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05/19/2016
 3 minutes

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso vs. Cartier Tank

By Jovan Krstevski
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso VS Cartier Tank
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso VS Cartier Tank, Foto: © Bert Buijsrogge

This is going to be a big one. Both of these timepieces are rectangular, dressy, and have very strong historical ties. In this article, I will attempt to get to the bottom of this conundrum and add some of my own thoughts to the mix. Whatever the outcome, both watches are very well respected and well suited for anything from a casual weekend situation to a global conglomerate boardroom event. Before we begin, let’s remind ourselves of the history behind these great dress watches.

The Origins of Two Watch Legends

In 1918, the French jeweler and watch manufacturer Cartier gave a small rectangular golden dress watch to an American General named John Joseph Pershing. That watch was called the Tank. The name was most likely inspired by the tanks from WWI. The Tank watch initially had no frills such as seconds hands or other features, just pure cleanliness. This is partly achieved thanks to the “all in one” style that is still prevalent in the Tank watches today. For example, the strap was almost the same width as the watch itself and therefore gave a look of continuity that couldn’t be found in other wristwatches or pocket watches at the time.

The Tanks of today more or less follow the same design cues, but they have their own twist depending on the collection. The Tank Louis Cartier is the most traditional collection and closest to the original Tank watch, while collections such as the Tank Anglaise, Tank Américane, and Tank Française all add their own distinctive touches. For example, the Américane stands out with its tallness and the Anglaise features a built-in crown.

The other contender in this little comparison has Anglo-Indian beginnings and has risen to become one of the seven wonders of the watch world – and rightly so. The Reverso from Jaeger-LeCoultre was the product of several requests from English gentlemen stationed in India in the early 20th century. It’s said, that their problem was that their wrist watches were becoming damaged thanks to repetitive strikes from the mallets used to play polo or from tumbling off horseback. They approached representatives of a small Swiss company, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and asked them if they could jolly well fix it.

That they did: Their idea was to create a watch which flipped over to reveal the caseback to the outside world, thereby protecting the fragile crystal and solving the qualms of many aristocrats. No doubt some of those gentlemen would’ve worn a Cartier watch until it got smashed to pieces. But when they saw their friends’ reversible watches, they would’ve of course jumped on the bandwagon as well. To this day, Jaeger-LeCoultre still holds many events throughout the year that are based around or tied to a polo team of some sort. They’ve also released a seriously limited edition Reverso 18K yellow gold celebrating their relationship with Cowdrey Park in England. There are only two examples of the Cowdrey Park Reverso in existence and Jaeger-LeCoultre has no plans to make any more.

Similar, but Different

Down to the comparison then: Materials aside, the costs are relatively even for both watches but gold or Platinum naturally ups the price tag respectively. Both watches cater very well to the watch enthusiast who also enjoys architecture. The Reverso is inspired by Art Deco design, while the Tank features more Edwardian styling. In terms of design, there is absolutely nothing frilly about the Tank except the cabochon in the crown. The case shape and dial layout have stayed so true to form and accurate in their representation that the most likely reason the Tank often has a quartz calibre instead of a mechanical one comes down to a question of precision or convenience.

The Reverso, on the other hand, does have some frills to it, but sensible ones. For example, the three bands around the top and bottom half may have been inspired by the Empire State Building. The dial is still brutally simple and even refrains from a date window in most cases. The movement is mechanical in the Reverso. It promises robust, reliable hand-wound or automatic calibres.

My personal choice would have to be the Reverso. What can I say? I’m a sucker for anything Art Deco! The Reverso promises to be a fantastic piece to hand down someday and the clear reverse side is a great space for personal engraving. For those who really enjoy old style design and don’t mind quartz movements, the Tank is probably the best option out there right now. No one will judge, they’re both two of the biggest watch legends of all time.


About the Author

Jovan Krstevski

Jovan discovered his love of watches as a teenager. Today, he's a collector, the founder of the online magazine "WristReview," and a contributor to several other …

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