It’s not uncommon for the word “legend” to come up now and again when you’re talking about watches. And if there’s one watch that’s earned that adjective, it’s the Cartier Santos. The timepiece not only brings with it more than a century of backstory, it was also the world’s first real wristwatch. Originally created in 1904 for aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, who needed a watch he could read easily while piloting a plane. Cartier decided to design a watch with integrated lugs, that could be worn on the wrist. To give the watch a bit of umph, Cartier made it square – a shape uncommon for pocket watches at the time.
Even though the Cartier Santos has been guardedly updated over the years, its design has survived the test of time – as has our fascination with it. Over time, however, many exciting alternatives to the Cartier Santos have appeared on the market – other pilot’s watches, watches with unmistakable designs, watches ready for adventure. So whether you’re looking for something more affordable than the Cartier Santos or simply want a watch that suits you a bit better, we’ve compiled the finest alternatives.
Characteristic Features of the Cartier Santos
Thanks to its distinctive rectangular case, the Cartier Santos is one of those watches you immediately recognize. But many other characteristics come to the fore upon closer inspection: The Roman numerals, for example, that lean into the corners of the dial. It’s a design that has remained more or less unchanged. The decorative screws on the case are also almost identical to those of 100 years ago. Like all Cartier watches, the Santos is defined by perfect lines, a well-balanced shape, perfect proportions, and refined craftsmanship with thoughtful details.
Yet beyond all these technical details, it is the watch’s spirit of adventure and versatility that endures. The Santos is made for the bold and the brave – people who dare to carve their own paths. At the same time, it’s perfect if you want a watch suitable for any setting – a timepiece that brings both a little adventure to the office and a touch of elegance to your leisure time.
And although the Cartier Santos flawlessly unifies all these characteristics and is undeniably a legend, the alternatives presented here today are no less remarkable.
Rectangular, minimalistic, practical, and an icon of design: the Cartier Santos isn’t the only watch to fit that bill. Models in the Casio Vintage collection are without a doubt the best Santos alternatives in terms of both design and price. Like the Santos, these watches are inspired by original designs from decades past and feature a variety of functions such as alarms and automatic calendars.
But most importantly, they have the same coolness factor: no other watch can be worn more casually than a retro model from Casio. It’s both an understatement and a declaration of love for iconic watches – all at an unbeatable price.
Practical, angular, good: check out the best rectangular watches in this article.
Stowa Flieger Classic
Another affordable alternative to the Cartier Santos is the Stowa Flieger Classic. It’s the perfect choice for anyone who wants a real pilot’s watch. Along with easy readability, superb luminescence, and a clean design, the focus here is on function. After all, Stowa, like Sinn, were responsible for the introduction of an official certification for pilot’s watches, the German standard DIN 8330, which guarantees the highest level of durability. So whether it’s shocks, drops, or magnetic fields, the Stowa Flieger Classic 40 stays the course, making it a timepiece for true adventurers and anyone who, like Santos-Dumont, thrive on the spirit of discovery.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the Cartier Santos for women, we recommend the Longines DolceVita. Not only is the shape of the watch close to that of the original, the timepiece features the characteristic Roman numerals, too. Longines’ ties to aviation are also immediately apparent in the brand’s logo, a winged hourglass. The DolceVita collection offers a wide range of models, with and without diamonds, as well as a broad selection of different color leather straps, so you can change the look of the watch according to your mood. All of which makes the DoceVita a great alternative to the Cartier Santos and a tempting choice when it comes to picking your next watch.
The Cartier Santos testifies to a love of flying, just like the Breitling Navitimer. Thanks to its legendary slide-rule bezel, the Navitimer can perform countless important in-flight computations. From simple multiplication to climb and descent calculations and fuel consumption, everything is possible. Not to mention that the Navitimer – despite being a chronograph – oozes the kind of sporty elegance that is well-suited to both a leather strap and a steel bracelet.
If you’re keen on pilot’s watches, check out our top-10 models!
If you appreciate the unconventional shape of the Cartier Santos and the novelty it had back in the day, then the Hamilton Ventura is definitely worth a look. The Ventura, with its triangular case, broke new ground and redefined the idea of what a watch could look like. It was also the world’s first electric watch, which makes it a pioneer as well as an icon for a whole new generation of timepieces. Despite its extravagant appearance, the Ventura can be worn in sporty or elegant ways. Even though it looks quite different from the Cartier Santos, it shares the Santos spirit when it comes to innovative design and technology, making the Ventura an attractive alternative for individualistic watch lovers.
Of course, you can’t just replace a classic, and if you’re in love with the Cartier Santos, you’ll never be satisfied with any of the alternatives. So, dream on! And may your dream come true. Don’t let yourself get distracted by similar watches! If, on the other hand, you’re fascinated by the flair of the Cartier Santos but less impressed by the trappings, one of our suggestions may well be the right watch for you. Regardless of which alternative you ultimately decide on, they all carry with them the adventurous Santos spirit – both Santos the watch and Santos the aviator.
If the Cartier Santos is still the only watch for you, check out Chrono24 Buyer’s Guide for the Cartier Santos!