To me, there are three potential issues with the perception of the Cartier Tank. It may be considered 1) feminine, 2) overly formal or old-fashioned, or 3) generic. Yes, like the Rolex Submariner, say, the Cartier Tank could be criticized as being a victim of its own success. It has influenced countless other designs and been imitated endlessly… to the point that its familiarity might almost represent a generic “watch” to people not familiar with watches. The Tank’s recognizability can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective, or it might not matter to you if you just like the watch.

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It would be pretty hard to discuss Cartier without using the word “elegant,” as cliched as it may seem. The idea of “elegance” that the Cartier Tank so well represents was a concept that was much more relevant through a lot of the 20th century than it is among today’s increasingly casual culture where those values might be viewed as stuffy and anachronistic – at least, in many parts of the world. Watch enthusiasts exclusively interested in sport and tool watches may not find much of interest from Cartier at all, as even sportier-leaning watches like the Calibre still retain that debonaire Cartier poise. I, for one, enjoy relish dressing down a “dressy” (I prefer the term simple) watch sometimes, and feel no need to save something like the Cartier Tank Solo XL for a black-tie event (whatever that is). Little birds tell me that there is even a quick change strap system on the way for this model…

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You very much know what you are getting with a Cartier Tank, and the important question is really how well the Cartier Tank Solo XL Automatic represents the Tank and its lineage, and how it fares among its competition.


Value & Alternatives

The competition is necessary to consider when evaluating an item’s value proposition, but it is also fun to think about watches that might offer similar appeal at other price points. When considering alternatives to the Cartier Tank Solo XL, first are those from Cartier itself. There’s a good chance that if you like the Tank, you will appreciate more of what the brand offers – be it a Tank or other collection family.

Other, higher-end Tank models include variations on the shape and design, as well as options such as fancier movements and precious metals. The Cartier Tank Solo is also available in 18k pink gold. The Tank Louis Cartier offers a lot of what the Cartier Tank Solo XL does but will be more refined in just about every way, with a Piaget (same parent company, Richemont) base movement inside, and only available in precious metal. Sportier options can be found in the Santos and MC families. However, all of these are more expensive than the entry-level Cartier Tank Solo XL Automatic.

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A lot of other brands offer square and rectangular watches that are at least influenced by the Cartier Tank, though few are very successful, it seems. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is, of course, the other major rectangular, Art Deco watch out there, but it is more expensive and actually offers a somewhat different appeal. And I have never found one that fits me just right like the Cartier Tank Solo XL Automatic does! If your Cartier Tank alternative must be rectangular, please try it on first because it’s much harder to get proportions and fit right than with a round watch.

Another way of looking at the Cartier Tank Solo XL Automatic would see its competitors as conservative dress-style mechanical watches in the $3,000-$4,000 range, round or otherwise. Dress-style watch options exist for just about any budget. Here is our Top 10 Elegant Dress Watches for Men article with mostly higher-end alternatives. For those on a much tighter budget, we suggested Orient’s dress watches and looked at a few of them here. I look forward to readers’ suggestions.

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From the perspective of its features, materials, and movement alone, the retail price of around $3,500 for the reference W5200027 on a leather strap or $3,700 for the reference W5200028 on a bracelet is not “cheap” (we will leave it to consumers and commenters to do their own price hunting, of course). There are square and rectangular watches, such as the Baume & Mercier Hampton, for example, that offer an automatic Swiss movement, sapphire crystal, and the same basic functions for considerably less ($2,650). The Nomos Tetra has an in-house automatic movement for about €2,980, and the Rado Integral is only available in quartz and ranges between $1,350 and $2,400. The TAG Heuer Monaco chronograph (€4,800) is similar in its right angles so has to be mentioned, I suppose, but it is so sporty that I don’t really find it comparable.

In the end, it is the refined proportions, simple design, and strong legibility that I feel helped the Cartier Tank succeed and put it in a class of its own. And, of course, its history. For me, increased water resistance, an exhibition caseback, and a hardier strap and buckle would really increase the value proposition of the Cartier Tank Solo XL.


It has been suggested to me that any serious collection should include a Tank. I say collect what you like and wear what you like, but that there is a lot to like in the Cartier Tank. The Cartier Tank Solo XL Automatic gives an entry-level option for modern tastes to fans of both the brand and the Tank. Cartier turning 170 and the Tank turning 100 sounds like a recipe for some sort of special release in 2017, so keep an eye out. The reference W5200027 Cartier Tank Solo XL Automatic on a leather strap is, once again, Cartier’s most affordable mechanical men’s watch with a retail price of $3,450.

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