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A guide to Cartier Tank watches

If you’re looking to buy your first Cartier Tank watch or want to extend your growing collection, this guide to Cartier Tank watches will provide you with all you need to know in order to determine one style from another, as well as a brief history on the iconic collection from its humble beginnings to its striking design today. The Cartier Tank watch remains one of the most highly sought-after and collectable luxury watches to own. Many luxury watch brands have attempted to copy its instantly recognisable design, yet nothing matches the pure elegance and understated style of this popular rectangular-shaped profile on the wrist.

When Cartier is mentioned, we instantly think of the Tank, yet there are many other collections worth taking a look at if you’re thinking of broadening your interests in this prestigious watch manufacturer. Today, however, we’re looking at the Cartier Tank – a watch that has sprouted many roots in terms of its sub-families. It would be impossible to cover the most popular Cartier Tank watches without simultaneously outlining the history of the collection since the famous design grew and evolved as its history unfolded. Let’s begin this guide to the iconic Cartier Tank watch…


The inspiration behind the Cartier Tank watch

Although released officially in 1919, the design of the Tank Cartier was developed in 1917 during the First World War and subsequently, its iconic case shape was inspired by the profile of the Renault FT-17, a French tank used during this time of unrest. Considering its inspiration came from a military vehicle, the watch has always resumed a very elegant look. What should be remembered, however, is that the Renault was held in high regard since it was the first tank to house its weapon in a fully rotating turret.


The Cartier Tank Louis

Named after Louis Cartier himself, the Cartier Tank Louis is considered one of the purest representations of this model and was first released in the year 1919. It took a further few years, however, for the design of the Tank to catch on. Its flanks or brancards were an unfamiliar look during a time when traditional wristwatches took on a slender rounded look. The sides of the Tank case led seamlessly into a straight set of lugs, transitioning into a slender, elegant and refined look on the wrist. The Cartier Tank Louis watch also featured a sapphire cabochon set into its crown at 3 o’clock, as well as blued steel hands, both of which became adopted hallmarks of a Tank watch thereafter. Looking at the dial of the Cartier Tank Louis watch, it offers a clean, crisp and uncluttered display for easily reading the time from. In addition to this, the 4 o’clock location on the Roman numeral hour track is represented by IIII instead of the IV reference. The choice to do so achieves visual symmetry across the dial and an overall more appealing finish to the display.

One particular model from the Tank Louis series is the reference WGTA0011, which features the famous Roman numeral hour track, blued steel hands elegantly carved into their familiar sword shape, and has been crafted from polished 18ct rose gold. This Tank watch is powered by the Calibre 8971 MC movement, which sits inside a case measuring dimensions of 33.7 mm x 25.5mm. In addition to this and further contributing to its clean, simplified dial is the absence of a date window. The watch is completed on a semi-matt brown alligator leather strap and a matching 18ct rose gold ardillon buckle fastening to complete a very classic aesthetic.


Our Pick

Cartier Tank Louis

Reference: WGTA0011

Case/Dial: 33.7mm 18ct rose gold, Silver

Movement: 8971 MC, Self-winding

Style: Classic

The Cartier Tank Americaine

The Cartier Tank Americaine watch was released much later down the line in the year 1989. Its curvier, voluptuous shape differed from the disciplined look of the Cartier Tank Louis watch, boasting an elongated yet shapely design with rounded corners that are undeniably different to that of the Tank Louis. Thanks to slimmer proportions, the design of the case was intended to hug the shape of the wrist better.  The Art Deco-inspired dial is still present, as are the blued steel hands that add a subtle injection of colour into the display. The brancards once again turn into the lugs and the cabochon is adorned to the tip of the crown. Classic linear shapes and effortlessly rounded corners characterise the design and timeless style of the Cartier Tank Americaine watch. Above all, the model was comfortable to wear appealing to collectors in the masses. The Tank Americaine also introduced complications into its design, making those models equipped with a chronograph, for example, highly desirable amongst enthusiasts.

The Cartier Tank Americaine reference: W2609156 is a large watch that measures a width of 41.5mm, making an unavoidable statement on the wrist. Its silver flinque dial is home to a set of crisp black Roman numeral hour markers and a set of blued steel hands that pair naturally well with the faceted sapphire gemstone set into the surface of the watch’s crown. The blush pink colours of the watch’s 18ct rose gold case combine beautifully with the vintage brown tones of the model’s classic leather strap. The dial also features a date window located at 6 o’clock and the watch is powered by a self-winding movement.


Our Pick

Cartier Tank Americaine

Reference: W2609156

Case/Dial: 33.7mm Rose gold, Silver

Movement: Self-winding

Style: Elegant

The Cartier Tank Francaise

The release of the Cartier Tank Francaise brings us to the year 1995, when the manufacturer released this sportier-looking model whilst still harnessing some very contemporary elements for its time. Although similar to its predecessors in many ways, such as its blued steel hands, sapphire-tipped crown and Roman numeral hour track, it was the brancards where the design of the Tank Francaise began differing from former models. The flanks were much pointier and angular in style, nodding to a sportier look on the wrist. The Francaise bracelet that came fitted on this Tank watch was said to have been inspired by the tyre treads of the Renault FT-17, nodding quite apply to the origins of the watch and its compelling history.

The Cartier Tank Francaise reference W2TA0003 is a popular example of a timepiece from this range. Its bi-colour case design has been crafted from stainless steel and 18ct yellow gold and holds a quartz-powered movement at its centre. The Tank Francaise watch takes on a more classic square shape compared to its former models, whilst the silver grained dial of this particular model forms a simple and neutral background for a set of Roman numerals and blued steel sword-shaped hands.


Our Pick

Cartier Tank Francaise

Reference: W2TA0003

Case/Dial: 30mm Gold/Steel, Silver
30 mt.

Movement: 157, Quartz

Style: Classic

The Cartier Tank Solo

The Cartier Tank Solo watch launched in 2004 and looks remarkably similar to the original Tank Louis watch to the untrained eye. There are, however, some differences to be appreciated. The brancards of the Tank Solo are flatter than those of the Tank Louis watch. With many models housing a quartz movement, these timepieces soon became an entry point into the world of Tank watches. Having said that, there would be no better introduction to collecting Cartier Tank watches than a model that bears a resemblance to the original timepiece.

The Cartier Tank Solo watch reference W5200026 is a modest timepiece that oozes plenty of vintage flair. The watch wraps around the wrist with a brown alligator leather strap and a traditional ardillon buckle fastening crafted from 18ct rose gold to match the material used for the case. A synthetic spinel replaces the blue sapphire gemstone seen in some of the higher-end Tank watches, whilst a silver opaline dial features a 6 o’clock date window controlled by the Calibre 049 movement, capable of producing a 42-hour power reserve.


Our Pick

Cartier Tank Solo

Reference: W5200026

Case/Dial: 31mm 18c Rose Gold , White

Movement: Self-winding

Style: Classic

The Cartier Tank Anglaise

The curvilinear design of the Cartier Tank Anglaise watch launched in the year 2012 and featured the crown set into the brancard. This made the styling of the Tank Anglaise instantly easy to separate from models that had been and gone before. Paired with its curvier design, these are the two defining characteristics of the Anglaise watch range. Due to the change in the crown design, the Tank Anglaise watch had a more symmetrical case shape. The release of this model completed the Tank Trinity – the Americaine, Francaise and Anglaise – all released during the course of three decades. All three represent the three Cartier boutiques in New York, Paris and London. Because of its clear differences, the Cartier Tank Anglaise is still a pretty interesting watch to own

Our Pick

Cartier Tank Anglaise

Reference: W5310006

Case/Dial: 47mm, Silver

Movement: 3507, Self-winding

Style: Classic

The Cartier Tank MC

Although there are other Tank watches to note, such as the Tank Cintree (with a discreet and slender case depth) and the recently revived Tank Must variations (originally released in the 1970s with more affordable vermeil coated cases), the Cartier Tank MC is one watch that deserves its place in this guide to popular Tank watches. It takes its name from “Manufacture Cartier”, which refers to the fact that the model and its movement are produced entirely in-house. A slightly curved case and a sapphire crystal glass caseback have become popular features of this design, especially since the performance of the independently crafted movement can be admired through the back of the case whenever desired. In these designs, a Roman numeral hour track and blued steel hands are joined by a small second sub-dial at 6 o’clock, More often than not, these Tank watches are larger in size, making them a particularly appealing option for those with broader wrists.

Given that Cartier has released a myriad of different Tank watch styles over the course of a century, the basic DNA of this icon is still present, making it one of the world’s most recognised and sought-after luxury wristwatches to own of all time.


Our Pick

Cartier Tank MC

Reference: W5330003

Case/Dial: 44mm Stainless steel, Silver

Movement: 1904-PS, Self-winding

Style: Classic

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