The Cartier Tank Buying Guide


We should all be so lucky to age as well as the Cartier Tank. Created by Louis Cartier in 1917, the Tank has been a go-to timepiece for a century’s worth of style icons, from Steve McQueen and Andy Warhol to Timothée Chalamet and Donald Glover. Its simple-yet-decadent design is a big part of its appeal, with a case formed by a set of parallel lines (or brancards in Cartier-speak), accented by another set of sword-shaped hands, and a winding crown topped with a blue sapphire (or in rare cases, ruby) cabochon.

“I don’t think there’s any watch more important than the Cartier Tank,” says Kevin O’Dell, a vintage watch dealer and avid Cartier collector. “I know that sounds like a crazy statement, but can you think of any other design that’s stood the test of time in such a way? That literally looks identical today as it did in 1920, is still a popular seller for the brand and has never gone out of production? There’s literally no other watch that can say that. Like, not a single one.”

If you’re looking to add a new-model Tank to your watch rotation, the current Cartier lineup offers something for everyone, from the steel Tank Must Solarbeat to the jauntily-angled gold Tank Asymétrique, which is part of the ultra-exclusive Cartier Privée collection. Vintage Tanks, meanwhile, are a world unto themselves, with over a century’s worth of designs—the 1919 Tank Normale, the curvaceous 2010s Tank Anglaise—to choose from. “Vintage Tanks can vary in price, depending on the condition of the watch, the model and the size, from under $1,000 for a gold-plated (or ‘vermeil’) Must de Cartier Tank from the 1980s, to hundreds of thousands of dollars for platinum or white gold models,” advises Eric Wind, Founder and Owner of Wind Vintage in Palm Beach, Florida.

The recent boom in demand for vintage Cartier, Wind says, means that buyers need to be extra careful and “shop the seller” to avoid ending up with a frankenwatch cobbled together from non-original parts, particularly with Tanks made before the 1970s. “Buying vintage Cartier is a true minefield, even more than buying a vintage Rolex,” he cautions. “I do sell vintage Cartier watches on occasion, but they go quickly in this Cartier-crazed environment, and great ones are hard to find.”

If you’re ready to get serious about adding a Tank to your collection, or just want to better familiarize yourself with the ever-expanding Tank universe, here are the most important models, both new and historical, to know—along with a few places we trust where you can reliably find ’em.


The Tank Cintrée

At the top of the Tank pyramid you’ll find the Cintrée, which is known for its elongated gold or platinum case that’s curved to fit snugly against the wrist. It was the first major riff on the original Tank design in 1921 and is now part of the exclusive Cartier Privée collection.

The Tank Americaine

Introduced in 1989 and still going strong, the Americaine is a gently modernized version of the Tank Cintrée, with a similarly curved, elongated case, and a wide range of sizes, movements, and metals.

The Tank Francaise

The Française, which is identifiable by a square dial and chunkier brancards, was added to the Tank family in 1996 and said to be based on an archival model from the 1930s. It’s the only Tank model that’s exclusively available on a metal bracelet, which makes it the sportiest of the bunch.

The Tank Must

The Must was created in the late ’70s as an affordable addition to the Cartier catalog, and reintroduced in 2021 to replace the outgoing Tank Solo collection. It’s still the most accessible Tank in the lineup, as well as the only version available with Cartier’s light-powered Solarbeat quartz movement.

Cartier

Tank Must SolarBeat Watch

Cartier

Must De Cartier Tank Watch

The Tank Louis Cartier

This eponymous tribute to the Tank’s designer dates back to the 1920s, and is among the more luxurious takes on the original design, with shapely rounded brancards, a prominent beaded crown, and an 18k gold case.

The Tank Chinoise

Asian-inspired motifs were trending hard in the ’20s, making this case inspired by traditional Chinese architecture the height of cosmopolitan cool when it dropped in 1922. Cartier doubled-down on Chinoiserie when it reintroduced the watch in 2022 with a selection of precious metal cases as part of the Privée collection.

Cartier

Tank Chinoise ‘Extra Plat’ Watch

The Tank Anglaise

This version of the Tank is easy to spot thanks to its robust case and winding crown set inside the right brancard. It was produced in a bunch of different sizes and metals between 2012 and 2020.

The Tank Normale

The Normale is where it all began and, some argue, the most authentic member of the Tank family. This Tank has been in production on and off since 1919, always in gold or platinum, and is now part of the Cartier Privée collection.

The Tank à Guichets

This hot take from 1928 features a “digital” layout with the hours displayed in one window and the minutes in another. It’s thought that as few as 1,000 have ever been produced since then, which makes the à Guichets among the rarest—and most unusual—vintage Tanks of them all.

The Tank Basculante

A sporty design from the early 1930s with a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso-style case that swivels to protect the crystal.

Cartier

Tank Basculante Mécanique 150th Anniversary Limited-Edition Watch

Cartier

Tank Basculante Mécanique Watch

The Tank Monopoussoir

Another rare bird from the Cartier archive, the Monopoussoir (the name refers to a “monopusher” chronograph movement that starts, stops, and resets with a single push of the sapphire-capped crown) was part of the extremely limited Collection Privée Cartier Paris (CPCP) that was produced from 1998 to 2008. In addition to being one of very few Tank chronographs, the Monopoussoir gets extra collector cred thanks to a movement produced by THA Èbauche, a legendary manufacture co-founded by celebrity watchmaker F.P. Journe.

The Tank MC

Cartier now makes a lot of its own movements in-house, but that hasn’t always been the case. The MC (which stands for Manufacture Cartier) was the brand’s entrée into movement making when it launched in 2013.





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