Cartier Tank Solo XL

The Tank was first created in 1917 for General Pershing, before a release to the general public in 1919.  And today, more than a hundred years later, it is possibly the most recognisable of Cartier’s watch silhouettes, which is saying plenty given that La Maison has always been at the forefront of horological design.  TBC is looking at the automatic Tank Solo XL this time round.

Photography by Ronald Chew

by The Balance Coq

  • August 9, 2023

Have a guess why the Cartier Tank was thusly named.  Here is a hint – Louis Cartier was apparently a very literal man.  If you guessed an actual military tank was the design inspiration for the Tank, then give yourself a pat on the back.  Said to be inspired by the firm lines and stately proportions of the Renault Tanks used in World War 1, Louis wanted to create a timepiece that captured their practical yet refined design and engineering.  That was why the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, General John J Pershing, was the recipient of the very first Cartier Tank.  One can only imagine what the bidding action on that piece would be like if it were to appear in an auction…

Since then, the Tank has matured and ventured down several concurrent design paths.  The current Tank collection comprises *checks notes* seven lines: Must, Louis Cartier, Americaine, Francaise, Cintree, Chinoise and Asymetrique.   To be clear, the Tank Solo XL that we are looking at here is a discontinued model.  In steel on a leather strap, the Tank Solo XL was the brand’s most affordable mechanical men’s watch.

The Cartier Tank Solo XL is a masterpiece of design and proportions, meaning it is a great fit for most wrists. For a watch called the Tank with strong military-associated origins, though, the Cartier Tank is mostly seen as the opposite of a rough-wearing, battlefield watch. The Cartier Tank Solo XL is water-resistant to only 30m, and is almost the wristwatch version of a tuxedo.  Although if you look up the watch on IG, you will see many successful attempts in dressing it down.

Perhaps serving as low key commentary on the literal growth in watch sizes (here’s looking at your, Panerai), the Tank Solo XL comes in at only 41mm x 31mm x 7.65mm.  In modern context, that is hardly a “large” watch, but dainty, it sure is not.  It is as if La Maison knew where the line was between classy and vulgar; the Solo XL is a more modern, sufficiently masculine iteration of the original design.

The Tank – any Tank  – is a great introduction to La Maison.  There is something for everyone in the Tank lineup – sizes run the whole gamut from tiny (29.5mm) to modern (41mm), and come in either stainless steel, or precious metals if that is your kind of scene.  There are quartz  models for those who like to grab and go, and hand-wound ones for those who hanker for a more traditional and tactile experience.

Cartier made sure to make one for every type of collector, so pick your poison.  A watch collection without a Tank is possibly one that is geared towards hype and trend.


ModelTank Solo XL
Case MaterialStainless steel
Case Dimensions41 mm x 31 mm
Case Height8.4mm
Lug Width23mm (good luck with that!)
Water ResistanceDo not even tempt fate
MovementCalibre 1847 MC
WearsTrue to size

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