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Hands-On With A New Fully Iced Out Santos de Cartier Skeleton Watch

Hands-On With A New Fully Iced Out Santos de Cartier Skeleton Watch

cartier santos skeleton review

This is an in-depth, hands-on review of a special diamond-covered Cartier Santos de Cartier Skeleton in steel. While this very loud, very cool and very iconic watch isn’t a limited edition piece, don’t expect to find it easily like you would many other models in the Santos collection. Due to the unique type of movement and time required to make it, not to mention the extremely meticulous diamond setting, the diamond Santos de Cartier Skeleton can’t be produced in appreciable numbers.


Main Specifications

Case Size: 39.8mm x 47.7mm x 9.08mm
Watch Material: Stainless Steel
Diamonds: High-grade round brilliant diamonds
Dial: Skeleton
Movement: Manual winding calibre 9612MC with a 72 hour power reserve
Bracelet Features: QuickSwitch & SmartLink bracelet systems
Waterproof: 100 meters (or 330 feet)
Condition: Like-new

Continue reading on to learn everything there is to know about this watch.

cartier santos de cartier skeleton watch review

There are two very important things that Cartier has a superb reputation for, and that is shapes and skeletons.


Let’s first talk about its shape.

The iconic square shape of the case you see here was brought into being in 1904. The bold look encapsulates the spirit of innovation in the watch industry in the early 20th Century.

This epochal case style has remained relatively unaltered over its lengthy existence. The Cartier Santos transcends fashion by becoming positively timeless. It is unquestionably perennially modern.

The Santos de Cartier Skeleton case you see here, which is the large model, is fundamentally the same. Of course, there have been some subtle tweaks over the years for optimal looks and wear. The updated bezel creates a sleeker more integrated look and the overall refinement to the ergonomics of the case makes it even more comfortable.

To increase the wrist presence on this already sizable and quintessential Cartier case, diamonds completely pave the metal. High-grade round brilliant diamonds cover all 39.8 x 47.7 x 9.08 millimeters of the case. On the wrist, this diamond Cartier Santos de Caries Skeleton makes a huge statement. If you don’t love the planet’s most precious, hard, and beautiful rock, you need not apply. But if you do, we already know this watch is screaming your name, loudly and proudly.

Note: This watch wears considerably larger than it’s almost-40mm size might suggest. On the wrist, without even considering the diamonds, this watch stands out with pride. 

Now, let’s talk skeletons…

cartier santos skeletonized dial


The obvious main attraction is the dial, or better yet, the lack thereof. Cartier’s in-house movement, calibre 9612MC is on full display, with bridges holding all of the mechanics together and consummately taking form in Cartier’s classic and instantly recognizable exploding Roman numerals. Ultimately, it creates an extremely satisfying fusion of negative space and mechanics.

While the stripped-back demeanor of the skeleton Santos may not be for everyone, there are no errors with the execution here. Moreover, it reminds us that Cartier was one of watch history’s pioneers in skeleton watches.

Skeletonized watches, as modern as they may be, actually date way back to the 18th century. However, they didn’t really catch on in a big way until the past decade or so. We have a few major Maisons to thank for that. While Richard Mille obviously comes to mind first, Cartier was also one of the first watchmakers to whittle away at standard calibers, stripping all but the essential framework for the sake of beauty, and that beauty being a skeleton dial that the wearer can appreciate day in and day out. Like Richard Mille and even Roger Dubuis, Cartier was among the first to realize just how much the new generation appreciates the mechanical nature behind a luxury watch. After all, the most complex and interesting aspect of a watch is the movement, so why hide it behind a solid caseback and dial.

With the Santos Skeleton, we get the most modern and visually stunning Cartier Santos ever made. The skeleton movement, which is the dial in essence, is extremely sophisticated, yet it doesn’t feel fragile in the slightest. It’s exceptionally well-balanced, uncluttered and almost austere in its beauty. The end result is flawless, as niche as its stylistic skeleton appearance might be.

cartier 9612 MC calibre movement


If you are a true Cartier Santos enthusiast, then this movement might look familiar to you. That’s because it’s the manually wound 9612 MC, a calibre seen in other square Cartier skeleton watches.

You may also know that this movement was actually established by hollowing out one of its existing calibers. A very clever way to keep costs down for both Cartier and the end-consumer. If this was a completely brand new movement, you would expect to pay in the high five-figure price range (even six-figure), which is what it looks like anyway. Instead, you get a much more fair and competitive price tag.

The calibre 9612 MC is taken from the 96xx MC family of movements. You can clearly see this by looking at an exhibition caseback of a Cartier watch with a 9602 MC calibre. You’ll see an almost identical layout of the gear train, jewels, screws, keyless works, etc.

On the whole, the movement is actually pretty small. One area of the dial contains it all, which is quite impressive. But what’s impresses us even more is that the 9612 MC can run for 72 hours on a single wind!

Most skeleton dials have a far lower power reserve. Because the watchmakers want to make the movement as see-through as possible, they end up reducing the size of the barrel, which sacrifices the length of the power reserve. What Cartier did to maintain its 72 hour power reserve (as good as it gets in the industry) is give the movement two barrels, which you can see move when you wind the watch, as well as make it a manual wind.

In the end, three entire days of power reserve definitely negates the fact that this isn’t an automatic winding. Absolutely no complaints here.

Overall, this is a fantastic skeleton movement design that immediately displays the information the wearer needs and wants to see. Watching the movement work is an absolute pleasure. It is composed of 138 parts and 20 jewels, all of which have received strict attention to detail. The finishing is positively spectacular and it only gets better the closer you look at it. There is extensive brush finishing and a wholesome industrial aura thanks to the grey gears, wheels and springs that look at you from the ground up. You have to deeply respect just how difficult it is to work with such tiny and fragile pieces and set them together in a way that is not only beautiful but ever-lasting. Cartier accomplishes this in stride with Cartier Santos Skeleton. This is a timepiece that will go down in history as one of the great reinterpretations of the classic Cartier Santos.

quickswitch and smartlink system by cartier


In 2018, Cartier gave us a special update on the Santos de Cartier collection in the form of what they call the “QuickSwitch” and “SmartLink” bracelet system.

The QuickSwitch feature allows you to change the bracelet to a leather or rubber strap in a matter of seconds, without the need of any tools. It’s a simple click and switch function that occurs at the lugs.

The SmartLink system has the same concept, which is that you can adjust the size of the bracelet without the need of tools. This is possible because each link has its own button that when pressed it releases the link above. It makes for quick and easy sizing on-the-go.

All in all, Cartier clearly put significant importance on their new bracelet systems. They design their straps around ergonomics, comfort, and flexibility, so not only do they fit perfectly but they look amazing too. The ability to tailor your watch to any occasion or situation in a seamless manner is a true game-changer in our opinion, as many of us like to switch up the look of our watch, and as a bracelet or strap makes up a large portion of the wrist presence, the system enables you to do just that, in seconds.

That said, if you are a diamond lover, we aren’t sure that you will even want to switch your bracelet up because this diamond bracelet is magnificently stunning.

The setting and the diamonds themselves are of the highest standard. On the wrist and in any lighting, this bracelet is on fire at all times like the sun. The light performance is off the charts…

Nevertheless, if you wanted to create a somewhat more subtle look, you could throw on a rubber diver strap or a premium leather strap (of various colors) and be on your way.

iced out diamond cartier santos skeleton


This isn’t the only Cartier Santos de Cartier Skeleton with a diamond setting, but it is among the minority. There are very few iced-out Santos Skeleton watches out there. What’s more, not all of them have diamonds completely covering them, including the “dial”.

This diamond Santos de Cartier Skeleton has a diamond pavé setting along the entire bracelet, case, bezel and frame of the movement, which display the iconic Santos exploding Roman numerals. The setting is so well done that it completely deletes the top surface of the metal. This setting is extremely tight and masterfully done. The only metal that can be seen are the iconic screws, the edgings of the bezel and the crown, as well as the movement itself, of course. We really love how the screws contrast powerfully with the diamonds they are juxtaposed between. It allows the watch to be instantly recognizable for what it is, a Cartier Santos.

As for the diamonds themselves, these are superb natural diamonds. The size of the diamonds varies from the case to the bezel to the bracelet, to add depth to the diamond setting. Each one was hand-chosen and meticulously set into the watch. This process takes an almost unthinkable amount of hours.

Overall, you are left with a diamond Cartier masterpiece. Pictures can only do this watch a small amount of justice. The light performance that the countless diamonds produce will blow you away in person. It is absolutely breathtaking. This watch is a pure showstopper.

Related: Bustdown Cartier Santos His & Her Watch Set Review

cartier santos de cartier skeleton price


For a watch like this, the price is extremely fair and almost too competitive. You can contact us for pricing details for this specific diamond-covered Santos Skeleton.

The retail price for the steel model, without diamonds, is $26,800. However, due to small production numbers and the fact that this watch is highly sought after, you’ll need to get very lucky to get one at retail.

With the Cartier Santos de Cartier Skeleton, you get all of the DNA you expect from the modern Santos collection – curvy square case with a screw mounted bezel, the wonderfully useful QuickSwitch and SmartLink bracelet system, the crown with the Cartier blue cabochon, and so on – but with a skeleton effect that makes it much more contemporary, much more cool, and much more sleek.

All in all, you can ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a luxury watch by one of the big-name brands that looks genuinely more expensive than it actually is? Honestly, almost never. This is one of the few cases in the last few decades where we can say this watch has a price that is almost too fair. It looks like it should have a high five-digit or even six-digit price tag, but it doesn’t…even with it being covered in diamonds.

This fully diamond-encrusted Cartier Santos de Cartier Skeleton is not listed on our website but it is for sale. Please contact us for availability and pricing if you want it.


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