Monday, February 13, 2012

The Man Who Started the Wristwatch Trend

Albert Santos-Dumont had the vision to fly, and was one of the early pioneers of flying. He was a celebrity of his time, flying amidst the wondrous upturned faces of the public. They wanted to be like him to dress like him, he was their icon, their superstar, and anything he wore was replicated by thousands... and so the wristwatch became popular.

Santos-Dumont was born on July 20th, 1873, in the Brazilian town of Palmira, the sixth of eight children. His father was French, an engineer and he owned a coffee plantation in the state of Sao Paulo. His father was known as the " Coffee King of Brazil" as he made a large fortune utilizing latest labor saving inventions of that time.

Santos-Dumont ,as a young child, looked up into the brilliant expansive view of the Brazilian sky and dreamed of flying. His father sustained an injury by falling from a horse and moved the family to Europe. Santos-Dumont who had always been fascinated with machinery bought himself an automobile and later studied physics. chemistry, mechanics and electricity.
Still his dream of flying persisted and he hired an experienced balloon pilot to take him on as a passenger, then he piloted the balloons himself, and then flew dirigible balloons (many people are more familiar with the German Zeppelin like that which docked atop the Empire State Building).
Santos-Dumont built and flew 11 dirigibles from 1898 and 1905. He would cruise along Paris boulevards at rooftop level, landing outside outdoor cafes for lunch.

He won the Deutsch de la Meurthe Prize by flying his "lighter than air"aircraft from Parc Saint Cloud to the Eiffel Tower in less than thirty minutes, but it was the "heavier than air aircraft" that gained most of his attention. He flew an airplane he built, the 14-bis, on October 23, 1906, in front of a crowd of rapt spectators, 200 feet at a height of 10 feet above the ground. He was awarded the Archedeacon Prize in July 1906 as he was first aviator to fly more than 25 meters.

In 1904 while Santos-Dumont was celebrating his win of the Deutsch Price at the Maxim's Restaurant in Paris, he complained to his old friend ,Louis Cartier, about the difficulty of checking his pocket watch while trying to handle the controls of his aircraft. Santos-Dumont asked Louis Cartier to come up with a different way of checking the time whilst keeping both hands on the control. Louis Cartier and his master watchmaker ,Edmond Jaeger, brainstormed, and soon came up with the first prototype for a man's wristwatch. It was a watch on a leather strap with a buckle to be tied around the wrist. This was not the first time a wristwatch was invented, Patek Phillipe had created a wristwatch in 1868 for the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary, but Patek Phillipe creation was more of a style statement than the need for practicality.

After Santos-Dumont was presented with his wristwatch, he never flew without it, and it was with the Cartier wristwatch that Santos-Dumont, on November 12, 1906, used to confirm that he had broken his own personal record for flying 730 ft in twenty one seconds.

Santos-Dumont was nicknamed "le petit Santos" and the stylish of that time copied Santos-Dumont wardrobe from his high collared shirts to his singed Panama hat to his Cartier man's wristwatch. Santos-Dumont was indeed a trend setter, men are still very much wrist watch wearers; although they have done away with their high collared shirts and singed Panama hats.

To honor Santos Dumont, Cartier has an entire Collection of wristwatches called Santos de Cartier. This collection includes Santos 100, Santos Dumont, and Santos Demoiselle for ladies. The striking square case provides a sense of complete equilibrium as well as practicality.

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