78092 Cartier Tank Normale in White Gold

So, you’ve decided you want a vintage Tank. You’re probably a bit French, or at least aspire toward that. Your evenings are all fine tailoring followed by some light chainsmoking with five glasses of vin. You’re ready to show the world that your refined elegance has evolved beyond a Calatrava or god forbid a diver. Great, except that’s the easy part. Because, as you soon find out, the Tank is not one thing. You can have a Tank Cintrée, Americane, Basculante, Guichet, or Monopusher. If you’re a bit eccentric, Bamboo or Cristallor. Or, if you want to fall into Eastern stereotypes and you’re an enthusiast of cases which look like scaffolding, Chinoise. Do you want something 80s and quartz or 40s and ruinously expensive? And what’s the difference anyway? It’s all a bit bewildering, a Cartier collector must be a student of detail. More often than not, this is where you’d throw your hands up in exasperation and just get the classic, the first: a vintage Tank Louis. Except it wasn’t first. This was.

The Tank Normale is, to put it very simply, a square Tank. Today, when most people say Tank, they’re referring to a rectangular case, the Tank Louis. But that first 1917 Tank, inspired by the Renault FT-17s Louis Cartier saw in WWI Trench Warfare, was square. Like the Tank A Guichet, the Normale has been revisited sporadically through Cartier’s history, rarely a mainstay of the collection. Notably, the collector’s favorite CPCP era missed it out entirely. Its recent reinclusion in the modern Privé line has seen attention drawn toward the earlier executions, such as this 70s example with its octagonal crown (a signature of that era). The literal Tank inspiration has always felt a bit clearer here, with its faceted crystal and sharper ‘brancards’, the Normale feels more industrial than artful.

This 70s iteration lies just between the original and modern sizes, the 1920s was 27x19mm, Privé today is 35×28, and this is a Goldilocks proportion at 30×22. If that feels tiny, it is. But remember these are intended to wear more as a bracelet that dominating watch case, the Tank works across a range of proportion. It’s about how thin or thick that bracelet is. If you’ve ever tried searching for a vintage Normale in white gold, which this is, you’ll know it’s an impossible task. This metal was a bespoke order by a Cartier boutique employee. And this example, going by serial, is the 9th example ever made in the reference. And unlike a surprising number of vintage Cartier (it really is bad) the dial is completely unrestored. If this were an automotive magazine, we’d call it a ‘survivor’. But it isn’t, and this is a damn perfect and hard to find Tank. One for someone who truly knows their Cartier history and likes it a bit niche. In short, all of you.

The case on this example has been worn frequently but carefully. You’ll find an even light patina of hairlines and wear, but no real bashes. Magnificently, its case is absolutely unpolished in my opinion and the bevels could serve as reference to a museum. The dial shows a matching patina commensurate with age and it’s simply lovely. Paris signed. It even has the original white gold buckle. A lot of Cartier prices today I feel are a bit strong. But this feels like a watch that truly deserves it. It comes from a well-regarded Belgian retailer.