The iconic shapes of Cartier timepieces are renowned and instantly recognisable. Designs such as the Crash, the Panther, the Pasha, the Ballon Bleu and the Tank are proof of the enduring quality of good design and its ability to traverse time.
Back in 2021, when I spoke to Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s director of image, heritage and style, he put the success of these designs down to the strength of their “perenniality” and their “capacity to evolve, to sustain different variations”, while retaining key elements established at conception. The Tank is a perfect example of this, with dozens of iterations since the first square-shaped Tank (now referred to as the Tank Normale) was created in 1917.
Among the historic models are the arced Tank Cintrée (1921); the Tank Louis Cartier (1922) with its “softened” edges; the rather futuristic looking Tank à Guichet (1928) with its metal plate dial, hour and minute windows; the tilted Tank Asymétrique (1936); the reversible Tank Basculante (1932); the colourful Tank Les Must (1977) models targeting a younger generation; and the elongated Tank Américaine (1988), a modern version of the Cintrée and a nod to Cartier’s long relationship with New York City established in the early 1900s. And, while always retaining those characteristic vertical brancards, a unique expression of this element can be seen in every novelty. Other recognisable features of the Tank language are the radiating Roman numerals, “railway” minute track, blued sword-shaped hands and a crown set with a cabochon-cut sapphire.
One of the most exquisite pieces at Watches & Wonders 2022, the 100th anniversary of the Tank Chinoise, was celebrated with a gold Privé novelty with skeleton movement and dial, and featured black lacquered horizontal bars straddling its brancards.
In 2023, Cartier revisits the Tank Française — the first Tank presented on a bracelet — giving a beautifully simple design an update that translates into such an incredibly fresh new look for a model that first appeared in 1996. It’s all down to the detail, the simplification of the most essential lines, from the evolution of the monobloc metal case with its more rounded satin-finished brancards, to the new integrated bracelet design and a recessed crown. The large 36.7mm x 30.5mm all steel novelty is powered by a calibre 1853 automatic mechanical movement with a date feature based on the highly regarded Sellita SW100. Quartz-powered small (25.7mm x 21.2mm) and medium (32mm x 27mm) are available in steel or yellow gold (with or without diamonds on the brancards). All models are water resistant to 30m.
From Hollywood stars to royals, the Tank was first endorsed by celebrities of the silver screen. Today’s fans and friends of the Tank include Catherine Deneuve and Rami Malek, who star in the Guy Ritchie-directed launch campaign for the new Tank Française, which captures the free, creative spirit of Paris while magically blurring time, past and present.