How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time

Adrienne Faurote
By Adrienne Faurote November 22, 2022

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of TimePhoto Credit: Courtesy of Haute Living

The epitome of timeless elegance, the Cartier Tank is a watch that transcends beyond its time. The Cartier Tank is a watch that reflects its notable wearers, from Lady Diana and Andy Warhol to Yves Saint Laurent and Muhammad Ali — to name a few — the Cartier Tank exudes a feeling of unwavering sophistication. Andy Warhol once said: “I don’t wear a Tank to tell the time. In fact, I never wind it. I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear.”

Ahead, Haute Time reveals a complete guide to the evolution of the Cartier Tank; some are still in production, and some are only available through the rapidly-growing vintage watch market. As a result, the Tank is constantly reinvented through a new, modern lens while maintaining its signature design DNA.

Tank Normale

The first Tank surfaced in 1917 when Cartier founder Monsieur Louis Cartier took inspiration from the design of a combat vehicle. However, the watch wasn’t available to the public until 1919, and then was known as the “Tank Normale” — now an extremely rare and coveted watch at auction. The movement in this watch was designed by Edmond Jaeger and manufactured by LeCoultre & iCe, who famously later joined forces and became Jaeger-LeCoultre. This collaboration aptly foreshadows the similarities between the Cartier Tank model & some modern Jaeger-LeCoultre pieces.

Tank Solo & Tank Must

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Solo

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Perhaps the most popular models are the Tank Solo and Tank Must. The designs are similar and only distinguishable by the Solo being slightly larger and having the signature “d-clasp” as opposed to the Must with a traditional ardillon buckle. In addition, the Solo is the more modern of the two, having been released in 2004, whereas the Must was launched in 1977.

The Must revolutionized luxury watches; as the world recovered from WWII, Cartier wanted to produce a watch to serve the new demand for luxury items from the newly prosperous economy, yet without the price tag the timepieces historically held.

Tank “Louis Cartier”

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Louis Cartier

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The Tank “Louis Cartier” has become an iconic design. In the late 1980s, Lady Diana was occasionally seen wearing a Tank Louis Cartier with a rounded gold face and leather strap. First designed in 1922, this became Mr. Cartier’s watch of choice to wear. It features smoother lines and, unlike other styles of Tank, is exclusively available in gold and platinum materials.

Tank Française

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Française

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As with many Tank variations, there are small factors disguising designs that don’t seem obvious to the untrained eye yet noticeable to the Cartier connoisseurs. The Cartier Tank Française was released in 1996 and still stands as a strong part of Cartier’s permanent timepiece collection. This style has pointed angular shoulders and a chain link bracelet, a favorite of many an elegant lady; like Michaelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge. This is available in steel, mixed metals as well as the full monty of yellow gold and diamonds. The Française is a prime example of what Cartier does best: completely ageless design.

Tank Cintree

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Cintree

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Introduced in 1921, the Cartier Tank Cintree is an elongated, thinner version of the traditional tank shaped with a slight curve to hug the wrist, in keeping with the comfortable, second-skin language of the timepiece. Cintree, meaning “curved,” was one of the first deviations from the classic silhouette of the Tank and is still produced in very limited quantities.

Tank Américaine

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Américaine

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Cartier identified that the desired aesthetic for timepieces was moving towards a bold, masculine look, making pieces like the Cintree less popular. So to succeed the Cintree, they designed the Tank Américaine, which was unveiled in 1989. The Américaine is the Cintree’s bigger and bolder younger sibling, with a slightly shorter and wider case — edging back to a classic Tank shape while paying homage to the Cintree.

Tank Chinoise

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Chinoise

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Another historic design still available in today’s collection is the Tank Chinoise, originally launched in 1922. As the name suggests, the Chinoise takes its inspiration from China, specifically Chinese temple porticos. During the 1920s [or roaring 20s] there was a craze for fashions inspired by the East. The watch was re-released earlier this year in a Privé collection to honor 100 years of the Chinoise, limited to 150 pieces.

Tank MC

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank MC

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The most recent of the Tank roster is The Tank “MC,” or Manufacture Cartier, announced in 2013. The model features a movement that was made in-house, hence the name. Cartier proudly designed this with an “exhibition case” — a sapphire crystal window that allows the movement to be seen. The timepiece plays to the sporty watch trend with a bold case and the addition of a chronograph. Cartier even released a skeletonized version, something available in very few of the brand’s models.

Tank Anglaise

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Anglaise

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Hailing from the rare repertoire (and now discontinued) is the Tank Anglaise. First announced in 2012 and is completely unique in design, the watch features the signature sapphire set crown of Cartier timepieces, set inside the brancard, similar to that of a Ballon Bleu de Cartier.

Tank a Guichet

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank a Guichet

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Phillips

Another amusingly different watch is the Tank a Guichet, which first debuted in 1928. Like much of Cartier, it was extremely ahead of its time. The name translates to “a small opening,” and the piece features a solid metal face, with two small openings revealing the hour and minutes, respectively, with a “jumping hour” dial in place of an analog display.

Tank Obus

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Obus

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Introduced in 1923, the Tank Obus is one of the few square Tank pieces. Other than the shape, a distinctive feature of the Obus is the lugs, which have been likened to the shape of bullets. The watch hasn’t been in production since 1998, when it was released for Collection Privée, Cartier Paris.

Tank Divan

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Divan

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Phillips

Released in 2002, the Tank Divan was a major off-shoot from traditional Tank designs. As the Tank Cintree & Américaine were stretched versions of the original design, the Divan was essentially a squashed-down tank. On one of the rare occasions that Cartier missed the mask, the design was quickly discontinued five years later.

Tank Basculante

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Basculante

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Phillips

Casting back to the original Tank Normale that started it all, whose movement was made by [the now named] Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Tank Basculante may feel familiar. The 1932 released watch is the predecessor to the popular Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. The watch is designed for the face to be tilted and folded over, protecting the glass during strenuous activities.

Tank Asymetrique

How The Cartier Tank Has Withstood The Test Of Time
Tank Asymmetric

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The Tank Asymetrique remains one of Cartier’s most desired pieces to date. Designed in 1936, the face is parallelogram-shaped and looks as unique as it sounds. The piece was initially released as a one-off and still makes very limited appearances.