In 1917, luxury French jeweller Cartier introduced one of the most iconic watch designs of all time: the Tank.
While most timepieces of the early twentieth century are inspired by aviation – including the formidable Santos de Cartier – the Tank drew its innovative aesthetic from the armoured vehicles that creator Louis Cartier witnessed during the First World War. Much like a military tank, its look is defined by a rectangular shape (a bold move away from the round watchcases of the time), while the metal bracelets are indented like the caterpillar treads of the machines that dominated European battlefields.
The Tank remains one the most enduringly popular watch designs of all time, and Cartier workshops have produced numerous variations, incorporating different materials, sizes, complications and adornments. Today, they offer five models: Francaise, Americaine, Anglaise, Solo and Louis Cartier.
Perhaps the most recognisable model is the Tank Francaise, which features a square dial within the rectangular case, the aforementioned tank-track bracelet and Cartier’s trademark sword-shaped blued-steel hands. It is available in small, medium and large sizes, and with mechanical, automatic or quartz movements.
The Tank Americaine launched in 1989, with a demure style influenced by Cartier’s New York workshop in the 1930s. Defined by a longer, rectangular dial, it was the first Cartier model to feature a curved watchcase. Available in white, yellow or pink gold – and with a variety of leather straps – it is a versatile option for formal or everyday wear.
The Tank Solo offers variations for men and women that subtly combine Cartier’s classic style with a contemporary edge. Beautiful alligator skin straps, silver opaline dials and 30m water resistance are typical of the Solo, while all variations are powered by Cartier’s compact and precise quartz movements.
In 2012, Cartier added a new Tank model to its line-up (or ‘army’, if you will) – the Tank Anglaise. With a strap that integrates seamlessly into the case and a unique winding mechanism that sits within the watchcase (rather than beside it), the Anglaise feels solid and fortified. For an extra level of indulgence and elegance, look out for the variations finished with brilliant-cut diamonds.
Cartier’s greatest display of craftsmanship and technical expertise may be the highly lauded Tank Louis Cartier. First released in 1922, the ultra-thin piece is now offered with quartz, automatic or manual movement, and embellishments such as calendar apertures and power reserve displays. With such technical excellence and arresting design, it’s no surprise that this is the model Louis Cartier would personally give to his friends and associates.
View the full Cartier Tank Collection here