Watches - Buying Guides

Know your Cartier Tanks

“I don’t wear a Tank watch to tell the time. Actually, I never even wind it. I wear a Tank because it is the watch to wear!” Andy Warhol.

Over the years, the Cartier Tank has charmed as many famous figures as the Rolex Submariner or Datejust. Its CV includes such esteemed names as Lady Princess Diana, Jackie and John F. Kennedy, Michelle Obama and Muhammed Ali; and its elegant Art Deco aesthetic has been vouched for by artists and designers of the likes of Andy Warhol (who collected Cartier Tanks), fashion designer Tom Ford, and couturiers Yves Saint Laurent and Hubert de Givenchy.

The Cartier Tank story started in in 1917, which was the same year the French military introduced the Renault FT-17 tank. Some think the watch’s graceful lines undoubtedly mimic the treads of the mighty instrument of war, but others are certain the watch was merely a natural progression from the Cartier Santos. Indeed, Cartier didn’t call it the Tank at the time, at least not outside internal circles. Franco Cologni, former Richemont executive, in his book Cartier: The Tank Watch, claims it was Louis Cartier’s cunning sales and P.R. qualities that made him claim the watch was based on a tank.

Today, the early versions are given the name Tank Normale, they are the most sought-after models and come in a number of different materials and styles, sometimes with enamel or jewels. Many variations were made over the years including the Tank Chinoise, Tank Bi Plan, or Tank Cintrée, which was slightly larger and curved to fit the wrist.

But it wasn’t until the ‘60s that the Tanks really began to fly off the shelves. Since then, new models and styles have been introduced and developed, and today, there are six different collections:

cartier tank anglaise

Tank Anglaise

The Tank Anglaise was unveiled in 2012. It is the third Tank named after a nationality, alongside the Américaine and the Française. Like the other two nationalities, it is a version of the original, but its slightly chunkier and it curves to the wrist.

Another original feature on the Tank Anglaise is the sapphire-set crown, which sits inside the flank, or "brancard" as it’s called by Cartier.

The Cartier Tank Anglaise is made in a number of different materials and sizes for men and women. The XL model has an in-house movement while the others either have an ETA automatic movement or a quartz movement.

cartier tank francaise

Tank Française                   

The Cartier Tank Française was released in 1996. It can be distinguished from previous Tanks by its brancards, which have almost pointed shoulders, as opposed to the usual rounded ones. It also comes on a chain-link bracelet, which looks like the caterpillar treads of a tank.

The watch was very popular, particularly among women, and is worn by the likes of Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Duchess of Cambridge. It comes with either automatic or quartz movements and is available in a number of different materials and with or without diamonds.

cartier tank americaine

Tank Américaine

The Cartier Tank Américaine, introduced in 1989, had a far more elongated case than traditional Tanks. It also had a more pronounced ergonomic curve that has the effect of hugging the watch to the wrist.

The Tank Américaine comes in different sizes for men and women and different materials with or without diamonds. There are also a number of strap and bracelet options.

cartier tank louis

Tank Louis Cartier

The Cartier Tank Louis was first made in 1922, however the collection was extended with the XL Slimline in 2012. The original model, worn by Louis Cartier himself, came with rounded brancard shoulders, which gave it an Art Deco feel.

cartier tank mc

Tank MC

The Tank MC, which stands for Manufacture Cartier, is the most recent rendition of the Tank, coming out in 2013. The name is derived from its main feature, in-house calibre 1904 automatic movement.

For years there have been calls for a Tank with an in-house movement and they have finally been answered. But that’s not the only upgrade to the Tank family, this version is the first of its kind with an exhibition case back and it has a small seconds sub-dial.

There are many versions of the MC, all coming with a strap instead of a bracelet, including a couple of skeletonised models with or without diamonds, and there is even a chronograph.

The standard Cartier Tank MC measures 44 x 34 mm and is slightly curved to wrap the wrist.

cartier tank solo

Tank Solo

The Cartier Tank Solo, first released in 2004, is very similar looking to the Tank Louis Cartier. It’s a simple design and most models come with a quartz movement.

It comes in different materials and sizes for men and women, and even has different dial colours. It has a number of strap and bracelet options.


Whether it's really based on a tank or not we will probably never know, but one thing is sure, the Cartier Tank is still as much of a symbol of elegance and exquisite taste as it was when Art Deco first hit the scene.

For more from our Know your Watches series, try our Know your Rolex Sports Watches; for a collection of unworn and pre-owned Cartier watches, including a number of different Tanks, click here.