February Watch of the Month: Cartier Tank Française

This month we are talking about one of our favorite classic timepieces. The Cartier Tank Française.

Just last year, Cartier celebrated the 100th anniversary of their famous Tank watch. The Cartier Tank was designed by Louis Cartier himself in 1917, and according to legend, the design was inspired by the new military tanks that fought on the battlefields during World War I.

The distinct ridged lines and rectangular shape of the Tank timepiece was intriguing indeed during a time when watches were typically round. Over the last century, the Tank watch has remained a mainstay in Cartier’s watch collections, with the brand producing countless iterations of the timepiece. The most popular version among them is the modern Tank Française watch, which made its debut in 1996.


Cartier Tank Française Watch Design Elements

When looking down at the watch, the case mimics the cockpit of an armored vehicle while the thick sides of the case—known as brancards—resemble a tank’s treads. In fact, to emphasize the military connection, the very first Tank watch was bestowed to American general John Pershing in 1918 to celebrate his contribution to the victory of the Allies.

When Cartier introduced the Tank Française, the Maison took a very contemporary approach to one of their most classic watches. For instance, the case of the Tank Française is squarer in shape rather than rectangular. Yet, the most distinct design detail of the then-new Tank Française was its integrated metal bracelet. The chain-link bracelet watch was very well received, particularly among a younger audience, and continues to be a top-seller for Cartier. Like most Cartier watches, the Tank Française is a unisex timepiece, available in a range of sizes from small to medium to large to extra-large.

In keeping with Cartier watch design codes, most Tank Française watches have the familiar black Roman numerals and blue sword-shaped hands on a white dial, along with the blue cabochon-cut stone mounted on the winding crown. Of course, there’s the “secret Cartier signature” hidden in the VII or X numerals too. There are some exceptions within the ladies’ Tank Française collection however, such as different color mother-of-pearl dials and diamond indexes rather than numerals.

Although the integrated bracelet and full metal look of the Tank Française is the most ubiquitous style, Cartier has introduced a few leather strap versions too. And whilst the stainless steel Tank Française is by far the most popular edition, there are some two-tone, yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, platinum, and diamond models too.

In terms of functionality, the Cartier Tank Française collection runs the gamut from basic time-only models to chronograph versions. Furthermore, there quartz caliber editions, as well as mechanical movement versions too.


The Appeal of the Cartier Tank Française Watch

Part of the Cartier Tank Française’s appeal lies in the fact that its strong and straightforward classic design works well as an everyday luxury watch. Celebrities have worn different versions of the Tank watch for decades, including Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie, Andy Warhol, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Princess Diana. And in 2009, former First Lady Michelle Obama donned her Tank Française watch to accompany her black dress and white pearl necklace in her official White House portrait.

The Cartier Tank Française timepiece is most definitely a luxury watch, without going over the top. Very French. Very chic.


How Much Does the Cartier Tank Française Watch Cost?

Since the Cartier Tank Française has been around for more than two decades, there are plenty of options to buy them from the secondary preowned watch market. While a basic stainless steel small ladies’ Tank Française starts at $3,250 retail, a pre-owned watch in great condition can be picked up for about $2,000.

Retail prices of two-tone steel and gold Tank Française watches start at about $5,500 for smaller ladies’ models and about $7,000 for the larger men’s versions. On the other hand, full gold Tank Française timepieces start at around $15,000 and can go well beyond $25,000—particularly if you add a dash to diamonds to the mix. Pre-owned prices will save you anywhere from 20% – 50%, depending on the condition and age of the watch.

The Cartier Tank Française watch has rightfully earned its iconic status with luxury watch enthusiasts. One of Cartier’s greatest hits, the Tank Française, is a superbly designed watch that marries timeless elegance and modern approachability.

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