Welcome to the latest installment in our Cost of Entry series. In this aBlogtoWatch feature, we examine different brands through the lens of their most affordable model. Having previously looked at the entry-level offerings of Rolex, Omega, Panerai, and Hublot… today, a name well-known even far outside the world of watches: Cartier. And none other than the iconic Tank, in the form of the Cartier Tank Solo XL Automatic, represents the most affordable mechanical men’s watch Cartier offers, Cartier replica watches at around US$3,500. The question is, however, what exactly you get with the Cartier Tank Solo XL Automatic and how well it represents the brand.
We don’t need to tell you that Cartier is one of the world’s most well-known luxury brands. While I like to approach this series as a brand study rather than as how to buy into a prestigious name for the least amount of money possible… Cartier’s prestige and recognizability are undeniably a huge draw for a great many people around the world. Cartier has achieved a remarkably uk replica watches cohesive identity and consistency across a wide range of products, but where does the Cartier Tank Solo XL fit in to that? In this article, we want to look at what exactly the Cartier Tank Solo XL offers in terms of value, history, horological interest, style, and that more vague quality that is Cartier essence. The Cartier Tank turning 100 years old in 2017 also makes it timely to revisit its story that is a big part of the watch we are looking at today.
SHORT HISTORY OF THE CARTIER TANK
Founded in Paris, France, by Louis-François Cartier in 1847, Cartier as a company will be 170 years old in 2017, but is no longer a small family-run jeweler, of course. The three grandsons of the founder were Louis, Pierre, and Jacques, and together they oversaw Cartier’s expansion to become a globally recognized name – Louis being the most central to our story. The next Cartier generation, the children of the three brothers, sold the business in the 1970s to an investor group. And finally, in 2012, Cartier joined the Richemont Group where it resides today among illustrious colleagues of haute horlogerie.
Entire books have been written about Cartier and even about the Cartier Tank watch itself, and the basic story that Louis Cartier based the Tank design on the shape of WWI tanks seen on the Western Front is probably familiar to many readers. Cartier made clocks, pocket watches, and women’s wristwatches before wristwatches for men began to catch on – and when men did begin to wear wristwatches, Cartier played a major role in their wider adoption and the Cartier Tank was an important part of the transition from pocket to wrist.
The first wristwatch for men is sometimes said to be the Cartier Santos from 1904, designed by Louis Cartier – at least, this began to help popularize men’s wristwatches. It was certainly one of the earliest watches designed as a wristwatch, rather than a pocket watch adapted with straps for the wrist, or “strap watch.” Called a “silly ass fad” by some around the early part of the 1900s (which I find delightful), men’s wristwatches still needed time to be accepted by the mainstream. In 1916, The New York Times admitted that wristwatches were more than a passing fad, and WWI saw soldiers beginning to strap watches to their wrists for practical reasons.
Louis Cartier (1875–1942) designed a number of watches that are still part of Cartier’s lineup today, including the Santos, Tank, and Tortue. At that time Louis perhaps thought that the future of wristwatches meant non-round cases. This would also help distinguish them from the round pocket watches that had simply been adapted for the wrist. The first Cartier Tank watch was created in 1917 and the story goes that those initial models were given to General John Pershing of the American Expeditionary Force and his officers. In 1919, a total of six Tank watches were produced, but an icon had been created, and new versions have followed regularly since – you can see more about early Tanks and other early Cartier men’s watches here.
Part of the Tank’s history is the many significant 20th century figures who have prominently worn it. We won’t (can’t) list them all here, but monarchs, politicians, and true icons of sports and music have helped the tank achieve its status and are testament to its success.