Cartier is a huge brand, both in the watch industry and in the fashion world. Usually, "Fashion Watches" are frowned upon by enthusiasts, but Cartier seems to have found a crack to get into our hearts.
Cartier watches are usually renowned for their iconic styling more than their components or specs. No matter how much you care about the accuracy of your movement, the vintage design of these watches will make you overlook almost anything.
The two Cartier watches that come up the most in watch forums are the Santos and the Tank. Why? Because they're affordable, iconic, and very similar one to the other.
In this article, we will determine: are the Cartier Santos and Tank interchangeable? Or is the Santos worth the extra money?
Considering that both the Santos and Tank collections have tons of variations, I chose to compare the Cartier Santos Medium to the Cartier Tank Solo XL. The reason is quite simple: they are similar in terms of size, style, and price.
Tank Solo XL
The average Cartier Santos is much bigger than your average Cartier Tank. Case in point, we compare the medium Santos to the extra-large Tank, and the Santos is still the biggest of the two.
Not only is the Santos 1mm taller than the Tank Solo XL, but it also has a 4mm wider case. This is explained by the square shape of the Santos, whereas the Tank's case is a rectangle.
Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to measure the lug width of the Santos myself, but it is estimated to be around 20mm. On the other hand, the Tank Solo XL makes up for its narrow case with a 23mm strap.
Both watches are very thin, which is impressive considering they're both equipped with a mechanical movement. This thinness gives an understated look to these timepieces, and makes them super easy to slide under your cuffs.
TANK SOLO XL
100m / 10 bar
30m / 3 bar
Push & Pull Heptagon
Push & Pull
Since the two watches cost several thousands of dollars, you expect them to have a sapphire crystal, and Cartier doesn't fail to deliver.
The two crystals are flat in configuration, which is normal considering the rectangle nature of the dials. A domed square crystal is unheard of, so I can't complain about that.
Even though it's almost impossible to tell, the Santos was originally a pilot's watch. Water resistance isn't usually a priority for such timepieces, but Cartier still thought it would be appropriate to bump it up a bit.
They equipped the Santos with a 7-sided (heptagon) crown which gives the watch a more than decent 100m water resistance. It's also cool that the crown's tip is a blue synthetic spinel (gem) that matches the hands.
Since the Tank is Cartier's entry-level piece, they went with a simple push & pull crown which is also topped with a blue synthetic spinel. This one gives you a modest 30m water resistance, which can only withstand light splashes.
The two Cartier watches are equipped with a screw-down stainless steel case back. This is pretty normal for luxury watches, but I think a see-through case back would've been appropriate here.
Indeed, the calibers found in the Santos and Tank are gorgeous, and they deserve to be displayed.
Lume lovers will be disappointed to learn that neither of those watches uses luminous phosphorescent. This is no big deal to me considering the nature of these pieces (dressy).
TANK SOLO XL
Cartier 1847 MC
Cartier 1847 MC
The movement used to be a differentiating feature between the Santos and Tank Solo XL, but not anymore. Cartier isn't very vocal about the caliber they use in their timepieces; the information can't be found on the Tank Solo XL's store page.
However, Cartier confessed to ablogtowatch.com that they fitted a lot of entry-level models with their 1847MC Caliber starting in 2015. This isn't a well-known fact since the company didn't make an official announcement for the change.
This means that the Tank Solo XL's 049 caliber, which was basically a rebranded ETA 2892, got replaced by Cartier's in-house Calibre 1847MC.
The main difference between the old 049 Caliber and the new 1847MC is mainly the addition of two jewels. The 28,800 bph frequency, 42 hours power reserve, and hand-winding & hacking features remain unscathed.
As I mentioned earlier, Cartier is pretty secretive about their movements, so there's no official accuracy rating for the 1847MC. However, Watchuseek user Dantan says that his Santos only gained 19 seconds in the last 21 days.
The 049 Caliber's ETA 2892-A base was one of the most reliable movements in the industry, so we will have to wait a few years to see if the new 1847MC can be as reliable as this workhorse.
TANK SOLO XL
Blue Steel Swords
Blue Steel Swords
Steel & Leather
Steel or Leather
The dials of the two watches are damn-near identical. Of course, the biggest divergence is the shape, which is square for the Santos and rectangle for the Tank. Both dials share the same "silvered opaline" finish, which gives off a strong vintage vibe.
The second biggest difference is the 6 o'clock date display, which is only present on the Tank Solo XL. This can be a deal-breaker to some, as purists usually prefer a simple and uncluttered dial.
Also, the lack of a 6 o'clock numeral makes for a strange and uneven space next to the 5 o'clock mark. While you probably won't even notice it, this bizarre gap will drive some people completely bonkers.
Apart from what's stated above, the rest of the dial is indistinguishable between the two Cartiers.
Hour Marks / Hands
While the dial configuration is a bit different, the set of hands & hour marks are exactly the same from one watch to the other.
You get a set of blued-steel sword-shaped hands - the iridescent nature of the finish makes the shade of blue change depending on the lighting.
As for the hour marks, you get a classic set of Roman numerals in a bold black font. The "Cartier" logo placed in the V of the 7th-hour mark shows the great attention to detail of the brand. For the minute marks, Cartier went with a nice piano design in the inner ring of the dial.
The case of these watches follows the shape of the dial: square for the Santos and rectangle for The Tank Solo XL.
Before 2018, the Santos was completely square. Since then, the latest model was released with a new bezel that seamlessly shifts into the bracelet. It still kept its original "bolted-on" look with the screws all around the bezel.
Speaking of the bezel, both the Santos and the Tank get a mirror-like polished finish. This looks great out of the box, but it quickly turns into a scratch-magnet. At least, the Santos opts for a brushed finish on the sides as well as the top of the lugs.
Instead, the Tank Solo is fully polished, which means it will look like a game-7 hockey rink in no time. Fortunately, these scratches can easily be polished off by a professional.
Another important difference to consider is the crown guards. The Santos gets a nice pair of crown guards that are both nice-looking and protective. Conversely, the Tank gets no crown guard, which is very dangerous with such a protruding crown (hitting it could break the movement).
This year, Cartier is very proud of their band/bracelet offering. This is probably why they spend half of their item description talking about the strap.
If you get the Santos, your purchase will include two high-quality straps for no extra cost. You get a stainless steel bracelet and a calfskin leather band. Both are equipped with the Quickswitch system, which allows you to replace the strap without any tool.
Another cool feature is the steel bracelet's Smartlink resizing system. This one allows you to add or remove links from the bracelet effortlessly (with the use of a tool this time).
When it comes to styling, the bracelet of the Santos and Tank differs in shape, design, and finish. First, the Santos's bracelet is fully covered in screws to match the look of the bezel. Also, the Santos gets uniform rectangle links, whereas the Tank gets a complex oyster-like design.
TANK SOLO XL
When comparing the steel versions of the two watches, there's a steep price increase for the Santos. Indeed, the Tank is Cartier's entry-level piece which can be had for a "reasonable" price.
If you have deeper pockets, Cartier got you covered. The Santos line offers gold, skeleton, and even diamond-encrusted models which can go up to $63,500 before taxes.
The Tank collection also offers limited-edition models filled with rare metals and jewels, which can bring the price up to an impressive $71,000 price tag (platinum edition). Also, smaller tank models are a bit cheaper, starting at $2,550.
Cartier offers the same warranty for any watches in their collection. It is a two-years warranty that covers any damage excluding normal wear & tear.
It is a pretty good protection, but the length is a bit disappointing when compared to the 5 years offered by most luxury brands (Rolex, Omega,etc..)
Both watches presented in this article have a deep history, but one's a bit more relevant than the other.
The Santos, which dates back to 1904, is renowned as the first pilot watch in history. If you want to learn more about this iconic collection, I encourage you to read this great Hodinkee article.
The Tank collection also goes way back, more precisely to 1917. The Tank had a bit least of an impact because it wasn't as innovative as the Santos. Still, it also has a very rich history in the fashion world.
In conclusion, I think that the Cartier Santos and Tank Solo XL are two great watches that will appeal to different types of collectors depending on their budget.
If money isn't an issue, the Santos is clearly the most well-built of the two watches, but most of us will have to weigh-in the pros and cons to determine if the $3,000 difference is worth it.
Get the santos if:
get the tank Solo xl if: