Cartier is associated with iconic designs and motifs such as the image of the fiery ‘panthere’. One of the other very powerful design icons of the brand is undoubtedly the Tank which completes 100 years in 2017.
The story began in the year 1917, when the Tank watch made its debut. The iconic design took the world by storm and even a century later remains a timeless classic. At that time, Louis Cartier, a serious collector and a visionary designer developed his own jewellery aesthetic. The fashion of the times was Art Nouveau style. However, Cartier, preferred to emphasize on geometric lines and abstract forms. Little did he know at that time, he was setting the stage for Art Deco style.
The main difference of Cartier’s design was that it was a clear break from elaborate curves fashionable at the time. There was a lot of formal research required into aligning the circle (of the hours) with the strap and paring down the design. The ultimate goal was seamless integration of the lugs and the case as an extension of the strap.
The story goes that Louis Cartier himself modelled the design of the Tank watch on the top view of a tank: the brancards (parallel and vertical bars on the side of the Tank that incorporate the lugs of the strap) evoked the treads and the case represented the cockpit of the vehicle. This explains the name. The Tank is a watch that appeals to men and women. In that sense it is a universal watch. Not quite square, not quite rectangular, it is the ultimate contemporary watch.
The Tank is expressed in three styles: Tank Louis Cartier, the Tank Américaine and the Tank Française.
The Tank Louis Cartier symbolises the quintessential Tank spirit. It is the original watch, quite distinctive in design, and quite purist in the sense that it embraces the original creation. The Tank Française transformed the stylistic features of the Tank watches. The case was attached to a metal bracelet, thereby reconfiguring the design of the side brancards, dial with Roman numerals, “rail-track” minute circle, sword-shaped hands and faceted winding crown adorned with a sapphire cabochon. The shape asserts itself in the curved case and bracelet, which forms a seamless continuity of lines, volume and material.
The Tank Américaine makes the rectangular shape more compact, while the brancards are rounded. Compared to the classic shape, it is slightly elongated and has a slightly convex form. It plays with geometry, alternating stark and softened edges, straight lines and curves, rounded corners and angles. The Tank Américaine was also the first Cartier watch to offer a curved water-resistant case.
In 2017, as the watch celebrates 100 years, Cartier chose a rectangular form for one of its first watches – the Tank Cintrée, whose curved design hugs the wrist. A functional and aesthetic exercise, this watch was a precursor of the Tank Américaine of the 1980s.
It has a powerful shape that is delimited by a pair of brancards that structure the whole. Cartier has introduced two versions of the watch: in pink gold or platinum. A skeleton movement follows the curves of the case. Its transparent design only preserves 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.
From Gary Cooper to Andy Warhol, from Madonna to Catherine Deneuve, the Tank watch is worn like a code, a tacit allusion. Since the very beginning, it has appealed to free-spirited men and women – free to appreciate its new, understated design, enhanced by harmonious lines; free to choose a watch for its perfectly proportioned composition rather than the status it symbolises. These visionary admirers sensed the power that emanated from this creation and formed a special bond with it. Countless anecdotes and quotations testify to its power of attraction.
A work of art in itself, it does every justice to the icon that ruled the hearts of watch lovers for a century, and which will continue to do so.