Slate Dial 2960 Cartier Santos Carrée
Santos is a very broad church and part of its appeal is learning the nuances. Before Cartier became fully married to quartz in the 80s and well before the CPCP-era that resurrected their fine watchmaking approach, one or two mechanical Santos slipped through the cracks, hanging on for dear life. One is the ref. 2960, a large-cased Carrée (french for square, or straight-lugged) Santos with a modified ETA. It’s not just any 2960 though, as this vertically-grained grey dial known as ‘slate’ is one of the most desirable and hard-to-find Santos out there. Thank god the 80s didn’t entirely eschew mechanical calibres, what did survive are some of the most characterful references.
There are two standard production, more alternative dials in the 2960, this slate grey and a lacquered burgundy. The Cartier signature on this slate dial has an interesting tendency to lighten over time, many examples you’ll find have a gold Cartier at 12 that’s almost entirely invisible. And if this Santos’ bracelet looks a little different, it is. The bezel and bracelet of the normal 2960 were inspired by the Eiffel Tower’s construction. This is what’s called the Godron bracelet, which is said to have been a one year only release from Cartier in the mid 80s, available by special order with your Santos if you so preferred. The bracelet’s about as uncommon as this dial is. Both make for an unexpected take on the Santos that, to my eye at least, works.
Unlike the Santos Dumont and CPCP stuff I spend most of my time writing about, these have come down a bit off the highs of two or three years ago. You’d think, specifically for the Gekko-era Santos Carrée, that wouldn’t be the case. And perhaps that’s more indicative of collectors preferring dress to sport. When this nearly-integrated bracelet became married to the Santos, it really evolved from a dressy aviator’s watch to something more sporting, almost as if Genta had spent a holiday in Paris. Yet, even in this larger 29×40.5mm case, the Santos has lost nothing of its elegance. Royal Oaks and Nautili both tout classical design elements, but the Santos simply hails from that time. If you want your Cartier just a bit more brutalist, this is one of the rarer and more interesting variants you’ll find.
No one knows just how many slate dials are out there, but it’s maybe five to ten that come to market each year in this case, often quickly snapped up by the ravenous Cartier crowd. Prices, too, have been on a ride from the 7500 USD mark to 20K in 2022 and now a bit less. By comparison to the standard dial, the market does seem a bit dramatic. But then if you’re contrasting this kind of rarity, you’d have to pursue some CPCP Santos Dumont to even get close in terms of production volume. So perhaps this is still an 80s uncut gem, waiting for the larger market to acknowledge its appeal? Or it’s just a few watch lovers going mad over a grey dial with no numerals and a gold Cartier signature. Yeah, probably the latter, but I count myself amongst them.
This example is pretty strong overall. The dial is excellent, lightest of patina, a ghosting signature already on its way out, and all correct. The case is lightly polished, but not too aggressive and not-much to nothing of the original proportion has been lost. The bracelet still looks fairly tight, which can be a problem with these Godrons. It comes from a well-regarded Virginia retailer.