Quality, inside and out
For some collectors, the insides of a watch are equally as important as its overall design. The superiority of one movement over another is a source of endless fascination and can be determined by many factors. For example: timekeeping accuracy and the attempts to improve on this; manufacturing a perpetual calendar chronograph that will fit into a reasonably sized case; the finishing of the movement, which can be seen in all its glory when the watch has a clear case back. I think it’s fair to say that some movements are works of art and most top brands pride themselves on the ability to produce such complications.
Unless you have a skeletonised watch — where you can see the movement from the front and rear side, (also referred to as open-worked) — all of this beauty is hidden when the watch is being worn. You might therefore question the point of worrying about what you don’t see. But for enthusiasts, myself included, this is what makes it even more special. Only you and your fellow watch fans know what is going on behind the dial. For example, with Rolex watches, you can’t see the movement as they have solid case-backs. But does this make the person who chooses them a less serious or enthusiast? I think not. Just because the movement is hidden doesn’t mean it’s less accurate; however, it may be not as well finished. In a perfect world, wouldn’t we all like a great-looking watch with a clear case-back so you can see the flawlessly finished insides? But having the best of both worlds comes at a higher price. Or does it?
Introducing Cartier’s new Tank MC. Now here’s a watch that I believe ticks all the boxes: it’s got the right look, the right price point and has a nice in-house movement.
It also has the added bonus of a great pedigree. Legend has it that the brand’s founding father, Louis Cartier, was inspired by the sleek form of the new Renault FT-17 tanks being deployed by the French in WW1, having seen aerial photographs of them in his newspaper. Originally released in 1917, the first Cartier Tank timepiece was presented to American General John J. Pershing, who had fought alongside French troops on the front line in that conflict.
“In a perfect world, wouldn’t we all like a great- looking watch with a clear case-back so you can see the flawlessly finished insides?”
Since its inception, countless variations have been released, including the Tank Louis in 1922, the Tank Americaine in 1989 and the Tank Francaise in 1996. It has graced the wrists of Clark Gable, Yves Saint Laurent and Andy Warhol. John F. Kennedy wore his own Tank throughout most of his time in office, as did his predecessor Harry S. Truman. Apparently he described his watch as “France’s greatest gift to America since the Statue of Liberty”.
The Tanks of yesteryear tended to be smaller, but for those of you not quite brave enough to pull off such a slight watch, don’t fear; according to Cartier, the MC is the most masculine version ever made, and I have to agree. It’s a really nice size: the case measures 44mm by 34.3mm, with a height of 9.5mm, giving it presence without being cumbersome.
It was also about time that Cartier finally presented a Tank equipped with its in-house caliber. The MC is the first classic Cartier case style to use the 1904 MC movement in what could be considered an entry level watch. Previously it was only available in the much more modern and expensive Cartiers. This is a great movement and has also been used as a base for complications like the Rotonde de Cartier Perpetual Calendar Chronograph. It has a 48-hour power reserve and is water resistant to 30 metres and is available in steel or rose gold. I have to say the steel version is the one to get. I have tried it on and it sits really well on the wrist and can also do the smart-casual switch quite well. I would opt for the white-faced version and put it on a blue leather strap to add a touch of je ne sais quoi.
There is a manually wound, fully skeletonised Palladium version of the MC out there. Now, up until this point, I have always found Skeleton watches a bit difficult to read, which kind of undermines the whole point of wearing a watch. However, this one is actually really easy to read thanks to its blue hands. It further reinforces the thought and attention to detail that went into the design of the Cartier Tank MC range. Try it on — you won’t be disappointed.
Sam Truman is Esquire’s resident watch expert, read his column every month in the monthly issue of Esquire Middle East.
Find his blog at http://dailybeater.com/