The Tank has been through a huge number of variations. Think of it like a jazz standard; a theme that everybody knows
and loves but executed or performed in different ways, thus appealing to a different range of audiences. These riffs
on a classic include, not exhaustively, Tanks Normale, Cintree, Chinoise, Obus, Basculante, Asymetrique and
Américaine. We have a saying in the UK, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Hold a Tank from the 1920s next to a Tank
that you bought yesterday and you will see that essentially they are the same. Sure, the movement may be more
technical now and the manufacturing of the dial might be a little more precise, but to the untrained eye they will
look the same. Like a ’59 Gibson Les Paul next to a modern version, not a lot has changed over the decades.
It is the Américaine that we are celebrating today with our latest selection from Watchfinder & Co. Whilst many
of the classic Tanks were first realised between 1917 and the late 1930s, the Américaine is a relative young-timer,
having been launched in 1989. Going back to the musician analogy, I’m not sure that either Taylor Swift or Chris
Brown (both born in ’89) can claim the same timeless qualities of the Tank, but time will tell. The initial
Américaines were quartz powered and available with either a sub seconds dial or moon phase in relatively small
cases. Neither offering were huge hits, but the 1993 large size Tank Américaine that was powered by the mechanical
430MC movement, was a good size at 44 x 27mm and was a more-of-the-time offering for men for whom the Cintree was a
little too elegant and dressy. Produced in yellow gold and white gold from ‘95, it was much more in keeping with the
emerging era of big watches.
Like it’s grandfather, the Cintree, from the earlier part of the century, the Américaine was curved; or at least
appeared as such. The Américaine actually had an almost flat case back and a curved front side. The original watch
from 1993 featured classic Roman numeral hour markers and a chapter ring that was curved at the top and bottom, as
per the Cintree. The blued steel hands were the finishing touch, sans a seconds hand, giving the watch a pared-back,
almost minimalist look. The flat case back and curved front edge gives the watch a very nice presence on the wrist.
Don’t be fooled by the on-paper diminutive width of the watch, it wears well and feels very contemporary. But then
size isn’t everything and when it comes to Cartier, the watches are all about elegance and design and therefore size
is not a huge priority.
In its relatively short life, the Tank Américaine has been through a number of iterations and for most of its life
those have been in precious metals. Following its debut in 1995 in white gold, it was traditionally the white gold
and platinum versions that were the most sought-after. Whether with date, as a chronograph and even a flying
tourbillon (as part of 2008’s Fine Watchmaking Collection) there was an Américaine for everybody. Special editions
included a white gold watch with Salmon dial and Arabic numerals at 9 and 7 to commemorate the handover of Hong Kong
to China in 1997; in a limited number of? You guessed it – 97! Phillips also recently unveiled a very special
platinum example, one of thirty made for the Italian market and featuring dark green numerals on the dial and a
matching dark green crocodile strap.
In 2017, as a key part of Cartier’s celebrations of 100 years of the Tank, the Tank Américaine was released in steel.
This watch is, in my mind, a total classic with all the hallmarks I love to see in a Tank. The black Roman numerals,
with hidden signature in the VII numeral natch, and blued steel hands – in this case with a centre seconds hand. The
blue sapphire cabochon is there, which on the steel watch is a luxury touch on a utilitarian metal. An interesting
riff on a classic!