Cartier Unveils The Santos Collection

Updated: Aug 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
Heres a possible something for the watch lover whos got a couple of lakh of rupees (at least) to spare. The House of Cartier has just launched its Santos 100 collection in India. For choices, you get the Santos 100 a mammoth, sporty, powerful beast. Available in steel and gold versions, between Rs 1.95 and Rs 7.61 lakh, this one shouts adventure.

Unlike the Dumont which whispers elegance. Its sleek, pretty in a classic sort of way, especially when you note that the screws are hidden...screws which the 100 displays full on. (There is a story here, but more on that later.) The Dumont is yours for Rs 4.4 lakh for the yellow and red gold designs, and Rs 4.7 lakh for the white gold finish.

The third line is the Demoiselle. As the name suggests, this ones for the ladies. Available in steel, gold, yellow gold and white gold, with the option of studded diamonds, the retail price ranges between Rs 1.2-14 lakh.

So much for the time pieces. Now, for a timeless legend. According to the luxury goods maker, the Santos wristwatch came into being when Brazilian millionaire and amateur aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont requested friend Louis Cartier for a favour. Over a party at Maxims, Mr Santos-Dumont a dandy, also a staple on the Parisian social scene in the early 20th century couldnt fly his plane and read time on his pocket watch at the same time. Could Cartier help

Well, he did. For the man synonymous with style, Monsieur Cartier designed exactly a 100 years ago one of the earliest modern wristwatches. Modern because it was mounted on leather, a material not in use before then. It also featured what other watches kept hidden those screws! The screws actually went on to become Santos-Dumonts fashion statement, along with high stiff collars, shoes with lifts and a panama hat!

His watch set a trend, too. With its geometrical design and rounded angles, the original Santos became the forerunner of the Art Deco style. It stayed that way till the 1970s when steel and gold entered the picture.

Speaking of the latter, Indias long-running love affair with the yellow metal has the House of Cartier rather pleased. Ahmedabad typifies that, standing out as it does from among the metros, as a city in which Cartier enjoys a retail presence. Not just our gold fetish, Patrick Normand, Cartier MD (Middle East and South Asia), is betting heavily on two other factors: One, our 61,000 millionaires. Two, the cultural sanction for indulgence. People here dont hesitate to be extravagant. Theres no issue about enjoyment and pleasure. Indian culture is pro-luxury, rather like the Latin and Mediterranean cultures, he says.

Reasons enough for Cartier to regard India as one of the last frontiers, along with China and Russia. But heres the bummer. Chinas got a headstart on us. By the end of the year, it will boast between 10 to 15 exclusive Cartier boutiques. By contrast, India will have to settle for Cartier watches at hi-end retailers. In the absence of prime real estate and well-trained sales people, luxury brands dont want to take chances with their carefully honed image. Till at least such time that India has a retail industry worth the name.