Built To Last: The Cartier Tank Turns 100
Louis Cartier was well-versed in classic style and deliberately distanced himself from the art nouveau movement, applying his geometric lines and abstract forms to pioneering the everlasting grace of art deco.
Cartier’s original 1917 Tank timepiece, genderless in its appearance, broke away from the elaborate curves of the early 20th century. Cartier is said to have drawn inspiration from the top view of a tank, modelling the brancards after the treads of the war machine and the case after its cockpit.
The Tank represents the brand’s boldness, as it veered from its usual, more delicate and refined stylings to pursue a more determined, “off square, near rectangular” case shape. Since then, this design has bridged the changing styles of ensuing eras with three distinct models—the Tank Cintrée, Tank Louis Cartier and the Tank Américaine.
To celebrate its 100th year, Cartier has released a transparent version of its Tank Cintrée, which reveals a skeleton movement that follows the curves of the case. Its transparent design preserves only the bare essentials: the hands, the chemin de fer and the overlapping gears in the background, all contained within the distinctive curve of the Tank Cintrée.
The new Tank Louis Cartier is offered with two fresh faces and is powered by the 8971 MC mechanical movement with manual winding. The women’s version comes in pink or white gold, with an option for a diamond-set version.
The 2017 Tank Américaine, meanwhile, embodies the spirit of the original Tank in its contemporary, understated aesthetic. Showcasing clean lines and a strong presence on the wrist, the eternally elegant model makes an utterly modern statement by presenting steel as a precious material.
In 1996, the Tank added a new member, the Tank Française, which gave the iconic model a refreshed, more stylistic look. The case was attached to a metal bracelet, in effect reconfiguring the design of the side brancards. Its shape asserts itself in the curved case and bracelet, which form a seamless continuity of lines, volume and material.
However, it stays ever faithful to the Tank’s design codes with the distinct Roman numerals, rail-track minute circle, sword-shaped hands and faceted winding crown topped with a sapphire cabochon.
As the story of the Tank continues, we bear witness to the seismic shift within Cartier, where its legacy is no longer just having been the jeweller of monarchs, but also a revolutionary watchmaker that doesn’t concede to limitations.
From Yves Saint Laurent to Princess Diana, below are just a few of the Cartier Tank’s most ardent fans: