December 6, 2022

Usually, the Sunday Morning Showdown involves two quite similar watches — a chronograph against a chronograph, a diver against a diver, or a GMT against another GMT. And normally, two our editors compete against each other. Well, not today. This Sunday Morning Showdown will feature two very different watches and is a one-man show(down). I didn’t come up with this all by myself. It is inspired by a question I get asked quite frequently. On Instagram, people occasionally send me DMs about which watch to get next. The one I receive most often is the Santos vs. Speedmaster dilemma.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t enjoy receiving these questions. But because of the recurring nature of the dilemma, I thought it would be nice to dedicate this week’s Sunday Morning Showdown to it. You know, just in the interest of the ones out there who also find themselves torn between the two watches. And it’s funny because, at first, I thought, “These watches are so different… How is it that people are choosing between them?” But when you think about it, they’re actually quite comparable. All right, let’s dive in, but not before we take a look at last week’s Sunday Morning Showdown results.

Spring Drive for the win!

It was a battle between two White Birches from Grand Seiko. Both have very similar looks but very different hearts. And you, our dear Fratelli, chose for the very impressive quartz-regulated Spring Drive caliber over the (honestly, also very impressive) Hi-Beat movement. This week’s watches certainly don’t look as similar as those White Birches, but it still may prove difficult to make a choice.

Santos

Size isn’t everything

When you first look at the Cartier Santos and the Omega Speedmaster side by side, you might think, “These couldn’t be any more different!” First of all, there’s the size and the shape. Yes, you could get a modern Cartier Santos XL at almost 40mm wide, but when I get the question, people often refer to one of the smaller-sized Santos models. For example, my Santos Galbée from 2006, which is 32mm wide or the current large-size Santos, which measures 35mm wide. It’s a somewhat rectangular watch, so it’ll always wear larger than its size suggests. And to be honest, I think the Santos is a watch that should certainly not be too big on your wrist. Its design is already a big enough statement. That shouldn’t be accentuated by a bigger size.

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The Omega Speedmaster Professional (Moonwatch) is a 42mm watch and always has been. And it definitely has a more conventional circular shape. It’s also quite a bit bigger than the Santos, but it’s a watch that suits both smaller and bigger wrists very well. Especially with that new bracelet, which wraps itself nicely around your wrist directly from the end of the lugs. But the watch head of the Speedmaster is definitely heavier than that of the Santos. On my wrist, the Speedmaster shifts back and forth a lot more than the Santos does. The latter feels a lot more like having a bracelet on the wrist.

Nacho Speedmaster on Joseph Bonnie strap 20

Hand-wound chrono vs. automatic three-hander

Other than the size, these are also two totally different types of watches. The Santos is a “simple” three-hander, which, in some cases, comes with a date window. It has blued hands and a square silvery-white dial with black Roman numerals all the way around it. Then again, it does have a bezel, just like the Speedmaster. But instead of a tachymeter scale, it features a bunch of messy screw heads.

The Speedmaster is a very classic chronograph with a black dial and powdery white hands. It features three sub-dials for the running seconds and the recording of elapsed minutes and hours. There’s a lot going on on the dial, but because of the black background, it doesn’t look busy, at least in my experience. It also appears to be smaller than its actual size. With the Santos, the opposite is true. The bright dial is a real eye-and-light-catcher.

Santos

But of course, these watches also feature very different types of movements. I won’t go into too much detail here, but the most important difference is that the Santos has a self-winding movement and that the Speedmaster needs to be wound by hand every (other) day. If this is going to be a watch that you plan to wear day in and day out, this makes a huge difference. But if you wear a different watch every day, like me, this actually doesn’t matter too much.

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Santos

Bracelet vs. strap monster

Then there’s one last difference that I’d like to mention. I feel that the Santos is very much a watch that should only be worn on its fantastic bracelet. The Speedmaster, on the other hand, not only looks awesome on its bracelet but also almost any strap, especially a nice NATO. I’ve actually tried to take the bracelet off of my Santos, but it wouldn’t release. And honestly, I don’t mind. The watch just looks so good on the bracelet with the concealed clasp. I guess it would look good on a nice leather strap as well. But it certainly doesn’t even come close to the Speedmaster’s “strap monster” status.

The new Speedmaster bracelet is phenomenal, and I wear my Speedmaster on it the most. But you can really throw any strap on the good ol’ Speedy, and it’ll wear it so well! So if you’re the type that really likes to change the look of your watches with different straps, then please go for the Speedy.

Different, but the same

So yes, there are a lot of differences. But I can still see why people have a hard time choosing between the two. To start with, these are both very sexy watches to behold, especially when you look at them from the side. They both play very well with polished and brushed lines along the case. Together with the crown guards on both watches, it creates such a beautiful sight to enjoy whenever you’re feeling bored. I mean, they don’t look alike at all, but they’re still equally as attractive.

That’s also why I think they both stood the test of time so well and turned into such great icons. Both the Santos and the Speedmaster enjoy a very special status within the watch world and rightly so. The Santos has the early aviation story behind it, and the Speedmaster is all about space. So how do you choose between two great icons? Well, there is a difference in water resistance between the Santos and the Speedmaster.

Santos

The current Santos is rated at 10 ATM while the Speedmaster is rated at 5 ATM. But to be honest, due to the lack of a screw-down crown, I wouldn’t take the Santos swimming. Likewise, I wouldn’t take my Speedmaster with me into the pool. So in the real world, I think this is actually not such a big difference.

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Price could perhaps be a good determining factor, but I’m afraid it isn’t. After all the price increases of the previous months and years, these watches now list for almost exactly the same price! The current Santos de Cartier in the Large size is available from the Cartier website for €7,050. The Speedmaster Professional with a Hesalite crystal is listed on the Omega website for only €50 more at €7,100.

Your personal style

So I guess it all comes down to which watch matches your personal style better. The Speedmaster is definitely a bit more sporty than the Santos. However, I find that there isn’t even that big of a difference in versatility on the wrist. Both watches look great with a T-shirt and jeans, but they also look good when you dress a bit more formally.

Sorry, I’m not helping here. I must say, though, if I had to choose between the two, I’d choose my Santos. And that’s just based on my very irrational feelings toward it. It really feels like a watch that was made for me. In that sense, the Speedmaster feels a bit less unique to me. But this is something so subjective that I’d recommend you try both — for a little while, if possible — and then decide which one you have the strongest connection with.

Santos

Time to vote!

Or you can wait until most of the votes come in for this week’s Sunday Morning Showdown and let that result be your final decision. I’m pretty sure, though, that the Fratelli will go for the Speedmaster. Or will you all prove me wrong? Well, it’s time to cast your votes! And please let us know in the comments why you’d choose the Santos or the Speedmaster.

Oh, and as this week’s showdown was based on a question from our readers, we thought it would be a good idea to bring back the “You Asked Us” column. Every week, we’ll answer questions from you, our readers. So if you have any questions for us about anything, please also drop them down in the comments.

And if you have more questions about the Santos versus the Speedmaster, you can also get in touch via @fliptheparrot.

Cartier Santos vs. Omega Speedmaster Professional