THE TOP WATCH REVIEWS OF 2021 – The Cartier Tank Must Collection (#11)Fergus Nash
The quartz crisis is often spoken about with abject horror, and for good reason. Japanese quartz watches were more accurate, reliable, and cheaper than Swiss mechanicals, so why would anyone buy an old-fashioned and outdated piece of technology? Given that Switzerland controlled over half of the world’s mechanical watch industry after the second world war, they were hit hard. Many brands collapsed, and even the biggest names had to come up with a miracle to stay afloat.
Enter Must de Cartier — a sub-brand of the Parisian fashion house offering affordable versions of the design-focused watches that had adorned the wrists of royalty. Not surprisingly, the general public loved it. The Must name has now been revived again in the line of Cartier Tank Musts, three watches that embody the Cartier spirit while still being attainable to the average person wanting more than just a taste of luxury.
The Cartier Tank Must is available in three standardised sizes, being Small, Large, and Extra Large. All of theses cases are taken from the Tank de Louis Cartier, possibly the most ubiquitous interpretation of the everlasting case shape and usually reserved for much more expensive watches in precious metals and with high-end complications. Of course, the blue cabochon crown is on display, and this should certainly be a crowd pleaser presented in stainless steel.
At 22 x 29.5mm, the Small model is ideal for modest wrists no matter your gender, and is extremely slender to wear due to a thickness of 6.6mm. The next model up is the Large with a size of 25.5 x 33.7mm, that does a great job of balancing vintage-classic proportions with modern tastes on the average wrist. What’s better is that the Large size has the same 6.6mm thickness, ensuring its sleek feel and cuff-slipping performance. The Extra Large model is quite a departure from the Small and Large versions, as it encompasses a much more modern and masculine attitude from several of its features. Firstly, the size of 31 x 41mm is quite substantial and prominent on the wrist, even though the 8.4mm thickness is still incredibly slim.
There are essentially two dials on offer in the Cartier Tank Must collection, as the Small and Large sizes share the same bare-bones design while the Extra Large has some more standout details. The first two have an eggshell off-white tone to the dial, which is a sweet offset to the cold lustre of the stainless-steel case and bracelet, should you opt for it. The blued sword hands are both legible and beautiful when they catch the light, reaching to the minute track printed on the inside of the Roman numerals. The only notable difference between those two dials is the location of the hidden Cartier logo, with it occupying the 10 o’clock numeral on the Small model and the 7 o’clock numeral on the Large.
The Extra Large model is almost an entirely different watch, with several subtle aspects that have been altered to change the whole vibe. Gone is the true ode to Tanks of old, replaced with a respectful progression of the design in a slightly burlier direction. The eggshell white is gone in place of a silver sector dial, displaying a light sunburst effect around the Roman numerals and a floral guilloché pattern on the inner section within the minute track. The hidden Cartier logo can still be found on the 7 o’clock numeral, however there is now a date window at 6 o’clock. Perhaps the most obvious change is the addition of a seconds hand and the printing of the word ‘Automatic’ on the dial, as the smooth sweep of an automatic movement’s seconds hand is much less jarring than the harsh tick of a quartz movement to collectors.
The Tank Must in Extra Large sports the Cartier in-house calibre 1847 MC, which is a fairly simple automatic movement with a focus on stability and economy over flashy decoration, and has been a superbly well-reviewed movement since its introduction in 2015. The 1847 MC is impressively thin, and is doing well to reduce Cartier’s reliance on ETA movements from previous decades, while also adding to the prestige involved with an in-house design. It has a power reserve of 42 hours and a frequency of 28,800vph.
The Small and Large models use a ‘High Autonomy’ quartz movement with a battery life of approximately eight years, and is ultimately the reason why these watches can be offered at such reasonable prices. Luxury products are by definition expensive no matter their attainability, however the argument in support of affordable quartz movements is even more valid in the case of Cartier, where the design of the timepiece is so much more important than anything else. Plus, if there’s no seconds hand, you won’t even notice the difference when wearing it.
While the Must de Cartier Tanks of last century tried to provide a taste of the Cartier brand at a lower price point, the new Tank Musts supply a pure and unfiltered dose of Cartier’s character. There’s nothing on the dial or the case to suggest that it’s an “entry level” model, nor would there be any impostor syndrome when wearing it. When it comes to pure design, complications and precious metals don’t inherently add enjoyment to the watch, so keeping things simple is a great move by the brand. The Small model on leather begins at $3800AUD, and the collection runs up to $5900AUD for the Extra Large on a bracelet.