A Quick But Lovely Hands-On With The New Cartier Privé Tank Normale
Cartier’s Privé collection is all about reimagining the classics of the past while focusing both on adapting them to current times and using mechanical movements. In recent years, the French maison already introduced re-editions of some of its most iconic watches. The majority of them are Tanks, like the Asymétrique, the Cintrée, and last year’s Chinoise. This year, it was time for the Tank Normale to make its reappearance, and boy, did Cartier deliver!
The Tank Louis Cartier and the Must derivative might actually be the better-known Tanks by now. Those are the models with the more rounded lugs and sides. Many different versions, colors, and even solar-powered models have been launched. But it all started with the original Cartier Tank, which the brand now calls the “Normale.” At Watches and Wonders, we were able to go hands-on with versions of the watch in both yellow gold and platinum. And in doing so, it quickly became clear that these aren’t such normal watches at all.
The design of the original Tank from 1919 was inspired by the Renault FT-17 tanks used during the First World War. Especially from above and from the sides, the brancards clearly resemble the shape of the caterpillar tracks. Those Renault tanks weren’t made to be elegant at all, of course. But Louis Cartier somehow was able to turn the inspiration into a very elegant-looking watch. To do so, he used the signature Roman numerals, polished bevels, blued apple hands, and the proud cabochon on the crown.
Apart from the hands, all the other design elements have made their return on the Tank Normale that debuted a couple of weeks ago. The case now measures 32.6mm long and 25.7mm wide, which, I believe, means this is one of the biggest Tank Normales ever made. It still isn’t a big watch, though, and at 6.85mm thick, it’s also very slim. Nevertheless, it does have a lot of presence on the wrist. This comes down to the combination of the iconic design and the weight of the yellow gold or platinum. This heft is especially noticeable when you pair the watches with their matching brushed brick-style bracelets.
The movement, crown, and hands
Inside the Tank Normale is a movement from Le Temps Manufacture that Cartier calls caliber 070. It’s a movement with 21 jewels that runs at 25,200vph and has a 38-hour power reserve. You operate it through the cabochon-set crown. On the version made of 950 platinum, the crown has a red ruby, and on the 18K yellow gold version, it has a blue sapphire. The latter’s crown matches very nicely with the blued set of steel hands. On the platinum version, the steel hands are simply polished and have no color to them.
We saw the same combination of the cabochon and the hands in last year’s Tank Chinoise models. It gives the platinum version a little more of a monotone look. It looks good, but I’d prefer the blued hands in combination with a sapphire cabochon, just like the 1919 original. But I guess the red cabochon is there to tell you the case is made of platinum, so in that way, it makes sense. The move away from the apple-tipped hands for these models does as well. There are just a few watches with those hands left in Cartier’s portfolio. The majority now have the brand’s very recognizable and subtle sword hands, and so do these.
A hefty Tank
As soon as I picked up the watches from the tray at the presentation, I immediately noticed the significant weight. This was, in large part, due to the bracelet, which is quite a muscular piece of engineering. The links aren’t much thinner than the case is, and the bracelet doesn’t taper towards the clasp. The links are also very close to each other, and therefore, they do not articulate fully. But it does mean that the bracelet keeps a very nice shape on the wrist. In a way, it reminds me a bit of the way the bracelet feels on my stainless steel Santos. It really is a part of the overall design of the watch and certainly not an afterthought.
I would’ve appreciated an easier way to switch out the bracelet for a leather strap, though. Right now, there are just two cutouts through which you can reach the spring bar with a tool. But it’s nowhere as nice as the proprietary QuickSwitch system that’s on the current Santos de Cartier, for example. One incredibly nice feature, though, is that the links covering the folding clasp have been milled out to let the clasp’s “arms” lay almost fully flush inside of them. I’ve never seen such an elegant solution before, but I think other brands should certainly follow Cartier’s example here.
A vintage-looking sapphire crystal
The other thing that immediately catches your attention when you pick up the Tank Normale is that very vintage-looking crystal covering the dial. I had already read that it was sapphire, but at the meeting, I tapped it with my fingernail to be sure. Because of the way it looks with both the dome and facets, it could also very well be made out of mineral or Plexiglass. Anyway, it is indeed sapphire, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.
As you can see in the picture above, it doesn’t even protrude that far above the case. It stands just high enough to give it that vintage flair. The facets are also not as sharp as on the Rado Diastar, for example, or on the Seiko SARB models with faceted crystals. But they’re not there to turn the crystal into art. The facets are there to make it look like the crystal on the original Tank, and they’ve succeeded. And again, I think they look great and suit the Tank Normale to a tee.
On the wrist
There were many novelties to see at the Cartier presentation, but the Tank Normale was the one I was looking forward to the most. Because of its price and limited availability, it’ll probably never enter my collection. Nevertheless, I thought it was a brilliant-looking watch on paper. And well, it certainly didn’t disappoint in person. As soon as I put it on my wrist, it felt right at home. The bigger size works great on my 17cm (6.7″) wrist, and especially on the bracelet, it looks very much like my Santos reference 2823.
The thin, polished bevels on the edges of the case prominently emphasize the brushing on the sides. And that finishing along with the updated sword hands makes the watch seem a bit more powerful now. Yet it still is just as elegant as it was before. We also noticed how the new Tank Française had a more brushed and refined look than it previously did. In that case, I wasn’t really a fan. But in the case of the Tank Normale, I think it works great.
I also tried the watch on with the alligator strap. I liked wearing that combination a lot more than wearing the Tank Must. For some reason, it sat better on my wrist, maybe because of the weight of the case. But perhaps it’s just because the Tank Normale seems more square than rectangular.
All in all, I think the designers at Cartier did a great job with the new Tank Normale. I could only hope for the brand to introduce something similar in a material that’s a little more affordable. But with the model being part of the Privé collection, I acknowledge that the chances of that happening are slim. So for now, there’s nothing else to do than save up €33,300 for the yellow gold model on the leather strap, €37,400 for the platinum version on a strap, €49,800 for the gold model on a bracelet, or €57,500 for the platinum Tank Normale on the bracelet. For more information, please check the official Cartier website.
Please let me know in the comments what you think of the new Cartier Tank Normale from the maison’s Privé collection.
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