To mark the centenary of its most celebrated watch, the Tank – as sported by the likes of Rudolf Valentino, Andy Warhol and Princess Diana – Cartier has today announced a slew of new models.
These include new iterations of the basic Tank Louis Cartier, elegant steel versions of the 1990s favourite the Tank Americaine, and the return of the watch that inspired the Americaine, the Tank Cintrée, now in a skeletonised haute horlogerie format.
A century ago, the First World War was driving the transition of watches from the pocket to the wrist. By 1918, Cartier - whose pre-war Santos Dumont model (originally designed for the aviator Alberto Santos Dumont) had inaugurated the prospect of watches designed specifically for the wrist - was selling more wristwatches than pocket watches. The Tank would become its most famous and influential model, with a design ostensibly influenced by the shape of military tanks that were then making their battlefield debut.
Though it wouldn’t come to market until after the war in 1919, the Tank was conceived by Louis Cartier in 1917, with elongated flanks holding both the dial and the strap in place, resembling the tracks that ran either side of the first military tanks. Indeed, a 1917 prototype was given to General John J Pershing, commander of US forces on the Western Front, in 1918.
The Tank Louis Cartier models
Over the decades, the Tank has taken on all manner of shapes, sizes and styles, each reflective of their era – though the Tank Louis Cartier remains the closest and purest relative of the original, with a slim-line design dating from 1922.
The new versions include a pair of pink gold models, one large (3.7mm wide x 25.5mm) and one smaller (29.5mm x 22mm), each powered by a slim manual-wind movement.
Additionally, there are diamond-set versions of each of these, in pink or white gold variants, each with the 8971 MC manual-wind calibre, and colourful straps.
With more heft and presence, the Tank Americaine became something of a statement piece in the 1990s, having been launched in 1989. With a case inspired by the elongated, curving style of another early model, the Tank Cintrée, the Americaine has tended only to be released in precious metal versions – until now.
Cartier is announcing three stainless steel versions that it clearly intends to become chic every-day watches: a small model with a quartz movement, and medium and large-sized versions powered by automatic movements.
Tank Cintrée Skeleton
The Tank Cintrée itself, dating from 1921, makes a return in the form of two exquisite skeletonised models, a watchmaking form that Cartier has made something of a specialism in recent years. In this case, the entire movement is assembled in a linear form, with mainspring at 12 o’clock and balance wheel at 6 o’clock, held in place by a minimal series of hand-finished bridges shaped around the “chemin de fer” minute track. The Tank Cintrée Skeleton is offered in rose gold or platinum.
Finally, there are two jewelled versions of the entry-level bracelet version of the Tank, the Tank Francaise – one small, one medium, both with quartz movements.