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The Complete Buying Guide to Cartier Watches

From the Cintrée to the Santos....and of course, the Tank.

cartier watches
Cartier

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Louis Cartier designed and built the first ground-up wristwatch in 1904. The resulting aviation timepiece, the Cartier Santos, was finally ready for public consumption in 1911. Louis Cartier wasn’t happy with the Santos because the lugs were still, in his thinking, “attached" to the case, and in 1918 Cartier finally released the Tank, a rectangular watch that effectively solved the problem of attaching a strap to a round watch.

The Tank almost single-handedly turned wrist-worn watches into a fashion trend during the roaring 1920s, and that trend changed horology forever. The Tank lent itself to endless riffing, and the number of Tank variants alone is mind-boggling (let alone the rest of the Cartier watch catalog).

By the 1970s, the three main Cartier branches — Paris, London and New York — had been sold off to various holding companies, and a proliferation of “accessible luxury” watches began to pour out of the lower-grade Must de Cartier line during the disco era. Cartier continued to make handmade, high-end watches, but the brand never made movements themselves until 2005, when they opened their stunning, ultra-modern manufacture in Switzerland. Since then, Cartier has been delighting watch fans with a bevy of gorgeous in-house watches each year.

This guide will help you navigate the current Cartier watch offerings, and it should help you understand Cartier watches more generally, as well. It’s a deep and historically rich catalog, one that reaches back to — and includes — the birth of the wristwatch itself.

NOTE: We are covering men’s watches here, and realize that this excludes many of Cartier’s greatest creations, as their watches for women are often dazzling examples of mechanical prowess and, of course, gorgeously set jewels. But Cartier watches have been unisex since before that was even a term, with the Tank leading the horological gender fluidity movement a full century before the conversation took a turn in that direction.

Santos

santos
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Arguably the first ground-up wristwatch ever produced, the Santos remains one of Cartier’s most popular models. Features include the beautifully screwed-down square bezel, the stylish rectangle case, and the shapely lugs (which tormented Louis Cartier and resulted in the Tank). Today you can find both quartz and mechanical models. (The two models we’ve highlighted below represent the Santos perfectly.)

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Santos-Dumont Watch (Large)
Cartier Cartier.com
$3,900.00

With it classic style, alligator strap, steel case, and 100% pure Cartier flair, this modern, larger take on the Santos is a very pure expression of the original.

Movement: Quartz

Dimensions: 31.4mm diameter x 7.3mm tall

Material: Stainless steel

Price: $3,900

SHOP USED

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Santos De Cartier (Medium)
Cartier
$9,500.00

Don’t let the medium size throw you; this watch is a gorgeous piece with tons of wrist presence. The two-tone gold and steel makes for a powerful nod to the 1980s, and the general vibe of this model is very high-end.

Movement: Cal. 1874 MC in-house automatic

Dimensions: 35.1mm diameter x 8.83mm tall

Material: Steel and yellow gold

Price: $9,500

SHOP USED

NOTE: Every so often Cartier will release special editions of the Santos through their Privée line, an exclusive, haute horologie branch of Cartier’s watch catalog. You can explore the current Privée offerings here. They also release special models that include stunning complications, as in the tourbillon-equipped model seen below.

santos 100 tourbillon
The Santos 100 Tourbillon represents how far Cartier can take a standard model in their manufacture in Switzerland.
Betteridge

Tank

tank cartier watches
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Perhaps the most widely worn and celebrated dress watch of all time, the Tank — which supposedly derived its name and design inspiration from the first tanks that appeared on the battlefield in WWI — has adorned more famous wrists than we can even list, though Jackie Kennedy, her late husband JFK, Andy Warhol, and Muhammad Ali are all on there, to name a few. The Tank was Louis Cartier’s solution to the lug “problem” as he saw it, and the straight lines of the Tank have remained as popular and enduring today as they were over a century ago when the model debuted in 1918.

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Tank Solo (Large)
Cartier Cartier.com
$2,610.00

By modern standards, the Solo is as close to the original Tank (eventually dubbed the Tank Normale) as you’ll get these days. It’s also Cartier’s “entry-level” Tank, offered in steel and at rather affordable prices. (One of the ways they achieve that price is to use a synthetic material where the sapphire cabochon usually goes on the crown, but we won’t tell anyone if you don’t!)

Movement: Quartz

Dimensions: 34.8mm diameter x 5.55mm tall

Material: Stainless steel case

Price: $2,610

SHOP USED

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Tank Louis (Large)
Cartier Cartier.com
$10,200.00

The second generation of the Tank was named for Louis himself because it was his personal favorite rendition. The slight changes to the original Tank include a lovely domed crystal, narrower brancards (the long sides of the watch that include the lugs), and a softening of the edges throughout the watch case. This Large model is not quite to original dimensions, so check out the medium and small if vintage vibes are a concern.

Movement: Quartz

Dimensions: 33.7mm wide diameter x 6.35mm tall

Material: Yellow gold

Price: $10,200

SHOP USED

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Tank Américane (Medium)
Cartier Cartier.com
$5,300.00

An outgrowth of designs explored in the New York branch of Cartier after WWII, the Américane takes the allongée case into the modern era. Never let the width of a Tank fool you — these watches have massive wrist presence and take up considerable real estate from top to bottom, if not from side to side.

Movement: Quartz (steel); in-house mechanical with date (gold)

Dimensions: 22.6mm diameter x 9.5mm tall

Material: Steel; pink gold

Price: $5,300 (steel); $13,700 (gold)

LEARN MORE (Steel) LEARN MORE (Gold)

SHOP USED

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Tank Cintrée (Large)
Cartier Cartier.com
$20,600.00

Don’t let the apparent similarity with the Américane fool you, the Cintrée is curved from top to bottom, is even longer and narrower than the Americanne, and is considered one of the classic designs of the 20th Century from Cartier. Pricey and hard to find at authorized dealers, the Cintrée is something of a trophy piece (the skeletonized models even more so).

Movement: Cal. 971 MC manual-winding

Material: Yellow gold

Dimensions: 23mm diameter x 7.2mm tall

Price: $20,600

SHOP USED

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Tank Francaise (Medium)
Cartier Cartier.com
$23,300.00

This case shape derives from some of the more daring designs that emerged during the 20th Century, and the integrated bracelet shows off Cartier’s expertise in immaculate working of precious metals. Fit and finish are surpassed by none. (If you needed further proof that segregating mens’ and women’s models is often folly, note that the medium Tank Francaise is listed solely as a women’s watch — which makes no practical sense.)

Movement: Quartz

Material: Yellow gold (case and bracelet)

Dimensions: 30mm diameter x 6.65 tall

Price: $23,300 US

SHOP USED

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Cartier Tank MC (Large)
Cartier Cartier.com
$7,250.00

This mechanical Tank, which shows off Cartier's in-house manufacturing capabilities, is large and in charge. Available in steel and gold with various dial colors, the MC line remains popular with those who don't gravitate toward the smaller, vintage-styled Tank.

Movement: cal. 1904-PS MC automatic

Dimensions: 34.3mm diameter x 9.5mm tall

Material: Stainless steel

Price: $7,250 US

SHOP USED

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Tank Asymétrique (Large with Diamonds)
Cartier Cartier.com
$97,000.00

Impossible to find at an authorized dealer and often seeing waiting lists, this Asymétrique is skeletonized, pushing its avant garde nature further than ever before. No one sets diamonds better than Cartier, and a watch of this nature will likely see its second sale at an auction house.

Movement: Cal. 9623 MC manual-winding

Dimensions: 26.2mm diameter x 7.82 tall

Material: Platinum with pave diamonds

Price: $97,000

Tank Must

tank must
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In relaunching the Must de Cartier line from the 1970s, the maison has made the Tank more accessible than ever, and done it in a forward-thinking, aesthetically pleasing way. Available in solar-powered versions ("SolarBeat"); versions with specially colored, lacquered dials; and standard quartz-powered and automatic versions, Cartier has truly gone out of its way to invite as many customers as possible into the fold.

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Tank Must SolarBeat
Cartier Cartier.com
$2,480.00

Perhaps the most exciting new Tank in years, the SolarBeat makes use of a special photovaltaic movement powered by light that comes through the dial's Roman numerals. It's available in two sizes with black or colored straps, and best of all, said straps are made from not leather but — wait for it — waste from apples. (Cue "Cartier Apple Watch" jokes.)

Movement: SolarBeat quartz

Dimensions: 22mm diameter x 6.60mm tall (small); 25.5mm diameter x 6.60mm tall

Material: Steel

Price: $2,480-$2,610

tank privee collection
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NOTE: Cartier often honors its history with special editions of the Tank through their Privée collection. It’s an exclusive line, very much haute horlogerie. Collectors pounce on these especially when the Crash, the Asymmetrique, Cintree, or the folding Basculante Tanks are released. Keep and eye out for those. You can explore the Privée line here.

Drive de Cartier

drive de cartier
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This line of automotive-inspired watches are modern, with large and more traditionally — though still uniquely — shaped cases. There are seven models, ranging from the steel edition at $5,850 to a flying tourbillion-loaded model for $72,000. The solid gold model with moon phase is one of our favorites, but you can see the whole line up here.

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Drive de Cartier Moon Phase (Large)
Cartier Cartier.com
$18,600.00

It’s classic yet unique, high-end yet below $20k, and the dial engraving and moon phase painting are second to none. These are the kinds of details best realized by a jeweler like Cartier, and the brand remains unsurpassed in their dial finishing. The Drive De Cartier Moon Phase shows off this prowess as well as any watch in the Cartier catalog.

Movement: Cal. 1904-LU automatic

Dimensions: 41mm diameter x 12.15mm tall

Material: 18k pink gold

Price: $18,600

SHOP USED

Pasha de Cartier

pasha de cartier
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Derived from early 20th Century designs that were exported to India’s reigning Pashas, the Cartier Pasha is decidedly fancy, and thus decidedly Carter. Gold, steel, jeweled, skeletonized, complicated — you can find it all in the Pasha lineup, which you can see in full here.

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Pasha de Cartier 42mm Chronograph in Steel
Cartier Cartier.com
$11,200.00

Good luck finding anything like this watch from any other brand. From the studded t-lugs to the oval sub dials to the nearly steampunk look of the crown and pushers, the Pasha chronograph in steel represents just how manly and in-charge these enduring designs can be.

Movement: Cal. 8100 MC automatic

Dimensions: 42mm diameter x 11.5mm tall

Material: Stainless steel

Price: $11,200

SHOP USED

Ballon de Cartier

ballon de cartier
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After nearly a century of rectangular watches, in 2007 Cartier released a study in circles known as the Ballon de Cartier. Large, round, and featuring a rounded crown inside a round crown guard, we find Cartier’s passion for through-design alive and well in this product line. Sized for both men and women, the 42mm case is the boldest statement in the Cartier catalog.

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Ballon Bleu de Cartier
Cartier Cartier.com
$6,300.00

This steel model is sporty and classic, with a presence on the wrist that rivals the biggest Panerais and the brightest Rolexes.

Movement: Cal. 1847 MC automatic

Dimensions: 42mm diameter x 13mm tall

Material: Stainless steel

Price: $6,300

SHOP USED

Ronde de Cartier

ronde de cartier
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Based on older designs dating back to Louis Cartier’s reign in the Paris branch, the Ronde de Cartier is more traditional than the Ballon De Cartier, and it tends to be offered in precious metals with rather complicated movements, fancy dials, and jewels set into precious metal cases.

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Rotonde De Cartier Watch
Cartier Cartier.com
$113,000.00

If you’re going for a Ronde, go huge and get the Rotonde! This 43.5mm beast features a skeletonized “magic” dial derived from Cartier’s famous magic clocks. The entire movement appears to hover in the middle of the watch.

Movement: Cal. 9462 MC hand-wound

Dimensions: 43.5mm diameter x 12mm tall

Material: 18k pink gold

Price: $113,000

SHOP USED

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Ronde Solo
Cartier Cartier.com
$3,850.00

If a more Earthly all-steel round watch is more your thing, then consider the Ronde Solo at 42mm.

Movement: Cal. 1847 MC automatic

Dimensions: 42mm diameter x 8.53mm tall

Material: Stainless steel (with matching bracelet)

Price: $3,850

SHOP USED

Clé de Cartier

clé de cartier
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Building on the success of their larger round watches, the Clé de Cartier offers something interesting with its cushion-type case that resembles a Seiko Turtle as much as anything from the world of high-end dress watches.

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Clé de Cartier 40mm Steel
Cartier Cartier.com
$5,250.00

We like the integrated bracelet inside the cushion case, as this offers a wonderfully fresh alternative to the myriad “standard issue” luxury steels sports watches out there today. We only wish it was rated better for water resistance (it’s only 3 bar, or 100 feet), as that would make this a true do-it-all companion - but that’s what dive watches are for.

Movement: Cal. 1847 MC automatic

Dimensions: 40mm diameter x 11.7 tall

Material: Stainless steel (with matching bracelet)

Price: $5,250

SHOP USED

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