The Cartier Tonneau: The Dandy Watch Par Excellence!

The Tonneau was just like the Tortue, originally designed for men. In these early years most models were and these cases were indeed much smaller, than nowadays.  Despite the fact that the case was small, it still was a mens’ watch. A smaller ladies version was released later. Another difference is the fact that the Tortue has a roomy case that has been used for complications, like a mono poussoir, minute repeater or perpetual calendar movement, while the Tonneau, due to its slim case, always was and still is a Time only dress watch, or a two timezone watch, with two small individual movements.
The problem with the Tonneau as a mens watch appeared in the eighties, when men found the watch too elegant, mainly due to it’s very thin strap, that looked a bit feminine, especially  on the inside of the wrist.
The size of the case was not much of a problem, since the vintage version was not small at all. Cartier solved that problem elegantly by releasing a Tonneau XL in 2006, just when the watch existed a century in the catalogue. Not only was the case larger, also the strap was wider and was designed to go slightly  beyond the the lugs. Perfect solution since these few millimeters gave that extra width that was needed, for what is today seen as a good width for a mens strap.
The Tonneau is  thé Dandy watch in the collection, actually even more than the, better known,  curved Tank Cintrée, that is always seen as thé dandy model and pictured here underneath, in platinum.
The CPCP versions of the Tonneau were the last ones that were released. Two sizes were available and two time zone models, all produced in very small quantities. The Tonneau was, like previous versions, available in gold and platinum and for short period only. Only the two time zone models also came in white gold.
The Tonneau is an exclusive timepiece, it was the beloved watch of composer Igor Stravinsky and it is typical a design, meant for a small clientele. I am sure we will see the watch back again in the collection, in the years to come.

2 thoughts on “The Cartier Tonneau: The Dandy Watch Par Excellence!

  1. Excellent post Geo! The Tonneau, one of Cartier’s earliest models is definitely also one of their finest designed pieces.The barrel shape and lines evokes sophistication and elegance of a bygone era. I personally dont think there’s such a thing as “too elegant” in the world of Cartier but I know what you meant. My Tonneau is a pre-CPCP model and has the thin strap. The thin strap in my opinion adds to the old world charm of the watch. The proportions of the watch is eye catching but in a non-garish way. The CPCP re issue is definitely suited to today’s current taste yet is still holds it’s mystique and hasn’t lost any of it’s charm since it’s inception in 1906

    Thanks for the wonderful post of another iconic Cartier design.

  2. Thanks Mig, it’s indeed an incredible watch to wear and own. I understand what you’re saying about the strap, but I am over 6 feet and I am glad that the strap is a bit wider now. Actually amazing that these watches never go out of style, over a hundred years in the collection.

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