I attended a rather interesting dinner with Cartier where a several minute long discussion on the origin of the “Tank” name took place. “Tank” is a name applied to many Cartier watches, but records show that no one is quite sure where the name came from. Most people agree it actually does refer to military tanks. It is an amusing reality that mechanized warfare lent a name to genteel luxury watch making.
How is the Tank watch like a tank (doesn’t that sound like something Lewis Carroll would write)? Hard to say for sure. Some say that the shape of the watch was said to look like a tank. Other people say that the watch is supposed to look like tank treads. Others say the shape is less important than the fact that it was a French way of honoring American tanks that helped secure victory in World War I. And still others argue whether or not the tank was designed to honor American or French tanks. It is a fascinating little mystery and one that I enjoy as it shows even huge brands like Cartier had humble beginnings (with equally humble record keeping departments).
Wherever the Tank name came from, it is here to last – and is a cornerstone of Cartier watch making. For 2012, the Tank family gets a new member with the Tank Anglaise, the “English Tank.” This old chap is built like a tank as well – at least in this larger size for us burly men. Initially available only in 18k white gold, it is a strong reminder that elegance doesn’t have to be puny. There are smaller versions available as well. This “Large model” Tank Anglaise is 36.2mm wide and 47mm tall. The case is not too thick at 9.82mm.
For the Tank Anglaise, Cartier built a sort of hybrid between the Tank Francaise and the Ballon Bleu. See what I mean? The sides of the case are richly rounded making it feel thicker, and the crown is placed in the middle of a very thick bezel. This offers a flush look on the sides of the watch. The complex crown is cool looking and contains a large sapphire crystal cabochon. I like how the crown is not too small and combines both angular and organic design elements.
On the wrist, the case is comfortable and as always, the bracelet is top-notch in construction and design. Thank you Cartier for not letting the bracelet fall by the wayside like so many other brands who just throw straps on their watches. The dial design is hardly surprising, and hardly a let down. It offers the look Cartier lovers want. Here the signature Cartier dial is silvered with blued steel hands and some central decor. The case seems like it could handle more than the 30 meters of rated water resistance. The mixture of brushed and polished areas on the case is very becoming of the design.
Inside the watch is a Cartier manufacture movement being the caliber 1904 MC automatic. This is the same movement in the Cartier Calibre that I reviewed here. Looks like Cartier designed it to be configured in a few ways. In the Tank Anglaise, it is a simple three hand with the date. An ETA would have worked, but Cartier wanted the Tank Anglaise to have a bit more oomph. You can see the movement via the exhibition caseback.
While the design of the watch is hardly revolutionary it is certainly evolutionary. It gives Tank fans a new item to lust after and lets Cartier continue their love affair with the product family by adding new products. The French, Americans, and now English each have a Cartier tank design to call their own. For 2012 the Tank Anglaise will only be available in 18k white gold. Oh, and also completely covered in diamonds if that is your bag. I feel like it should be a more mainstream model – and hopefully in a few years a steel version will come out. I also think it would look nice as a two-tone model. Given all the gold (and Cartier-ness) the price is about $42,000.