How does a watch wear? It is not something that is considered heavily when enthusiasts are looking for a new acquisition, with such aspects as the brand, model, level of complication, price and “in-house-ness” usually ranking above. There is no shortage of tales of woe on Internet forums and comment sections of websites, where someone thought they had finally acquired their dream watch, only to realise it is extremely uncomfortable to wear, which is not surprising when the ergonomics of strapping a thick, usually metal disc to one’s wrist is not great.
Cartier has a long history of creating form watches, often designed to improve wearability or add some sort of additional function. Models such as the Cloche (French for “bell” due to its shape), makes for a passable driver’s watch with the dial at 90 degrees to the normal, also allowing it to be stood on its side to be used as a desk clock. Examples of design that improves wearability include the Baignoire Allongée, a case style which existed in the Cartier portfolio from 1912, and gained its name meaning “bathtub” in French in the 1960s when it became a true style statement, especially in the elongated form that wrapped around the wrist.
Perhaps their greatest ergonomic achievement is the Tank Cintrée, which was introduced in 1921 as one of the earliest variations of the Tank model. Spawning an entire dynasty of interpretations over the past century since it was conceived by Louis Cartier in 1917, the original was inspired by the Renault FT of World War I. While the first version of the Cintrée, which rather appropriately translates to “cinched” in English, is extremely hard to come by, with many in poor condition due to refinished dials and polished cases, Cartier has been kind enough to reissue the design at the 2018 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH).
This is not the first re-introduction of the Cintrée. The design of the original inspired the Tank Américaine, which was launched in 1989, but the proportions were somewhat different with more heft to the case, both in thickness and the scale of the side bars compared to their length, contributing to a visually wider design. In 2004, the Cartier Paris Collection Privée (CPCP) range gave birth to a limited edition of 50 pieces in platinum, and 150 pieces in yellow gold. There was also a version with two time zones, introduced in 1998, at the birth of CPCP, including a version made for the Chinese market.
The 2018 release of the Tank Cintrée has been made available in yellow gold, pink gold, and platinum, with golden coloured, black and grey dials respectively. All of the dials feature the same overall design, with Arabic numerals at six and 12, baton markers in between, and inner “railway track” minute markers. It should be noted that a version with an open-worked movement was also released in pink gold, platinum, and platinum with diamonds, but for the purpose or this article we will focus on the versions with enclosed calibre, and particularly the execution in platinum.
One of the highlights of SIHH 2018 for many, the model is even more impressive in person, with a beautiful level of detail, although perhaps it should not be so surprising for a limited production watch from Cartier.
The finish of the case is highly refined, with the brancard side pieces brightly polished on the front, and a coarse brushed finish to the side of the case, plus a more delicate brushing on the section between the lugs. Whether it was a fortunate coincidence or an intentional detail, it was nice to see that the screws to the sides of the case securing the case back were all vertically aligned, rather than being in a mixture of positions.
A similar level of care and attention is carried over to the dial, with a soleil background which is almost unnoticeable on the platinum pieces versus those in gold, that have the finish applied in a more pronounced fashion. The hour markers are slightly raised above the surface and brightly polished, providing an attractive contrast, and the batons are angled at the tips so that they are cut parallel to the exterior edge of the dial. In addition, the interior edges of the markers at one, five, seven and 11 have 90 degree angles cut into them to frame the interior of the dial. The hands are in the classic Cartier sword style and finished in black, to provide excellent legibility.
Powering the Tank Cintrée is the calibre 8971 MC, which is also used in the Tank Louis Cartier. Based on the Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 846, it is a good fit for the Cintrée, not just physically due to its oval shape, but also due to the fact that it is a solid, manual wind movement with a decent level of finishing, and proven reliability.
On the wrist, the watch is extremely pleasant to wear, even with its elongated form, thanks to the slim, curved profile, allowing the watch to easily fit under the cuff. It really is amazing to think that the proportions remain unchanged from the 1921 original, as the overall scale feels thoroughly modern. While it may wear a bit small for those used to larger pieces, with a bit of time it is easy to become accustomed to a watch at this scale, especially when you can be a bit less concerned about knocking the case against door frames, or other inadvertent impacts that might affect larger watches.
Accompanied by a platinum pin buckle, it provides a number of advantages over the deployant clasps that Cartier usually includes with their watches; not only is the buckle much less bulky, making it more appropriate for a slim, time only watch, it also doesn’t require a proprietary Cartier strap, and is far easier to adjust. This also makes it is simple to get a custom strap produced (measurements are below for those who are so motivated), which would be a smart move for any owner, as the one supplied is a standard length so wears rather long, due to the longer dimension of the case.
Overall, the Cartier Tank Cintrée is exceptionally well executed, and shows what a brand with a heritage as rich as that of the French maison should be doing when it comes to reissuing their iconic designs: retaining the correct sizing and proportions when they are appropriate for modern times, while adding a new twist through dial design details that are clearly inspired by their archival pieces, but which add a fresh perspective.
The Tank Cintrée in platinum, priced at 179,000 HKD a the time of publishing, is limited to 100 pieces, and the two gold versions, priced at 155,000 HKD, are only available for one year, but production is not capped.
Dimensions (measured directly from the watch, and rounded to the nearest 0.5mm):