When you talk luxury and watches, things don’t get much more emblematic than Cartier and the Cartier Tank. While companies like Rolex and Patek Philippe are known for making watches for watch lovers, Cartier is known for making wearable items for the nobility of old, and for those who want to feel a bit regal today. Cartier is a wonderfully managed brand when it comes to keeping that French sense of classic luxury alive, while playing with fantasy and tradition in a sense that continues to feel modern. Cartier is also the most important brand in The Richemont Group’s brand portfolio, so when they put their mind to something, they tend to do it right. In speaking about the Cartier Tank collection, let’s focus on a review of the modern Cartier Tank MC, the first standard production Tank watch with an in-house made Cartier movement.
I’ve specifically decided to not include a long discussion of the history of the Tank watch including the various potential sources of the name. What people do agree on is that Cartier produced the original Tank wrist watch specifically in honor of military tanks from World War I. There exists a bit of disagreement whether it was the entire tank shape or just the treads, and what country’s tanks influenced the design. Nevertheless, Cartier has covered all its bases, with Tank models being named in honor of America, England, and France with the Tank Americaine, Tank Anglaise, and of course the famous Tank Francaise. A quick survey of all the available Tank watches on the Cartier site reveals a total of 47 different current production models.
This Tank – in addition to being a men’s model – is the Cartier Tank MC. “MC” stands for “Manufacture Cartier” and refers to the fact that inside the watch is an in-house made caliber 1904 MC automatic movement. Cartier originally released the 1904 MC movement a few years ago in the Cartier Calibre. Cartier also uses various versions of this same movement with slight changes for their chronograph watches, which also exist in both the Calibre and Tank collections. The 1904 MC was designed to be a robust base for a range of in-house made Cartier movements – which is why you might see it show up a lot in “Cartier MC” watches.
One of the major differences between a Tank and a Tank MC collection watch is the display caseback. Cartier watches without in-house made movements aren’t known for having sapphire crystal display casebacks. Part of the allure of having a mechanical watch is being able to see the movement through a window in the rear of the case. So while this is a minor thing, it is a distinct selling point for many people. Cartier is, further, correct to show off those watches with their own movements inside.