Cartier occupies a substantial space of Palexpo at Watches and Wonders every year, mirroring the significant launches of the brand. In 2023 the Maison released more than 80 novelties – in iconic lines such as the Tank or the Santos and many watchmaking-meets-fine-jewellery pieces.
You must have heard of the Cartier Tank even if you are not interested in watchmaking at all. The model is very recognisable and throughout the years it has also become part of ‘pop culture‘ as many style icons of the 20th century were devoted fans of the model. Louis Cartier created this watch in 1917, and gifted the prototype to the American John JosephPershing in 1918, who was the general officer leading the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. It went into production in 1919 and a few years later another version – the Tank Cintrée (‘curved Tank’) was also designed.
The Tank has been reinterpreted by Cartier in many models – the curved Tank Cintrée (1921); the Tank Louis Cartier (1921/22) with softened edges; the Tank Must de Cartier (1977) without numbers on the coloured dials; the Tank Américaine (1988/89) with larger dial, the Tank Française (1996) with metal bracelet or the Tank Anglaise (2012), just to name a few – while always remaining faithful to Louis Cartier’s original concept.
Last November, we visited the Rare Watches Exhibition in Geneva, discovering more than 30 exciting timepieces in the Rue du Rhône boutique. Showing its significance in Cartier’s archive, a whole cabinet was dedicated to Cartier Tank watches.
The 2023 Tank collection features the Tank Américaine, the Tank Française and the Tank Louis Cartier. A new Tank Française campaign with seven new references in three different sizes was presented this January, please see them here. As usual, Cartier released many versions in each model family, we only selected a few of our favourites.
Tank Louis Cartier
In 1921, Louis Cartier reworked the design of the original Tank, the ‘Tank Normale’. The case was stretched, the brancards (the elongated bars of the case) were refined and the edges were softened: the Tank LC (for Louis Cartier) watch had arrived.
Beautiful elegant versions joined the collection, like a Tank Louis Cartier large (34 mm x 25.5 mm) model with quadratic graphic motifs on the dial in gold, yellow gold, rose gold and white gold – an homage to the Tank Must dials of the 1970s. A taupe grey alligator-skin strap completes the look of the different tones of gold.
Even more minimalistic are the two gold Tank Louis Cartier watches with a lacquered burgundy or green dial. These yellow gold pieces favour sophisticated simplicity, free of any Roman numerals or rail tracks, and a fully chromatic look with matching alligator straps. The models have a beaded crown set with the Cartier signature sapphire cabochon.
The three Tank Louis Cartier timepieces are equipped with the 1917 MC movement with manual winding.
The Tank Cintrée (‘curved Tank’) was born following the original Tank and it served as an inspiration for the Tank Américaine, launched in 1989. This watch introduced the first adjustable strap with the famous folding buckle, for which Cartier filed a patent in 1910.
Now the Tank Américaine offering is quite broad – it includes 11 watches in three sizes: mini, small, and large and two metal variations, steel and rose gold. In the case of the delicate mini (28 mm x 15.2 mm) and small (35.4 mm x 19.4 mm) Tank Américaine you can go for the brilliant-cut diamond-set versions too.
The large models (44.4 mm x 24.4 mm) feature a mechanical automatic movement, a thinner new calibre, the 1899 MC.
Cartier has a vast legacy of creative watch designs, so in the last few decades the Maison created different collections to revisit them, with a special dedication to collectors’ watches. These timepieces were showcased in the Collection Privée Cartier Paris (CPCP) from 1998 until 2008, and the Fine Watch Making Collection (FWM) from 2008 until 2018, with pieces like the Cartier Rotonde Skeleton Mysterious Hour.
Cartier relaunched the Cartier Privé, the collectors’ collection in 2015 and has reinterpreted the Crash, the Tank Cintrée, the Tonneau or the Tank Asymétrique. The Privé includes exclusive limited edition and numbered watches. In 2023 the Tank Normale joined the line with 100 individually numbered pieces.
The new Tank Normale watch recalls the flat brancards and flat sides of the original Cartier Tanks of around 1919 (as Cartier softened the edges on the later Tank Louis Cartier models in the early 1920’s).
The latest piece comes in yellow gold or platinum case with the dimensions of 32.6 mm x 25.5 mm (thickness: 6.85 mm). The dial is covered with a bevelled sapphire crystal and showcases the iconic rail tracks, Roman numerals with an interesting detail on the ‘VII’ – the year ‘1917’ is hidden on the stalk of the digit. The platinum version has a beaded crown set with a ruby cabochon, while the gold one has the blue sapphire cabochon on the crown. The manual calibre 070 ticks inside of these collector’s timepieces.
I also tried the skeletonised Tank in platinum (limited to 50 numbered watches) on a grey alligator strap with a ruby cabochon on the winding crown, it sits nicely on my wrist.
The Tank Normale Skeleton also has a yellow gold model and a 20-piece limited edition, set with brilliant-cut diamonds).
The calibre 9628 MC features a 24-hour complication marked by a sun and crescent moon. While the minute hand turns around the dial in one hour, the hour hand goes around in 24 hours instead of 12 hours. As a result, daytime hours appear on the upper part of the dial and nighttime hours appear on the lower part.
Photo credits: Loupiosity.com
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