer, kind of like last year’s knock-out lacquered Santos-Dumont limited editions, and it looks just as nice. Alongside this, Cartier’s introducing a rose gold and a stainless-steel Santos-Dumont.
Aside from the movement, which, to be clear, is a huge aside, the skeletonized Santos-Dumont is familiar: The case measures 31mm and 8mm in thickness (“Large,” in Cartier lexicon), the bezel has exposed screws, and each model uses Cartier’s signature blue cabochon and blue steel hands.
Cartier’s in-house caliber 9629 MC is a beautifully executed automatic caliber. Most noticeable is the micro-rotor at 8 o’clock, in the shape of the Demoiselle, a series of lightweight planes designed by the aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont himself (he was buddies with Louis Cartier, who designed the original Santos-Dumont wristwatch for him). Never one to miss out on a little romance, the little model plane soars over a globe.
Since 2009, Cartier has been designing movements to be skeletonzied from the ground up, and it shows. Let’s remember that Cartier only re-introduced the Santos-Dumont in 2019 as a nice entry-level quartz watch.
Four years later, we’ve got a skeletonized micro-rotor Cartier Santos-Dumont Squelette Micro-Rotor – we’ve all come a long way. The lacquered yellow-gold version won’t set the watch internet ablaze like last year’s trio because of its limited nature, but the blue-and-gold combo just works together (I grew up watching Reggie Miller torment the Knicks while wearing the Indiana Pacers’ yellow-and-blue kits, but I know my Golden State, Notre Dame, Los Angeles Rams, and so many other fans will be nodding along in agreement). Sure, I could’ve done without the little model plane zipping around the globe (the micro-rotor), but that’s Cartier – weaving its historical narrative into its modern brand, sometimes even to a fault.
Every time Cartier does a skeletonized watch, it’s a little different. The caliber is structured to fit Cartier’s famous shaped watches just so. The Asymetrique is different from the Cloche is different from the Chinoise; and nothing’s like last year’s Masse Mystérieuse. Sure, it’s a formula. But the magic’s in the execution.
By the way, this isn’t Cartier’s only skeletonized effort this year. This year’s complicated, skeletonized Cartier is a pocket watch that’s a minute repeater, flying tourbillon, and perpetual calendar. And it measures just 35mm. Seeing a beautiful modern pocket watch like this only made me appreciate the pared-back Santos-Dumont more.