Hands-On: One Cartier, Two Cartier, Red Cartier, Blue Cartier.
And green Cartier. The new Tank Musts, oh me, oh my.
We’ve now gotten to the point where blue-chip Swiss watch brands are paying homage to watches born out of the quartz crisis. We’re talking about a time when prestige brands – like Cartier – were fighting to stay alive, and the only thing that could save them was … batteries. Just imagine Rolex releasing a modern Oysterquartz. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but it would be wild. In any event, Cartier went this route back in April, when it announced one of its splashiest Watches & Wonders releases: The new line of colorful Tank Musts.
The burgundy, blue, and green Tanks were (and remain) the year’s most talked-about releases. Think about that: Three quartz-powered stainless steel timepieces taking the watch world by storm. That’s the magic of Cartier. The Tank is an iconic design which has withstood over a century of watchmaking developments. As the horological world changed, the Tank both endured and adapted. There’s no better evidence of that adaptation than the original Must de Cartier line which made the brand both accessible and fun at a time when it needed to be both.
As the quartz crisis (or revolution depending on whose side you’re on) ravaged the horological universe, shuttering many established watch brands, Cartier employed the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” offensive. At the time, the brand’s new ownership saw the Tank as the vehicle to turn things around. The result was the Tank Vermeil, otherwise known as the Must de Cartier collection – gold-plated, minimal watches with colored dials. With quartz movements, and a $500 price tag, the collection was a hit – to say nothing of the fact that its styling and colorful offerings were a perfect match for the bright synthesized ’80s. The new Tank Must watches pay tribute to those ’80s models.
The first thing I noticed upon seeing the new colorful Tank Must collection in person was just how minimal the dials are. There are absolutely no markers of any kind – so no points of reference to tell the time.
From a functional standpoint, this is difficult. But one reason it doesn’t bother me too much is actually the quartz movement. You only have to go through setting it once and then it’s good to go (until the battery dies of course).
Historically speaking, the interesting thing about the Must de Cartier line, and these new Tank Must watches, is that they represent the entry-level price point for the brand. I never liked that term, but it’s useful in this context. Just look at the colorful Rolex OP’s released last year. What was once an entry-level watch for the Crown is now one of its most coveted pieces, worn by the likes of LeBron James. Will the King spring for a burgundy Tank Must to compliment his coral OP? At 33.7mm, it’d look teeny on his giant arm. But in some ways that’d make it even cooler.
The colors of these dials can best be described as rich, which gives them an attention grabbing quality in daylight that will surely get noticed. In low light, these watches take on a subdued elegance. There’s a balance here which makes the watches a treat to wear in any situation.
In terms of case profile and design, this is a Tank, through and through. While each of these colorful dials would have looked great against a gold-plated case, a la the original Must de Cartier, you won’t find that here. Instead the watches are all fashioned from stainless steel – which in turn allows the price to slot in under $3,000.
In the large size (which is still small by modern standards) this is a 33.7mm long case and 25mm wide. One thing I can say is that the case is light, like feather light. The result is an extremely comfortable wearing experience, to the point that you might have to check your wrist more often than usual to make sure you’re wearing a watch at all. A fun part of the wearing experience is the matching straps in burgundy, blue, or green. While I’m partial to the blue model, the burgundy comes in a close second. I suppose that would put the green in third place, but who’s counting? I am apparently.
I do think that the dials are a bit too minimal. Something about the “Must de” text on the older models felt right, and would have looked right at home on these pieces. Another distraction was the length of the minute hand. It just feels shorter than it should be and adds further complexity to the act of telling the time. To round out my list of nit picks: The name Must de Cartier feels special. Tank Must sounds like an incomplete sentence.
Overall, these watches fulfill their purpose – to make Cartier timepieces more fun. I appreciate that they used the iconic Tank to effectuate that process. It’s yet another illustration of the evolution and adaptation of both the model and the brand. While I can absolutely see myself wearing these, I just don’t know if I’d be able to settle on a color. Is it too weird to just get all three?
The Tank Must Monoochrome models. Case size: Large – 33.7mm long x 25mm wide. Sapphire crystal. Quartz movement. Stainless steel case with crown set with a blue synthetic spinel cabochon. Three lacquered dials in burgundy, blue, and green. Matching colored alligator leather straps. Price $2,730. For more, visit Cartier.
Photos: Tiffany Wade