The Cartier Tank: It’s Inception
Louis Cartier, the founder of the brand, invented the Cartier Tank in 1917. It is the brand’s most iconic model. The Tank’s name and design pays homage to the Renault FT-17, a French tank used during the first World War. The watch somehow manages to be both rectangular and square, borrowing lines from its namesake. The leather strap seamlessly integrates into the case, and Roman numerals grace the dial. Lastly, the crown features a single blue sapphire.
Cartier gifted the Tank’s first prototype to U.S. General John Pershing in 1918. It may sound strange for a watch, particularly one as elegant as this, to derive its name from military equipment. However, the Renault held high regard as innovative. The Renault was the first tank to house its weapon in a fully-rotating turret. It was a small, but mighty design.
Inspired by the modern lines of the Renault, the Cartier Tank was a departure from the curvier jewelry designs of that time. In 1919 the first Tank’s debuted to the public market. However, Cartier only made six. By the early 1920’s the Tank’s popularity was rising. It was and still is a sophisticated, yet tough, unisex timepiece with a serious celebrity following.
Rudolph Valentino insisted that his character, Ahmed, wear the watch in the 1926 film, The Son of the Sheik. Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy is also famous for wearing a Tank. Sold at auction in 2017, this watch was a gift from her brother-in-law in 1962. In 2017, it fetched $379,500, making it the most expensive Tank ever sold. Andy Warhol was also a famous Tank-wearer. Reportedly, he wore the watch because it was “the watch to wear,” not to tell time. He didn’t even wind it.
The Cartier Tank: Modern-Day Models
The modern-day Tank comes in a variety of models and price-points. There are currently six different collections, all with multiple models available.
The Tank Anglaise is the largest of these collections. Its alignment is a recreation of the original publicly-offered Tank. This watch features a case-incorporated winding mechanism and a quartz movement. It comes in a variety of price points and materials.
The Tank Louis Cartier gets its name from the brand’s founder. It features rounded lugs and a couple of the models have a skeleton case. This allows you to see the movement inside.
The Tank Americaine is an elongated version of the classic. It has a slight curve, wrapping around the wearer’s wrist. Yet, even with the longer, narrower case, the proportions are just right.
The Tank Francaise is the sportiest of the Tank collection. It has the most modern feel, and comes on a two-tone bracelet. It’s a bit larger than some of the other models, but is a perfect combination of sport and dress.
The Tank MC is the most masculine version of this timepiece. It has a larger case and an exhibition back. Each version in the collection also has a small subdial for seconds.
The Tank Solo is a modernist’s dream. It has both curved and square angles and a crisp, clean dial. This Tank is designed for the 21st century, but showcases the best of the model.
The Cartier Tank has been in production longer than most watches. It is easy to see why. It is an iconic masterpiece, that manages to marry classic design and modern principles. The current collection is expansive, ensuring there is a size, style, and price point for everyone. It’s likely the best unisex watch ever made.