13 Iconic Cartier Tank Watch Collections

In the world of watchmaking, there are few brands more iconic than Cartier. The French company has been designing watches for over a century.

There are so many different Cartier Tank watch collections that have been released since 1919. In this blog post we’ll delve into 13 most of the most memorable Cartier Tank watch collections.

Discover which is your favorite of the Cartier Tank watches, and learn how the Tank watch got its name.

Cartier Tank Watch Collections

  1. Cartier Tank Normale
  2. Cartier Tank Cintrée
  3. Cartier Tank Chinoise
  4. Tank Louis Cartier
  5. Cartier Tank à Guichets
  6. Cartier Tank Basculante
  7. Cartier Tank Asymétrique
  8. Must de Cartier Tank
  9. Cartier Tank Américaine
  10. Cartier Tank Francaise
  11. Cartier Tank Solo
  12. Tank Anglaise
  13. Tank MC

Cartier Tank Watch FAQ

Cartier Tank Watch Timeline

This is a timeline of the Cartier Tank watch, from the vintage Cartier collections to our modern day Cartier Tank watch lines.

Cartier Tank ModelsYearNotePhoto
First Cartier Tank Watch1917First Tank watch was designed by Louis Cartier
Cartier Tank Normale1919First Tank watch collection offered to the public
Cartier Tank Cintrée1921Stretched out Tank watch
Cartier Tank Chinoise1922Tank watch inspired by Chinese temples
Tank Louis Cartier1922Cartier’s quintessential Tank watch
Cartier Tank à Guichets1928Revolutionary Tank watch
Cartier Tank Basculante1932Reversible Tank watch
Cartier Tank Asymétrique1936Asymmetrical Tank watch
Must de Cartier Tank1979Quartz Crisis Tank watch
Cartier Tank Américaine1989Modern take on the Tank Cintrée
Cartier Tank Francaise1996First all stainless steel Tank watch
Cartier Tank Solo2004Entry-level Tank watch
Cartier Tank Anglaise2012Hidden crown Tank watch
Cartier Tank MC2013In-house built, Cartier movement Tank watch

First Cartier Tank Watch

Photo of Louis Cartier
Louis Cartier

The first Tank watch was created by Louis Cartier, the grandson of the watchmaker founder Louis Cartier. In 1917, in Paris, France.

The story goes that his design of the Tank watch was inspired by the Renault FT-17 light tank of the First World War. These tanks were legendary at the time, and helped France during the Great War. So it is a plausible story.

Photo of two men during World War I with a Renault FT-17 light tank
Renault FT-17 light tank (Source: Tank Museum)

However, another explanation for the Tank watch’s iconic design. Is that it was simply a more elegant upgrade on the square shaped Cartier de Santos.

Yet, the military story is much more interesting and makes for brilliant marketing. For a watch that was released following the end of the First World War.

Cartier Tank Watch Collections

Here is an overview of all the notable watch collections of the iconic Cartier Tank watch.

A lot of these Tank watch collections have been revised and re-released. Cartier likes to remake Tank watch lines, and make special editions for their loyal fans.

1. Cartier Tank Normale

Photo of a Cartier Tank Normale watch
Cartier Tank Normale © Cartier (Christies)

The revolutionary Cartier Tank watch was the first of its kind. The sleek design was first offered to the public in 1919.

The Cartier Tank Normale was the first Tank watch collection released.

The iconic design elements of the Tank watch can be seen in the Tank Normale collection. These design cues would come to define the Tank collection. Such as the Roman numerals, blue hands, rail track minute counter near the center, and a winding crown set with a blue sapphire.

The mechanical movement was ultra-thin and designed by French watchmaker Edmond Jaeger, who was the founder of Jaeger LeCoultre.

Watches in the 1920s were premium items. Only a total of six Tank Normale watches were made. Which makes these Tank watches incredibly rare.

2. Cartier Tank Cintrée

Photo of a Cartier Tank Cintrée watch
Cartier Tank Cintrée © Cartier

For many admirers, the Tank Cintrée is still considered to be one of the most dainty Tank watches created. It was unveiled in 1921. 

Its elongated case has a slight curve to it. This ensures that the this Tank watch fits snugly on the wrist. 

It’s like a long, stretched out and thin version of the Tank watch, and you’ll often see this watch feature Breguet hands. Adding to its elegance.

Modern men often find this Tank watch too delicate for their tastes now. Compared to the more masculine versions of the Tank watch, like the Américaine Tank. This style of Cartier does look more feminine by today’s standards.

The Tank Cintrée also had a dual time zone limited edition. Which featured two dials.

In 2021, Cartier released a limited edition of the Cartier Tank Cintrée. To celebrate its 100th anniversary.

3. Cartier Tank Chinoise

Photo of a Cartier Tank Chinoise watch
Cartier Tank Chinoise © Cartier (Sotheby’s)

The Tank Chinoise is a Tank watch that embraces the design of Chinese temples. This Tank watch was first released in 1922.

The idea for this Tank watch was reportedly inspired by the exposed interlocking beams from the porch outside Chinese temples. 

It’s a very subtle design, yet if you look at the folding of the case. You can see the inspiration for this timepiece. This Tank also has a more square shape to it too, compared to previous Tanks.

4. Tank Louis Cartier

Tank Louis Cartier © Cartier

After the success of the Tank Normale. Louis Cartier knew that they needed to design another Tank watch that would keep everyone excited.

The Tank Louis Cartier watch is what came next and it didn’t disappoint. 

The new model, called the Tank Louis Cartier was released in 1922. It was larger than its predecessor, had a more masculine feel and had smoother lines. This Tank watch quickly gained in popularity, thanks to its design.

The Tank Louis Cartier watches are often nicknamed the LC Tank. They came in 12 different versions over the first 5 years after its initial release.

The LC Tank was a sensation with countless celebrities, artists, and royalty seen wearing the Tank watch over the past century. From Elvis Presley, to Andy Warhol, to Princess Margaret. Cartier’s LC Tank is a true timeless timepiece.

The Tank Louis Cartier is seen as the quintessential Tank watch.

5. Cartier Tank à Guichets

Photo of a Cartier Tank à Guichets watch
Cartier Tank à Guichets © Cartier (Christies)

The Cartier Tank à Guichets is definitely the strangest Tank watch on this list.

This Cartier watch was both extremely unusual and very innovative. Released in 1928! It’s a super quirky, futuristic timepiece. It was Cartier’s first ever watch with such complications.

There is not a dial on this Tank watch, but rather just two windows. The top window for displaying jumping hours, and the bottom window for showing minutes. Using a rotating disc inside the movement to achieve this.

Cartier’s Tank à Guichets watch still had the shape of a Tank watch. Yet, it acted and looked like a digital watch. It’s a revolutionary watch that was a preview into some future timepieces.

6. Cartier Tank Basculante

Photo of a Cartier Tank Basculante watch
Cartier Tank Basculante © Cartier (Sotheby’s)

Most of us have heard of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso watch, which was released in 1931. Yet, only a year after the Reverso, Cartier released its own reversible mechanical watch too.

In 1932, Cartier released their Tank Basculante, which worked similar to the Reverso.

Sturdier watches were in demand as people in the 1930s wanted to wear their watches all the time, even while playing sports. This required watches that would protect dials from getting scratched. 

Cartier’s Tank Basculante featured a specially designed tough case that would flip over to protect the dial, crown and movement.

A perfect Tank watch for a game of polo or cricket in the 1930s.

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7. Cartier Tank Asymétrique

Photo of a Cartier Tank Asymétrique watch
Cartier Tank Asymétrique © Cartier (Sotheby’s)

The Tank Asymétrique is one of the most interesting watches ever produced by Cartier. The asymmetrical case and dial shakes up a classic design.

Cartier produced so many variations of the Tank watch. However, the Tank Asymétrique really stands out from the early crowded Tank watch collection.

Released in 1936, this Tank watch’s design is surprisingly very useful. You can easily read the time, while it’s on your wrist. So it’s a surprisingly practical timepiece. 

Cartier Tank Asymétrique has remained a firm favorite of the Tank watch collection for many Cartier fans.

8. Must de Cartier Tank

Photo of a Must de Cartier Tank watch
Must de Cartier Tank © Cartier

All of the traditional watch brands in Europe suffered a lot during the infamous Quartz Crisis, Cartier included.

Yet, all the watchmakers attempted to try and introduce a watch that could compete with the cheaper and more reliable Japanese quartz watches.

Cartier released their first budget friendly Tank watch, called the Must de Cartier.

Cartier decided to swap solid gold for solid sterling silver coated in gold. They even ran a quartz movement through some of their Must de Cartier line.

These more affordable Cartier Tank watches were a huge success. They still looked like a Tank watch, however, at first their dial was different.

This was done so as to differentiate them from their more expensive Tank editions. The Must de Cartier Tank dial was often more minimalist, and painted in bright colors.

However, later on Cartier included the classic Tank Roman Numerals dial in this collection too.

The Must de Tank has had a reinvention for 2021, with classic Tank styles and new more colorful offerings on offer.

9. Cartier Tank Américaine

Photo of a Cartier Tank Américaine watch
Cartier Tank Américaine © Cartier

The Cartier Tank Américaine was a modern take on the vintage Tank watch, known as the Tank Cintrée.

The Tank Cintrée had a slightly curved watch case, that’s elongated. It was a very dainty watch, first released in 1921.

While the Tank Américaine does also have an elongated case that’s slightly curved, this Tank watch isn’t dainty. It’s a rather masculine looking timepiece.

Originally only produced in yellow gold from 1989. However, Cartier expanded the collection later on to include other styles of this watch. 

The Tank Américaine even has a version that comes with a chronograph function.

10. Cartier Tank Francaise

Photo of a Cartier Tank Francaise watch
Cartier Tank Francaise © Cartier

The Cartier Tank Francaise was first released in 1996. This watch goes back to the original design inspiration of Louis Cartier. Which was thought to be the Renault World War I tank.

The metal bracelet of the Tank Francaise seems to be inspired by the treads of the French tank. They can be likened to the caterpillar tracks.

Cartier’s Tank Francaise line were the first Tank watches that were fully stainless steel. They did, however, start with just models made from yellow gold or two-tone steel and gold.

The Tank Francaise watches were huge hits, and today they still remain an integral part of the Tank watch collection.

11. Cartier Tank Solo

Photo of a Cartier Tank Solo watch
Cartier Tank Solo © Cartier

The Cartier Tank Solo was first released in 2004. This is known as Cartier’s entry level Tank watch.

It’s the more inexpensive version of the classic Tank Louis Cartier. It features the classic Roman Numeral dials, and has the stand out blue hands. 

Yet, it’s case is thicker, and the case overall is a lot flatter too. Compared with the LC Tank.

How this watch is more affordable, is that it often is fitted with a quartz movement. Which keeps the manufacturing costs down, compared to mechanical Tank watches.

Still a beautiful watch. The Tank Solo is a classic yet a relatively inexpensive luxury watch, perfect for a budding watch collector.

12. Cartier Tank Anglaise

Photo of a Cartier Tank Anglaise watch
Cartier Tank Anglaise © Cartier

Cartier likes to tribute Tank watches to their flagship boutiques in different countries. They did with the American Tank (New York), the French Tank (Paris), and now the English Tank (London). 

So in 2012, the Cartier released the English Tank watch. Known as the Tank Anglaise.

This watch was a follow on from the Tank Francaise. However it’s chunkier, and the watch had smother rectangular curves to its Tank case.

The defining feature of the Tank Anglaise is the hidden watch crown. It’s integrated into the watch’s case. Making the overall look of the Tank Anglaise more symmetrical than other versions of the Tank watch.

13. Cartier Tank MC

Photo of a Cartier Tank MC watch
Cartier Tank MC © Cartier

Cartier’s Tank MC is a special Tank watch. 

Released in 2013, the MC stands for Manufacture Cartier. Meaning that the Tank MC watches run in-house Cartier built watch movements.

Cartier had always been a jewelry maker first, and then a watch designer. Yet, they weren’t really watchmakers. They had to use other watchmakers such as ETA or Jaeger-LeCoultre, for their Tank watch’s movements.

The Tank MC watches include a slightly curved case. They also include an exhibition caseback too. This allows the wearer to see the Cartier built movement at work.

The Tank MC version also keeps up with the trend of larger watches. With the Tank MC offering some of the biggest Tank watches.

Cartier also released a skeletonised version of their Tank MC too.

Cartier Tank Watch FAQ

What is a Tank watch?

A Tank watch is a style of watch, and case shape, that was designed by Louis Cartier.

It has a rectangular watch case shape, with rounded lugs. Tank watches also feature a gem stone attached to their crown.

As for the dial. A classic Tank watch dial has Roman Numeral hour markers, and with a rail track minute counter, which is close to the centre of the dial.

However, there are many variations of the Tank watch too. As we can see on the Cartier Tank Watch Timeline.

Why is it called a Tank watch?

The Renault FT-17 light tanks were playing a key role in the trench warfare of World War I. These tanks became a top talking point during and after the Great War of the 1910s. 

It’s told that Louis Cartier became fascinated with the geometric form of the Renault tanks. 

It’s said that when Louis Cartier viewed the tank from above. He then reduced their design to just a circle, within a square, within a rectangle.

The circle was the turret, the square was the main body of the Renault tank. Then the rectangle was the entire tank, including the treads.

If we look at a Cartier Tank watch we can do the same. We can reduce the watch to a circle, within a square, within a rectangle.

So it’s quite a likely story. Also a great way to market the new Cartier watches.

However, the other story is that the Tank watch is simply a more elegant version of the Cartier de Santos. Except that isn’t as interesting of a story.

What is the classic Cartier Tank watch?

The Louis Cartier Tank is considered to be the classic Tank watch. First released in 1922, this watch is still seen as the quintessential Tank timepiece.

To Sum Up

Cartier’s Tank watch is a legendary timepiece. Since it was first created in 1917, the Cartier Tank watch has remained an icon for over a century. It’s reign as one of the most popular luxury watches ever made looks set to continue.

Why not now take a look at another legendary watchmaker; Rolex.