Cartier Tank Louis Watch Guide: Know THIS Before Buying
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Cartier Tank Louis Watch Guide

Cartier Tank Louis Watch Guide: Know THIS Before Buying

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, a visionary designer and artist, once said, “If all Tanks were made by Cartier, we’d have the time to live in peace”. It’s strange, but while the world was experiencing wars and dangers of every kind, Louis Cartier saw an opportunity in the midst of chaos.

The inspiration he drew from the Renault tanks in service with the French Army during WWI was a plea to the universe, like someone placing a flower into a gun barrel. At that moment, the symbolic power of a peaceful flower is felt very strongly, and that is one reason why the Tank collection is different from any other watch ever created.

The Tank is one of the most diverse collections in the entire watch world and is the mother of all non-round watches. The Tank Louis is a sub-collection of this distinguishing icon with a motto that reads, “Make watches, not war”.

Elegant and appealing watches inspired by war bring a big contrast. On the one hand, you have power and masculinity. On the other hand, you have the beauty of the pure lines of a rectangular dress watch. It is a powerful symbol: the fragility of a timepiece against the cold menace of a Renault tank.

The Cartier Tank Louis watch is a reminder to choose peace over the horrors of war. What better model to explore than this quintessential Tank watch which was Louis Cartier’s favorite?

About the Cartier Tank Louis Watch

The first Tank model, the Cartier Tank Normale, was released in 1918 and entered full production a year later when six pieces were built. The Tank Louis followed a few years later and remained the closest model to the design of the original from 1919.

The Tank Louis series has rounded lugs (as opposed to the ubiquitous rectangular ones in other sub-collections of the Tank) and have their cases crafted out of yellow, red, or white gold. These watches are powered by quartz movements (for a few smaller ladies’ versions) or mechanical in-house calibers.

Cartier rocks at everything sparkly, and each watch in this sub-collection is a beauty to behold. 

There are three different sizes to choose from, so there’s something for everyone. The smallest size measures 29.5 by 22 mm. The size following it, which may be termed medium or large, is 33.7 by 25.5 mm, while the extra-large watches measure 40.4 by 34 mm. 

The  “brancards” (or vertical bars) of the case transition straight into the lugs of the watch to evoke the tank’s cockpit. On top of that, there’s always a sapphire cabochon in the crown, which is symbolic of a flower in a gun barrel. 

Other design elements include sword-shaped hands and the art deco Roman numeral dial. The name ‘Tank Louis’ was given to the sub-collection by the brand because it was the watch worn by Louis Cartier himself.

It remains the standard by which all Tank models are set as it is the purest representative of the line.

It has not only been recognized by Kings and Queens but has also graced the wrists of industry leaders, fashion designers, celebrities, and people who have a penchant for the finer things in life.

History of the Cartier Tank Louis

In 1847, Louis-François Cartier established Cartier after taking over his master’s workshop in Paris, France. At the request of pioneering Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, Louis manufactured the brand’s first wristwatch in 1904. 

The success and growth of the brand continued over the next decades, and in 1917, during the First World War, the Cartier Tank was invented. The Tank entered into full production when six were released to commercial stores at the end of 1919. 

The rectangular design was inspired by the shape of a French tank used in World War I, the Renault FT-17. The watch’s aesthetic was a departure from the prevailing pocket watch style, which had round cases.

The first wristwatches featured lines and proportions similar to the tanks on the war fronts and had their straps integrated into vertical sidebars, also known as brancards. The dial had Roman numerals, blued steel Breguet hands, and a railway minute track.

A cabochon-shaped sapphire was placed in the finely knurled winding crown, and a deployant buckle fastened the leather strap to the wrist.

Following the success of the original Tank watch, experimental attempts on the original design followed in a bid to increase sales. The first variation was the Tank Cintrée (Cintrée means curved in French), and the watch followed the same pattern as the Tank but curved and extended its length.

The Tank Louis was introduced in 1922 and was a fusion of the first Tank, which was more squarish than the rectangular and curved lines of the Cintrée.

The watches had rounded lugs and paid homage to the brand’s founder, Louis-François Cartier. It soon became the sophisticated and resilient unisex timepiece that commanded instant appeal from notable personalities.

Over the years, Cartier has released various versions and iterations of the Tank Louis, each with its distinct features and materials. The watch has undergone several updates and improvements, but its core design principles have remained intact, emphasizing simplicity, elegance, and precision.

The Cartier Tank Louis continues to be highly sought after by collectors and watch enthusiasts worldwide. Its historical significance, combined with its enduring design, has solidified its status as an icon in the watchmaking industry.

What Makes the Cartier Tank Louis Stand Out?

The Tank Louis was a personal favorite of the legendary Louis Cartier. He designed, constructed, and later wore it himself. Even though it is offered in different variations, it is the model that most closely resembles the original and has done so for over 100 years now. 

Cartier’s insistence for almost a century to retain the emblematic design of the dress watch is commend-worthy. The watch has preserved the original design elements and remains a pillar of longevity to this day. According to Cartier aficionado George Cramer (of blessed memory), ‘The Tank Louis is the “King of Tanks”’.

If A-list figures like Calvin Klein, Andy Warhol, and Jackie Kennedy all agree to this statement by loving and flaunting the ‘king of Tanks,’ who are we to disagree? The Louis Cartier Tank might not be as popular as Tank Française or Tank Américaine, but it is the most essential Cartier Tank. The following are some of the reasons why.

Case Shape & Materials

The Cartier Tank Louis is available in three standardized case sizes: small to large and extra large. Small measures 29.5mm x 22mm, large comes at 33.7mm x 25.5mm, and extra large cases measure 40.4mm x 34.92mm.

We have already established that the lines and proportions are akin to those of tanks used on the battlefields of the World War. 

Since the inspiration behind the shape of the Tank Louis series is an actual tank, the case is rectangular and comes with parallel sidebars that also serve as lugs. 

This means that the case’s parallel flanks are connected directly to the strap in one smooth transition. Unlike other Tank models, Tank Louis has more rounded lugs, creating optical unity. 

Another unique feature of this line is that Cartier offers the Tank Louis series exclusively with cases in yellow gold, red gold, or white gold. 

Some women’s watches in this sub-collection are also adorned with diamonds and/or other exclusively built-in precious metals.

Even though the rectangular design was avant-garde for its time, the invention was a break from the ubiquitous round watches that dominated the market. 

The clean lines and balanced proportions of the Tank Louis case were the secrets to its success as it is to this day.

Contemporary cases have the advantage of 21st-century design and production techniques, so they all boast cleaner and sharper details. 

The cases have scratch-proof sapphire or mineral crystals protecting the dial and are water-resistant up to 30 meters/100 feet. 

And on the crown, you’ll always find a genuine sapphire crystal cabochon.

Dial & Hands

The dial of all Tank Louis watches has always been minimalistic but far from boring. Most of the strict, geometric styling details of the case also remain consistent throughout the dials. As expected, the dial is rectangular with Cartier’s signature Art Deco Roman numerals giving the face of each watch a poetic appearance.

Two tempered blued hands or steel sword-shaped hands to match the case completes the iconic look. Unlike some Tank models, none of the watches in the Louis lineup feature a secondhand or a date.

The appearance of the dial varies, but it is often a reflective metallic base with a radial brushed finish. Older models may have simple-grained dials or guilloche dials. The tracks for the hours and minutes are printed on top and are also slightly raised, giving the dial a bit more texture. 

In some models, the Roman numeral 4 is often represented with IIII and not IV as it should be to add more visual weight to the dial and balance the symmetry.

Others, like the Ref. WGTA0092 features these numerals only on the 12′, 9′, 6′, and 3 o’clock positions. The finishing varies according to the case material. White gold models feature a vertically-brushed, silvered dial with black Roman numerals. 

Red and yellow gold versions, on the other hand, have a radially-brushed dial and black numerals, though there are exceptions. The Ref. WGTA0092, for instance, has a gray dial with golden-finish steel sword-shaped hands. 

While the dial design has greatly improved over time, the overall aesthetic is still classic Cartier. The look is pure and enchanting, and the brushed dials give the Tank Louis a more contemporary look.


The first generation of Tanks was powered by a movement designed by Edmond Jaeger, a masterful French-Alsatian inventor, and constructed by LeCoultre & Cié. 

Edmond specialized in making ultra-thin movements, and after signing an agreement with Cartier, he became responsible for the exclusive supply of calibers to the brand for about fifteen years. 

Many of the iconic tank models from the 1920s are driven by his movements which were structurally identical to the Ebel Caliber 690 and were particularly slim. 

After the quartz revolution, extra large models of Tank watches continued to feature this mechanical movement while the large and small versions of the Tank Louis were driven by quartz movements.

In 2005, the Cartier Manufacture opened in Geneva, Switzerland. From then on, Cartier became its movement maker. The Louis line utilizes a hand-wound movement today, with a limited exception of small and large entry-level sizes, which are powered by high-efficiency quartz movements. 

The Ref. W1529856 and Ref. WGTA0067 are currently the only two quartz models and feature yellow gold on the cases. This is one of the biggest differences between the Louis Tank and other Tank models, in that almost every watch here is fitted with a hand-wound movement.

Current models of the Cartier Tank Louis are powered by the in-house 1917 MC, a slim tonneau-shaped manual-wind mechanical movement with a decent power reserve of 38 hours.

Strap Options

The Tank Louis comes fitted with high-quality alligator leather straps that supply a pure and unfiltered dose of Cartier’s character. A pin buckle rounds off the elegant look, so take your pick from dark purplish-red or semi-matt gray alligator-skin straps.

Cartier Tank Louis Watch Models



Encased in 33.7 mm x 25.5 mm 18K yellow gold, the Ref. WGTA0067 symbolizes timeless elegance and excellent craftsmanship.

At 6.3mm thick, the watch adopts a sleek and refined style while staying faithful to the spirit of the collection. It’s no doubt a very easy-to-wear timepiece with a comfortable strap in dark gray alligator skin fastened with an ardillon buckle in 18K yellow gold.

The ‘large’ watch has a grained silvered dial adorned by blued-steel sword-shaped hands and is the purest representation of what a dress watch should look like. Underneath the hood is a precise quartz movement. The watch is splash-proof and retails for $11,500.


Designed as a necessary accessory for formal wear, the Ref. W1529856 is presented in an 18K yellow gold (750/1000) case with a width of 22 mm and a length of 29.5 mm. With a thickness of 6.35mm, the watch is perfect for slipping discreetly below a shirt cuff but compact enough to make you feel the presence it creates when put on the wrist.

Like other references, the distance between the lugs is relatively significant, which is why the alligator-skin strap completes the refined look flawlessly. The aesthetic of the silver-grained dial is classic and effortlessly chic, and the blued-steel sword-shaped hands reinforce the Tank Louis’ character. It is also splash-proof and retails for $10,200.



Tastes and styles are evolving, but the Ref. WGTA0011 demonstrates that design codes from the 1920s can still captivate the soul of modern man. Behold a seamless fusion of an enduring ‘old-school style’ with technical expertise. Finally, we meet a watch powered by the in-house caliber 1917MC.

This large model measures 33.7 mm x 25.5 mm, and with a height of 6.6mm, the watch is the epitome of sleek minimalism. The silvered beaded dial features the usual Roman numerals, with the ‘IV’ being replaced with ‘IIII’ to create a “better filled” dial with profound depth.

As a result, the symmetry is preserved, and the consistency between the rectangular layout of the minute scale and the edge of the numerals is flawless. The watch is fitted with a semi-matte brown alligator skin strap and retails for $13,000.



Go for the Ref. WGTA0092 as a wonderful addition to your collection or as your first luxury timepiece⁠. If you want the ideal accessory for after-dark events, you have it in this timeless icon.

This model should be held out to other brands as a lesson in uncluttered elegance. The watch is presented in a lustrous rose gold case with a beaded crown set with a sapphire cabochon.

The gray dial has been stripped and taken right down to basics, so all that can be seen are golden-finish steel sword-shaped hands and Roman numerals in the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. The watch is worn on a semi-matt gray alligator leather strap with an ardillon buckle in rose gold. 



For an excellent final touch to your cocktail attire, I recommend the Ref. WJTA0037. Firstly because Cartier’s careful attention to each detail is visible in the soft lines and balanced proportions of the watch, and secondly, every fashion-conscious gentleman needs a splendid dress watch that is pure and enchanting.

With a case and beaded crown in 18K rose gold and 41 brilliant-cut diamonds totaling 0.47 carat, this watch is the definition of luxury. You are guaranteed envious glances when you strap it to your wrist with a claret alligator-skin strap and ardillon buckle in 18K rose gold. 

The case measures 29.5 mm x 22.0 mm and has a thickness of 6.8 mm, so it’s a dress watch that certainly makes its presence known when on the wrist. The design of the silver-grained dial is in the traditional Tank style; simple, elegant, and discreet with blued-steel sword-shaped hands. Providing a decent power reserve of 38 hours is the in-house caliber 1917MC.



Finally, an A-level conversation starter. Guess who wins the title of the most elegant and covetable dress watch in the Tank Louis sub-collection? The Ref. WJTA0038! If you’re hungry for a dose of supreme luxury from a high-end watch brand, this is a definite contender.

With a gleaming rose gold case decorated with 41 brilliant-cut diamonds totaling ~0.66 carats, this timepiece breaks out boldly from the shackles of dress watch norms. 

The case measures 33.7 mm x 25.5 mm and has a thickness of 6.6 mm. A relatively hard and durable mineral glass that scratches easily but can withstand impacts better protects the dial. Inside, you’ll find the caliber 1917 MC mechanical movement, built in-house, with a 38-hour power reserve. 

Later in the year, the Maison is set to release new Tank Louis models that evoke the hypnotic spirit of the Tank as powerfully as in its initial launch years. The iconic watches will be added to the permanent collection of the Tank Louis Cartier.

They follow the same design cues but have been reworked to produce a more delicate and enchanting image. Measuring 33.7mm x 25.5mm and housed in yellow gold, the new models are compact and slim with a thickness of just 6.6mm. 

The superbly extravagant and beyond-opulent timepieces feature lacquered dials in Bordeaux red and green with no markers. All that can be seen on the face of the watches are gold-colored hands and logos.

Available as of September 2023 as Ref. WGTA0190 in red and Ref. WGTA0191 in green, the refined dress watch will still be powered by the in-house caliber 1917 MC. They come fitted with a semi-matte burgundy or green alligator leather strap and an 18k gold ardillon buckle.

Cartier Tank Louis Pricing & Availability

Cartier Tank Louis watches are readily available and can be purchased directly from the company’s website or authorized Cartier boutiques. Each watch comes with complete accessories and a 24-month warranty. 

Prices for timepieces in the Tank Louis sub-collection begin from $10,200 for a ladies’ watch with a quartz caliber (Ref. W1529856). They progress slowly from that point on to $24,800 for a large model with an in-house movement and 41 brilliant-cut diamonds. 

Cartier has a rich history, tradition, and experience stretching back over 160 years. Their watches are true masterpieces of the jeweler’s art and offer tremendous value for money.

Should You Buy a Cartier Tank Louis Watch?

Whether you are a fashion-conscious lover of luxurious dress watches, a novice, or an aficionado, the journey through the Tank Louis offerings is always a rewarding exploration of art and history.

The Tank Louis has been an icon for over 100 years and is the only model most closely resembling the original from 1919. If you want a watch that reflects Cartier’s commitment to maintaining tradition while embracing innovation, you should reach for the Tank Louis Cartier. 

Not only will you be wearing a piece of history, but you’ll also be strapping on your wrist a timepiece which was the personal favorite of the legendary Louis Cartier.

Cartier is a luxury brand that guarantees reliability and longevity. Thousands of Cartier watches have been passed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms, so you can expect your Cartier to last beyond a lifetime and will be relatively stable in value.

If you are interested in an alternative with a more contemporary look and comparatively angular design, you will find such watches in the Tank Française sub-collection. The Tank Must is also an affordable alternative and inexpensive entry to the Tank world for budget-conscious buyers.

Other Notable Cartier Tank Models

The Tank is one of the most diverse collections in the entire horological world. It offers exceptionally compelling watches to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. Famous sub-models of the Tank collection which contribute to making it one of the most searched-for timepieces on Google include:

Tank Américaine

Tank Américaine

The Tank Américaine might seem like a watch from the 1920s due to its curvaceous case, but it was only launched a few decades ago, in the 1980s. The design is modeled after the case of the Tank Cintrée, so the watch is characterized by its rectangular case with rounded edges. 

The Américaine appears thicker and wider than the Cintrée, and though the design has undergone several changes over the years, the basic shape has remained unchanged. This distinguishes it from the other Tank variations, such as the Tank Louis.

Another defining feature of the Tank Américaine is its elongated case and wide brancards, which wrap smoothly around the wrist for a comfortable fit. It is available in a variety of sizes and materials, including stainless steel, yellow gold, rose gold, and white gold.

The dial has blued steel hands with elongated Roman numerals. A beaded crown set with cabochon sapphire completes the iconic look of the watch.

Tank Française

Tank Française

The Tank Française is a popular watch model immediately recognizable by its comparatively angular design. It was introduced in 1996 and is characterized by its rectangular case with rounded edges and a chain-link bracelet integrated seamlessly into the case design.

The link bracelet often comes in gold or stainless steel to match the case, and some models also feature diamonds on the bezel or dial. The model currently comes in seven references, and it’s available in different sizes and materials.

Subtle design changes such as larger case sizes, brushed satin finishes, and integrated crowns have added a unique blend of classic elegance and modern aesthetics. Compared to the Tank Louis, the Tank Française has a more contemporary vibe with its updated details and a metal bracelet.

The Tank Française is one of the collection’s sought-after models because of its timeless design, versatility, and ability to complement formal and casual attire.

Tank Solo

Tank Solo

The Tank Solo is quintessentially Cartier and follows the Tank Française closely as one of the most popular Cartier Tank models in the market. The watch is vastly appreciated by fashion-conscious enthusiasts looking for a touch of understated elegance and vintage charm.

The purity of design and precise geometry of the Tank Solo makes it a cult favorite.

The watch retains the distinctive rectangular case shape that is characteristic of the Tank Louis model and forms the entry segment into the world of the Cartier Tank. Unlike the Tank Louis, the Tank Solo features solar-powered models in addition to quartz and automatic calibers.

It is considered a simple but luxurious Tank watch, full of character and contemporary vibes. The Tank Solo is available in various sizes to accommodate different wrist sizes and is offered with different strap options, including leather straps and stainless steel bracelets.


Cartier will always be at the vanguard of creating inspiring watches, and the Tank Louis remains our favorite example. 

No other watch bears the unmistakable mark and character of the visionary Louis-François Cartier. And no other model has stayed as true to the Tank’s original design while embracing innovation for over 100 years.

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