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.