The Cartier Tank & Santos are two iconic watches beloved for their classiness and simplicity. Since most of us don't have a few thousand to spare on a dress watch, Cartier homages are a sensible option.
Here, you will find the 7 best bang-for-the-buck Cartier Tank/Santos homages on the market.
1. Seiko SUP250/SUP880
The "Seiko Tank" is probably the most famous Cartier Tank homage on the market. Not only do you get the iconic rectangle case, roman numerals, and cabochon crown, but you also get the outstanding reliability of a Seiko watch.
Another great selling point of the Seiko SUP880 is its V115 caliber, which is solar-powered. This gives you the great accuracy of a quartz movement (+-15 secs/month) with a 12-month long power reserve that's charged up from natural light.
Furthermore, the SUP880 has a neat case size of 28.5mm, which is basically the same as the real Cartier Tank Large. Also, Seiko sells the SUP250 model which is practically the same watch, but for women (24.4mm case).
This one is definitely my favorite Cartier Tank homage since it's similar to the real thing, but it also has a few distinctive features and a well-respected Seiko logo.
2. Citizen BH3000-09A
Citizen is another trustworthy Japanese brand that tried its hand at a Cartier Tank homage. This model is a great option for people who want a thin alternative to the Tank. Indeed, the Citizen BH3000-09A is only 7mm thick, making it perfect for a dressy outfit with tight shirt cuffs.
The reason why it's so thin is that it's equipped with a quartz movement instead of a mechanical one like the Cartier Tank. You will notice that almost every Cartier Tank/Santos homage will have a quartz movement. This is because the small square case of the Tank would require a custom movement, which is certainly too expensive for an homage.
The Citizen BH3000-09A has a few distinctive attributes such as the tiny date display at the 6 o'clock position. This is a nice feature that adds functionality to the watch without taking away from the minimalist styling since the date window is so small.
Also, the BH3000-09A has a pair of alpha hands, which differs from the sword hands on the Cartier Tank, but still provide a great dressy styling.
3. Orient UNEM003W
Orient is one of my favorite brands because it offers the same components & quality as your average Seiko watch, but usually for a notably cheaper price. The UNEM003W is a lesser-known Orient model because it stayed on the market for a short amount of time.
This means that you'll have to browse the pre-owned market to get your Orient Tank, but it's absolutely worth the effort. With its 32.2mm x 46.5mm case, this one is closest to the Cartier Tank XL. Also, the 9mm thickness makes it resemble the mechanical Cartier watch (although Orient uses a quartz movement in the UNEM003W).
This one is distinctive because it only has Roman numerals for 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock. Instead, the other hour marks are simple indices (which oddly resemble the number 1 in Roman). While this might be a dealbreaker to some, I think it's a great way to show that you haven't bought a Cartier copycat.
4. Raymond Weil 5768
Not all Cartier Tank homages are cheap, and the Raymond Weil 5768 is the living proof. With its $495 MSRP, this timepiece is much closer to the Cartier's MSRP than any other watch on this list. Fortunately, you get rewarded with high-grade components.
For instance, this one sports a sapphire crystal with a layer of anti-reflective coating. Also, it uses a Swiss quartz movement, which is a bit more prestigious than the Japanese quartz movements in other homages.
However, I must say that these components don't necessarily warrant that kind of price tag. You obviously pay a lot of money for the Raymond Weil logo, which is a respected Swiss brand.
The Raymond Weil 5768's dial is basically the same as the Cartier Tank's, except for the thinner font and smaller sword hands. It also lacks the much-desired cabochon crown and matching blue hands.
5. Rotary GS02326/45
The GS02326/45 is a great alternative sold by the British company Rotary. This one isn't subtle about the inspiration it took from the Cartier Tank (same font, hands, minute track, etc.). However, it does have one distinctive feature that no other watches on this list have, the shape of its case.
Indeed, you will certainly notice that the case sides are much thicker on the Rotary GS02326/45 than on the original Cartier Tank. Also, the edges of the case are much rounder and smoother, which can prevent wear & tear to your shirt cuffs.
Rotary isn't too explicit about the specs of their watches. For instance, they claim that the piece is "Rotary waterproof" and that it uses a quartz movement, but we know nothing more. For the sub-€150 price tag, you shouldn't expect too much from this watch, but the quality is definitely good.
6. Rotary Series 700
While it's most-often classified as a dress watch, the Cartier Santos was initially a pilot watch. In fact, it is actually the first pilot watch of all time. It's only right for Rotary, a brand strongly associated with pilot & dress watches, to pay homage to the Cartier Santos.
The Rotary Series 700 is the only watch on this list with a mechanical movement. However, this is a Chinese assembly watch, with a Chinese-sourced movement (probably from the Sea-Gull company). This isn't a bad thing in-and-of-itself, but the quality control might be a weak point of this timepiece.
The Rotary Series 700 is also the largest watch on this list with its 40mm case diameter and 14mm thickness. This is basically the same case diameter as the real Cartier Santos, but it's 5mm thicker than the original.
The Roman numerals and minute track are almost indistinguishable from Cartier, but Rotary chose a set of oversized arrow & sword hands, which would probably be better suited for a diver's watch.
7. Jaragar Santos
Jaragar is one of those elusive Chinese brands that have no website nor an official Aliexpress store. However, you can find a few Youtube videos or forum reviews where consumers seem to be pleased with their purchase.
Also, this Jaragar watch is undoubtedly the cheapest Cartier Santos homage on the market, with its measly <$20 price tag. There used to be a Santos 100 homage version with the regular dial layout available, but it seems to have vanished. Now, you can still get their Santos Chronograph homage, with the distinctive square subdials.
This Jaragar's case diameter measures 36mm, which is slightly smaller than the real deal. Additionally, this means that you'd better have great eyes to read the tiny subdials of the chronograph accurately.
This model is sold in two versions: black or white dial, both strapped on a black leather band. For such a cheap price, I must say that this Jaragar punches above its weight class.