THESE Luxury Watches Are Under £4,000? Cartier Santos 100 & Cartier Drive Moonphase

Cartier Santos 100 W20106X8 

Cartier Drive De Cartier Moonphase WSNM0008 

Santos 100 

Having blown our minds and wallets recently on some serious sights of haute horology, we thought we could do with coming back to earth and taking a look at a pair of seriously good watches at under four grand. 

Not only do they represent excellent value for money, as well as coming from a brand who is riding high on the tide of popularity at the moment, they’re also from the maison that brought us the first ever wristwatch for men. 

If you haven’t guessed already, its Cartier day. 

It would be rude not to take a look at the one that started it all first, the Santos. 

It was first released in 1904 when Alberto Santos Dumont, a groundbreaking Brazilian aviator, complained to his friend Louis Cartier that grappling with a pocket watch while trying to fly a plane was quite frankly, a pain in the rear. 

Louis response to this was to design present Alberto with a large square flat watch that took its design cues from a similarly shaped pocket watch that Cartier had previously made. The bezel and crystal were secured to the watch with industrially styled screws, alleged to be a nod to the Eiffel Tower with the black Roman numerals evoking the layout of Parisian boulevards. 

It was an exceptionally striking design with a clear “Art Deco” influence, as this was the style of the era.

The movement was produced and supplied by Edmund Jaeger, of Le-Coultre fame, so all things considered, it was a recipe for success, and more to the point, completely revolutionised how watches were used. 

The Cartier Santos was made available to consumers in 1911. It was offered in various metals, and mounted on leather straps with deployant buckles - another Cartier innovation which, if you look at todays watches, caught on like wildfire. 

We’ve chosen an older model to have a poke around today, the medium sized 100. 

The 100 was launched in 2004 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Santos. 

t was offered in two sizes, large at 41mm and medium at 35.6mm, although both wear larger than their specs due to their shape. 

The 100 differs from the current crop of Santos in that it still retains the square bezel and leather (alligator) strap, so it’s a shade closer to the original design than its successors which had their bezel adapted and elongated in 2018 when the Santos was relaunched with a re-design with an integrated bracelet and an in house movement after being discontinued for a spell in 2016. 

The medium model is considered unisex, and genuinely is as it has a pleasing mix of being compact but exceptionally readable and still packs enough presence to wear a shade larger than a Datejust, so perfectly sized for a medium wrist. 

The dial is exceptionally legible thanks to the thick black Roman numerals which radiate around the outer track and offer a strong contrast against the white dial. 

If you look at the V at 7pm it contains Cartier’s “secret” signature. The hands are outlined in black with a healthy dose of lume. 

Its sporty, but also elegant and quintessentially deco.

The crown features the signature blue Cartier cabochon set into it and 

movement-wise this 100 is running a high grade ETA movement rather than in-house which is a bonus for independent servicing. 

All in, it’s a superb entry to the brand and a genuinely timeless model, which is not surprising given that by my rudimentary calculations the Santos is now in its 120th year. 

Drive De Cartier

In contrast, our second watch, the Drive Du Cartier Moonphase is a dressier option but with the same visible Deco DNA. 

It was released in 2016 and discontinued in 2022, so quite a short production run and is a very intriguing not to mention tactile cushioned case that isn’t round, or square, or like anything else i’ve seen in a while really. 

Its a 40mm case which wears more like a 42 and has a a height of 12.2mm meaning sits low and wide on the wrist, very comfortable, and fairly formal at the same time. It doesn’t have the squat square sports appeal of the Santos, and it takes a minute to get used to, but, once you do, its a fantastic shape. 

As its name suggest, this has been designed with automobiles, specifically vintage ones in mind. 

Cartier previously offered the car-themed Roadster back in the early 2000s - suffice it to say that the design was more likely to be based on Stephen King’s “Christine” than the Aston DB4.

The crown mimics the bolts used to hold cars together back in the day and the guilloche of the dial is said to be evocative of old radiator grilles, above and beyond that there’s nothing that really links it to motoring so you can appreciate the watch without being a petrol-head. 

Legibility is excellent and much like the Santos uses stark black Roman numerals against a white background along with blued steel hands which are un-lumed but still very visible from any angle. 

This particular model forsakes the date found in other Drives in favour of a moon-phase complication which is set using a pusher in the side of the case. 

There are no seconds on this one which creates a nice symmetry on the dial. That said, a lack of seconds can be polarising as some prefer to set their watches dead on time and observe accuracy whereas others take a more laissez faire (my French is a homage to Cartier) attitude to timekeeping and will reset when the minutes begin to drift. 

Personally, I tend to take the more relaxed approach but either way, the in-house calibre 1904 LU (for lunar) has a double barrel for precision timekeeping and a 48 hour reserve so you’re good to go. 

The alligator strap is pretty formal and secured using a deployant clasp. There are no holes in Cartier deployant straps as fit is taken care of by folding the strap into the deployant so that it sits at the inside edge of the band which is both comfortable and tidy in that theres no tail on display when the watch is being worn. 

It uses a spring bar system rather than quick release or screwed bars, and has a lug width of 20mm so straps can be changed by the brave at will. 

As this isn’t a designated sports watch, it has a WR of 30 meters which is splash proof but don’t schedule any trips down the Mariana Trench with it. 

So we have it, two superb watches from Cartier, at below £4,000. 

In my opinion, they are pretty unbeatable for the price.