We take a closer look at the legendary Cartier Tank Cintrée, its history and what makes this watch so special and an icon in its own right.
Cartier has been in my top 5 favourite brands for many, many years now. Ever since I fell in love with the classic shape of the Cartier Tank seeing it on the wrists of anyone from Jacky Onassis to Mohamed Ali, I was hooked. It just completely embodied class and sophistication to me, and my love of the brand, in general, blossomed from there.
Whilst Cartier are probably most synonymous with the Cartier Tank and the Santos, it is not just as clear-cut as there being those two models. The Cartier Tank has actually branched into a number of different versions, such as the Normale, Alongee, and Crash; all of which I also love by the way.
However, no other Cartier has stolen my heart as much as the Tank Cintrée. Whilst it may just look like someone has taken a standard Tank and put it on a Medieval torture device, it is so much more than that. So, in order to try and get you, the reader, to understand why this watch is so great, let us take a look at the history of the Tank Cintrée.
Like the Tank and the Santos, the origin of the Cintrée can be traced back to the early 20th Century, 1929 to be exact, or 7:29 for those of you who don’t like 24hr clock… When it was originally released it was done so in very low production. It was in fact effectively a ’Made To Order’ piece, with mere dozens of examples being made every year. Whether this is because the design was slightly polarising, or because it was overshadowed by the Santos and ‘regular’ Tanks, I do not know. This is something that annoyingly carries onto this day. The watch is not a standard production model and is now effectively constrained to Limited Editions that get released every few years or so.
Over the years there have been some very notable Limited Edition releases of the Cintrée some commemorating milestones in the history of the brand and the line, and others that have been ‘Made To Order’ by the likes of George Cramer and Wei Koh to name a few. This to be only served to further my love of the watch. As they are not stocked at Cartier Boutiques and have an MTM program, this allows the customer to effectively create a piece unique Cintrée, not something that can be said for a lot of brands of the same prestige as Cartier.
The reason for writing this article now is because there has been, a few months ago now, another Cintrée Limited Edition release. Having devoured every piece of media coverage on it, it made further realise my love of this watch, and frankly, I was shocked to see that it is not something I have ever covered on the website!
The most recent release is this, the Cartier Tank Cintrée 100th Anniversary model. The first thing that I noticed when looking at the photos is that this model is not a like-for-like recreation of any particular Cintrée that we have seen to date. It takes subtle design and styling cues from multiple previous models and distills them down to make the Cintrée of all Cintrée’s.
The design of the Cintrée, like all designs from Cartier, embodies elegance and class. Whilst I adore the designs of both the regular Tank and the Santos; in particular, the new Medium Santos in steel, features on the Cintrée such as the curvature of the case which allows it to hug to the wrist, sets it apart for me. On that point, Cintrée is French for ‘Curved’ hence the subtle curvature when you look at one of this side-on.
Outside of this unique feature, the tell-tale signs of a Cartier Tank are all present in this anniversary model. Breguet numerals, Chenin-de-fer minute track, and cobuchon crown are all there, making this a familiar style of Tank, but subtly quirky to grab people’s attention. These are almost as quintessential for the brand as the brand itself. The number of people who will recognise a conuchon without knowing the name, but will immediately attach it to a Cartier watch only further shows what an icon of design this watch is.
The dimensions of this watch only serve to emphasise just how perfect it is on the wrist. It comes in at a very Cartier 23mm wide, just 6.4mm thick, and 46.3mm lug to lug. Now, I know the lug to lug may have turned your nose… but hear me out. By its very nature, the Cintrée is gently curved. So instead of being a long straight case measuring 46.3mm, it is tapered to fit the shape of your wrist. So, whilst it is still a long case, it will not protrude over the edge of your wrist like, say, a Panerai would. In fact, if you think about the shape and profile of the watch, it needs to be of a significant length, otherwise, it simply would not be possible for it to be curved over the wrist like it is!
Whilst I am a huge fan of all of the Cintrée releases, this one completely steals the show for me. Whilst I appreciated the design intention with the 2019 release, for me, it was far too modern, and it almost lost the essence of what a Cintrée should be. The release of it in Rose Gold, Yellow Gold, and Platinum was not an issue for me at all. It was the dials. For me, despite Cartier having deviated over the years, THE Tank dial is as I described above. Breguet numerals, Chenin-de-fer minute track, and a crisp eggshell dial. Traditional, classic, and as a result, the essence of Cartier as we know it. And, as if my prayers had been answered, this is exactly what we have been given with this LE.
As you can see from the stunning photos, this Cintrée is the one. Every feature that we associate with classic Cartier has been realised, and its similarities to the original Cintrée’s from the ’20s are amazing. This truly is the best of both worlds. There is a prevalence in the watch industry at the moment of brands delving into their archives and reinventing previous or lost designs that they come across. I must admit that these releases come with mixed levels of success, however, Cartier has always been a brand that has managed to nail it. Having one of, if not the most extensive archiving facility does certainly have its benefits! And this is exactly why we have been presented with such a marriage of vintage and modern. This watch is like a cyborg wearing vintage Levi jeans and I absolutely love it.