When it comes to the world of small, rectangular watches, Cartier has reigned king for almost a century. The Cartier Tank made its debut in 1917, and since then, it’s become a silhouette we all know very well. What did Jackie Kennedy, Fred Astaire, and Andy Warhol all have in common? A love of the Tank. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Tank, check out an article we wrote a few months back.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso came along several decades later in 1931. The legend goes that the brand developed it out of necessity for a polo player whose watch kept being destroyed during matches. If you want to learn more about the history of the Reverso, you can read another article we wrote several months ago HERE.
Before going any further, I want to note that these watches, while similar in shape, are vastly different in complication and price. Cartier’s Tank line doesn’t have the horological chops of the JLC Reverso. While it does come down to the specific model, Cartier offers the Tank in both automatic and quartz movements. Personally, I believe this is one of few quartz watches that has a place in everyone’s watch box. I love the quick-change strap system Cartier has implemented. The spring bar of this model has a quick release function that makes switching straps a breeze. Though at a technical disadvantage, there’s something very charming about the simplicity of this Tank.
While the Tank focuses on a more minimalistic approach, the Reverso is a horological powerhouse. With the majority of variations featuring a dial on each side, the Reverso wins when it comes to complications. To match the level of complication, however, comes an increase in price. The price of a JLC Reverso can easily come at double the cost of a basic Tank. Legibility on both watches is very good. While neither of these models shown has a hacking movement, they both keep accurate time.
Both watches are truly elegant in design. The Cartier offers a classic approach to a dress watch, while the JLC does so, with a twist. Again, this area comes down to your taste, budget, and overall collection. For those who travel, the Reverso offers the ability to flip (literally) between tracking two time zones. When it comes to those with less robust timekeeping needs, the Tank offers everything you need. I typically shy away from the majority of quartz watches. However, the Tank with a quartz movement offers a grab-and-go element the Reverso cannot. No need to wind, simply throw it on your wrist until it’s time to change the battery. For those with smaller wrists, the Tank offers a far more flat profile. It comes in at 5.5mm thick while the Reverso is almost twice as large at 10mm. Though 10-14mm thick is fairly standard for circular watches, it’s worth noting this wears more substantially in a square case.
The question all of this comes down to is simply, what are you looking for in a watch? Both of these timepieces offer legendary design cues that you can enjoy for decades to come. For those just getting into collecting, the Tank offers a great entry into non-circular watches. To the seasoned collector, the Jaeger-LeCoultre provides a deeper level of horology. Both have their place in the world and could make an excellent addition to your watch box.