In the early 19th century, watches were jewellery for women and one of the flight instruments for a pilot. Then, nowadays the function of watches has changed a lot and has become a fashion accessory for everyone. In this article, we’re going to talk about the first Pilot watch that changed it.
Before the first aircraft was invented, Alberto Santos-Dumont built the first flying machine, which was extremely unsafe to use. Exposed to the various elements above the sky, it seemed impossible to pick up a watch in your pocket to tell the time. Feeling the need for a timepiece that can be seen easily when flying a plane, this Brazilian pilot came to one of his best friends, Louis Cartier.
Then, the first Pilot’s watch was born in 1904, which was dubbed as “Santos” by Cartier. This watch comes in a square-shaped and small case size. This basic element is the core identity of the Santos collection, which Cartier still keeps it on the new models until today.
The original features that are still carried over to this day include the cabochon crown, Roman numerals, and also markers that are designed like a railroad track. The screws that are visible on the face of the watch are inspired by the screws on the fuselage. The square case is still visible and differentiates it from any other watches in the markets.
This watch is worn by Santos-Dumont when flying the Oiseau de Proie plane, which is believed to be the world’s first airplane. This truth is difficult to find because Santos-Dumont is known as an inventor who rarely patents his work, and more concerned about how he can make something useful for humanity.
Back then, in the 19th century, watches were also a necessity for the military, but the soldiers at that time were essentially just wearing pocket watches with wire lugs soldered on it. Meanwhile, Cartier, in his spirit of innovation, created a watch design that was truly comfortable to wear on the wrist, and it’s changed everything.
Whether you consider the Cartier Santos the “first wristwatch,” it was most certainly the first pilot’s watch. Most of today’s pilots’ watches are still associated with the highly technical world of the military. But in fact, this first pilot’s watch had an elegant design that everyone can tell it as a dress watch at the first look. Making it very unique.
The Cartier Santos collection is currently available in a wide variety of models, from quartz, automatic, hand-wound, to the most charming skeleton. There is also a sub-collection called Santos-Dumont which is inspired by the Santos model in 1978, which comes with a sport watch design, crown guard, and steel bracelet.
In late 1916, an article in the New York Times referred to the watches of that time as “silly ass fad.” But that perception slowly changed when this watch was first released to the market, and to this day, the Cartier Santos is one of Cartier’s most popular collections because of its fascinating history.