You shouldn’t name a watch after a war machine without being pretty sure it lives up to it. Luckily, that’s not an issue with the Ancon M26 Tank, which is amongst the largest and beefiest watches we’ve had the pleasure of testing out. As with the Sea Shadow we looked at previously, the Tank is a hodge-podge of referential designs in a massive case that is meant to aesthetically emote mid century military machines. Whether a battleship or a tank, these watches are low on subtly and high on style, mixing raw materials and dark colors to make something unapologetically masculine and fun to wear. For a big ass bronze watch with a domed sapphire crystal and a Miyota 9015 movement, the Ancon M26 Tank is also decently priced at $839.
Case: CuSn8 Bronze
Movement: Miyota 9015
Crystal: Domed Sapphire Crystal
Strap: Italian Leather + Canvas
Water Res.: 200M
Dimensions: 45 x 56mm
Thickness: 13 – 17 mm
Lug Width: 26mm
Crown: Screw down 8 x 5mm
Weight: 135g w/o strap
Price: $839 w/ shipping in US
Jumping right in, the fun starts with the seemingly bullet proof solid bronze case. Measuring a whopping 45 x 56 x 13mm (Ancon say 17mm on their site, but that is deceptive, as it is a total height, rather than the area from case back to crystal) this thing isn’t joking around. The design is also altogether fascinating. The Tank has a jagged design, with strange slab lugs and a large bezel that simultaneously looks like the missing piece from a machine somewhere or some sort of dangerous antique. If you saw this on a shelf in a weird old junk shop, you’d expect the owner to scowl at you and tell you not to touch (ok, I’ve watched way too many 80’s horror movies).
From above, the case is dominated by the 47mm wide, sculptural bezel. Made of solid bronze with engraved markers, the 120-click uni-directional bezel is more aesthetic than functional. The mechanism is decent, though a bit easier to turn than I wanted with such a massive watch. The look is awesome though, speaking to a time before fancy insert materials. It’s also got quite a bit of Panerai in there without being a 1:1 copy. Otherwise, the top view only reveals the uncommon lug design. Rather than protruding outwards, they more come down, with a flat surface that faces outwards from the watch, giving the whole case a bit of a barrel shape.
Ancon used this open space for some branding, engraving “M26” on the side towards the wearer and a large “Ancon” logo on the opposite side. I go back and forth on how I feel about this. On one hand, it’s an interesting detail that is uncommon, adding texture and a bit of technical appeal, that simply looks cool. On the other, it turns the side of the watch into a billboard for the brand, though one doesn’t see that side much themselves. In would have liked to have seen the details typically reserved for the case back engraved here instead, like some sort of spec list.
The side of the watch looks like a short bridge, with large lugs coming down like supports at a sharp angle and a thick span between them. Moving up, the eye is lead across the interestingly shaped bezel and finally to the beautifully domed sapphire crystal. The sheer thickness of the central case is worth marveling at…so much bronze. It looks like you could run it over with truck and it would be no worst for the wear.
On the right side, at 3 is a very large onion-esque crown, also made of solid bronze, that measures 8 x 5mm. It’s another interesting piece, with nice details that make it unique. It’s a screw down crown, which adds to the solidity of the case, with a shape that tapers on both sides, giving it a squat barrel form. It is also signed on the outside face with a small Ancon “A” logo that looks good. Often bronze watches use steel or titanium crowns to prevent the bronze from touching your skin. I happen to think the bronze crown looks awesome, especially as it has patinated, though I did notice some green on my skin. Similarly, the display case back is steel with an aperture rather than bronze.The Miyota 9015 within is stock save an Ancon logo on the rotor, but alway enjoyable to look at.
Unfortunately, as is the case with the Sea Shadow, this too is a recycled design by another brand. VintageVDB, which is a bespoke European brand, used this case on a watch from 2012. Though the overall implementation is different, such as having the crown at 12 and different lug size, and different bezel, the similarity is clear. I asked Ancon about this, and they say they have a patent in HK for the design…
There are two dial options for the tank, both of which are available in multiple colors. We went with the “mark 1” dial in military green, because its Explorer-esque design really clicked with the overall aesthetic. It’s a very simple and purposeful design with a clean layout and font. The main index consists of rectangular markers and numerals for 3, 6, 9 and 12 in a cream colored lume that looks great with the bronze case and green surface underneath. This layout, as well as the font used, is very similar to the Explorer design, though they used a 12 numeral instead of a triangle. On the outer edge of the dial, in faux-gilt, is a minutes index with small lines, which terminates the dial well.
Between 4 and 5 you’ll find your standard date window, which presents a white on black date. Unnecessary, though not unwelcome, the date window throws the symmetry a bit, but the dial is so large that it seems insignificant. The text on the dial is prominent, but not distracting. Just below 12 is an Ancon logo (which is surprisingly decent looking) and the text “M26 Tank”. Just above 6 is a small block of text that is more or less ripped directly from the dials of early Tudor Submariners, such as the ref 7928. Here, the text reads “660ft – 200m”, “Rotor” and “Self-Winding”, all 3 of which appear on the Tudors, but the tell-tale detail is the curved “Self-Winding”.
Ancon’s style is to take various known elements and stitch them together to create Chimeras of sorts. It’s odd as the watch as a whole is not an homage, yet the details they take work well together. It’s hard to say whether or not they intend/expect people to identify the individual parts and their sources, but I do think that it is important to be aware of such things. The use of the Tudor layout works well on the dial, no-doubt, but it’s a pretty blatant copy and paste element here, which is a bit unfortunate. I wish they had at least changed the words.
The M26 Tank sports the same straight sword hands as the Sea Shadow, with split lume filling. The gold tone looks great against the dial and the hands are well proportioned.
Straps and Wearability
The best thing, and I mean absolute best thing, about the Ancon M26 Tank is how well it wears. If you’re a regular reader of w&w, you’ll know that as much as I try, large watches just don’t look or feel right on my wrist. So my own collection steers towards smaller watches, probably averaging 40mm. The Tank, despite it’s 45mm case and 47mm bezel diameter, wears very well on my 7″ wrist. The trick is the severe downward angle of the lugs and barrel shape.
When you strap the watch on, it sort of hugs on to your wrist, conforming to the natural shape, despite its blunt, boxy design. What you get is a watch that fits nicely and is quite comfortable. Basically, this is the big watch for guys with somewhat smaller wrists. That said, it will still fit larger wrists, though at a certain point I imagine the lugs would start to dig in. As far as presence goes, like its namesake, you see this watch coming from a mile away. It’s big, chunky and bold, yet the bronze and green dial are pleasantly understated.
Adding to the comfort, the M26 Tank features 26mm lugs and comes with 2 great straps. First is a hearty, dark Italian leather, with a matte finish, black edges and cream stitching. The warm, chocolatey brown brings out the color of the bronze nicely, and the rugged design works with the overall aggressive aesthetic. The strap features a very thick, bronze pre-V buckle as well, tying the whole thing together.
The second strap, and perhaps my preferred, is made of a drab olive green canvas with black leather lining. The simple, textured canvas plays off of the rawness of patinated bronze, emphasizes the case color and brings out the dial. Since 26mm NATOs are uncommon, and would likely make the watch a bit more cumbersome, this canvas strap achieves a similar aesthetic. It also will make for a more comfortable option during the summer. The watch only comes with one buckle, so you do need to swap it between straps, but that is easy enough.
In both cases, this is a watch that is best complimented by similarly robust and rugged clothing. Heavy canvas shirts, jeans, boots, etc… Think Carhart and Chippewa with this guy. This is a great colder weather watch, that while casual, would still work in a more laid back office environment. Just don’t expect to fit this under a shirt sleeve.
There is something very satisfying about the Ancon M26 Tank. Like eating meat from the bone, it scratches an itch you might not have realized you had. Something primal, manly. The warm yet drab colors, blunt no-nonsense details, and raw elements make this beastly watch unique, yet stylish. The mix of known elements, as with the Sea Shadow, simply works. If you can swallow the lack of originality and that they quite likely copied someone else’s case design, you will really enjoy the overall look and especially the feel. If everyone needs at least one oversized watch in their collection (debatable) this is a strong contender. Wearing it right now, I am still amazed by the fact that it is comfortable and doesn’t look silly on my 7″ wrist.
The other strong argument for this watch is the value. at $839 shipped (US, Canada, Asia), it’s a pretty decent deal for what it has going on. Bronze, sapphire, Miyota 9015, 2 great straps and seemingly bullet proof construction. While not cheap, it’s also not overpriced and seems to add up. So, in the end, this is very enjoyable watch, though the potential plagiarism is an issue that certainly could deter a lot of people, and personally has me a bit torn.
Dear Ancon, you know how to get a nice watch built and you seem to have great taste in terms of styling, now just come up with your own damn case designs and you’ll be set!
by Zach Weiss