Why It Is Always The Right Time For A Cartier Watch

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Why It Is Always The Right Time For A Cartier Watch

Words by Mr Chris Hall

29 August 2018

Some of the most stylish timepieces around have just landed on MR PORTER.

Founded in Paris as a jeweller in 1847, Cartier has been making wristwatches since 1904 – that’s one year longer than Rolex, if you’re being like that – this being the year it created the Santos for Brazilian aviator Mr Alberto Santos-Dumont. Not just a design classic, which we have fêted at length on MR PORTER, this timepiece also has a strong claim to be the world’s first purpose-designed men’s wristwatch (preceded only by repurposed pocket watches with straps and one-off jewellery watches on ornate bracelets), and set Cartier on the path to becoming one of the world’s largest watchmakers. Along the way, it created some of the most recognisable designs in the business, including the iconic Tank, and worked with Switzerland’s finest movement producers. And then, at the turn of the millennium, it began producing its own in-house calibres and now supplies its movements back to other brands.

In the past decade, Cartier has proved itself capable of producing cutting-edge technological concepts such as the ID1 and ID2, grand complications whose complexity and ambition rival those of any other Swiss maker, and has embraced the sportier side of watchmaking with in-house chronographs and even a diving watch. The essence of the brand remains one of style and elegance, and in models such as the Drive, Tank and Ballon Bleu, it continues to make some of the most sophisticated watches money can buy. Scroll down to discover the extended range of Cartier watches now available on MR PORTER.

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Tank Americaine

Introduced in 1989, the Tank Americaine was in essence an updating of the Tank Cintrée, the elongated and wraparound version of the Tank (cintrée being French for “curved”) that emerged in the 1930s as Cartier, having realised the potential of the Tank, began to expand the design, literally as well as figuratively. The Cintrée was never produced in great numbers, and therefore remains quite collectible, but by the 1980s was thought of as a bit effeminate and the Americaine’s wider case was well received. Initially equipped with a quartz movement, it was given a mechanical calibre in 1993, a state of affairs that remains to this day. You can buy a Tank Americaine in either a medium (41.6mm x 22.6mm) or large (45.1mm x 26.6mm) sized case.

How to wear it

The Tank Americaine remains one of the more formal Tanks on offer, and wears particularly well with sharp tailoring. The symmetry between the case lines and the double cuff of a formal shirt is the main reason some purists insist a rectangular watch is the educated choice to accompany a dinner suit. The steel model, in particular, could easily be dressed down somewhat for everyday business attire.

Tank Louis Cartier

This is the watch that a great many people will call to mind when they think of the Cartier Tank – and rightly so. It is today the most popular iteration. It is not the original shape, though. That was square-dialled and had square edges to its lugs, another variation introduced in the late 1930s and, arguably, an improvement to the original design. The Tank Louis Cartier was designed by Mr Louis Cartier himself and, lest you think him arrogant, was originally called the less catchy Tank Aux Bords Arrondis (Tank With Rounded Edges). The shape and proportions remain unchanged to this day, and it is available in large or extra large versions, the latter also offered in a fully skeletonised version or with a date display and power reserve indicator.

How to wear it

Like any Tank, the Tank Louis Cartier can be worn to great effect with a suit, but in its simplest versions, in particular, could happily become a daily wearer no matter how casual the outfit.

Ballon Bleu

Along with the Calibre de Cartier, the Ballon Bleu is one of Cartier’s most versatile watch designs, and one with genuine unisex appeal. It has been spotted on the wrists of both Ms Kate Middleton and Mr Johnny Depp. It may lack the history of a Tank or Santos, introduced as it was in the mid-2000s, but it is as instantly recognisable, thanks to the signature crown, from which the watch takes its name. Every single one is set with a sapphire cabochon and enclosed by a steel or gold loop that forms part of the case. The Ballon Bleu is available in 36mm, 40mm and 42mm versions, in a range of metals (steel, steel and gold, yellow or rose gold) and dial configurations, including slate grey, blue and black as well as the option of a moonphase.

How to wear it

The soft lines of the Ballon Bleu pair best with casual shirts and unstructured jackets, although with Cartier’s hallmark Roman numerals and guilloché engraved dials, it wouldn’t look out of place with a lounge suit.

Drive de Cartier

The youngest family in Cartier’s watch line-up, the Drive was created in 2016, and followed by the ultra-slim Drive Extra Flat in 2017. With a case shape that’s not quite angular or rounded, it’s one of the most distinctive watches the brand has produced. The basic model has a date window at three o’clock and a small-seconds subdial at six. Further up the line you’ll find a moonphase model and one that’s more ambitious with a big date at 12 o’clock, a retrograde second time zone display and a day/night display, all in either steel or rose gold.

How to wear it

As one of Cartier’s more emphatic designs, the Drive de Cartier is really at home with a more casual wardrobe, from cardigans and denim shirts to shearling jackets. That changes if you’re looking at the Drive Extra Flat, however. Thanks to its 6.6mm low profile and minimalist dial, the Drive becomes a dressier watch that’s great for wearing under a formal shirt cuff.


The Santos, created in 1904, was the world’s first proper wristwatch, but the model will always be associated with the 1980s, when it came to be an extrovert icon of the greed-is-good era. The modern Santos was introduced in 1978, when it gained its now fundamental metal bracelet and prominent screws, all executed in two-tone steel and gold. During the early 2000s it became the Santos 100 and experimented with more modern styles, minimising the screw heads and introducing all-black versions. Cartier quietly phased out the Santos in 2016, only to usher it back in this year with a return to the full-on 1980s design. The dial is the simplest Cartier makes – no guillochée engraving and only a date window on the larger version – and now the lines of the bezel flow more naturally into the bracelet or strap. Speaking of which, every Santos comes with a choice of straps that you can swap using a new patented quick-change system, increasing your wearing options.

How to wear it

Whether you choose it in full-gold or two-tone bracelet guise, the Santos has a powerful look that’s set off well by bold checked suits. With a leather strap, you’ve got more licence to try it with a suede jacket or casual blazer.