Spider, Burgundy Dial 2960 Cartier Santos Carrée
Cartier has done the sports watch but once. It’s the Santos, and while whether the bracelet is integrated or not is a matter of debate, pretty much everyone agrees that the ref. 2960 is in the spirit of a Royal Oak, Nautilus, or 222. It’s as close as Cartier ever came. It is an aviator’s watch by heritage, but an elegant collector’s reference today as it’s one of just a handful of mechanical (modified ETA) Santos that slipped through the cracks in the middle of the quartz era. This one, though, is a lacquered burgundy dial made to celebrate the Santos’s 75th, spidered fully and extremely sought after alongside the slate dial.
A spider dial is by some margin the most contentious form of patina amongst watch people. The last time we covered one here, I was widely quoted after as stating, ‘You think Israel vs Palestine has some ardent extremists? Walk this into the Hodinkee office and watch a civil war ensue.’ Well, here we go again. The fine lines you see are cracks in the lacquer, often caused by quick temperature variation. The same can happen in gloss Rolex. Like many collectible things, it’s a fault. But the effect can be attractive to the braver wearer. Vintage paintings crack. Clear coat on a vintage car too. Those are both considered damage. In watches though . . .who’s to say?
But there’s an angle to the Santos that I don’t think many have covered which I must. I was only recently made aware of this last winter by friend and reader @rosneathian. After making strides in aviation, Alberto Santos-Dumont spent decades tirelessly campaigning against using airplanes as weapons of war, having seen their coming of age in WW1. This proved incredibly prescient, and we would all do well in modern times to remember his efforts. In many ways, the Santos and its many variants could be said to be the only peaceful aviator’s watch, a paciflieger. I am perplexed that Cartier does not lean more into this side of the man’s story in marketing his eponymous watch. As Russia implodes, Ukraine is painfully slowly laid to waste, and China sabre-rattles Taiwan, there might be no angle more worthy of circulation. So let’s not throw hands over a spider dial, and simply agree that everyone is entitled to a unique view. That’s the last heartfelt and rational take you’ll hear here for awhile, I promise.
This example is worn, not abused, and looks great for it. These cases are all brushed, so they wear scratches well to my eye. The bevels on the lugs look great. That all-important dial is not super spidered, it’s really only the top layer and visible when it catches the light right. That said, spidering never stops unless you see a watchmaker and stabilize it, so keep that in mind. These are quite desired these days, particularly in the East, so I wouldn’t hang around if this is your kind of thing. It comes from a well-regarded retailer in Sweden.