The Tank Watch: Cartier and the Tank
Since 1918, the Cartier Tank has been one of the classics from the world-renowned company. It is hardly known, however, that the first examples of the rectangular wristwatch were given to an American general and a British colonel - as a memento of their achievements in bringing about peace in the First World War.
Angular, flat and slightly armor-shaped, the Tank is designed, two hands in the classic Breguet shape show the time. The Roman numerals were already typical back then.
The "Tank" is one of the icons from the Cartier range alongside the "Santos" and "Pascha" series and is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2018. In the 1920s, however, the Tank was more than just a new watch - it also paved the way for the success of the wristwatch in general. At that time there was still little acceptance of timepieces on the wrist, pocket watches or pocket watches converted into wristwatches are still in fashion. With the Tank, Louis Cartier wants to create an integrated design in which the strap merges into the case and allows both to appear as one piece - and for the first time breaks with the otherwise traditionally round watch. The bracelet thus became an optical element for the first time and was not just used as a simple attachment.
The watchmaker Edmond Jaeger, who has been working with the LeCoultre & Cie movement manufacturer based in Vallée de Joux in Switzerland since 1906, was responsible for the inner values. Later, Jaeger takes over the factory in Switzerland and forms the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand.
With the sapphire cabochon on the crown, Cartier set a sign back then that the Tank has remained true to to this day. The Tank even made its way onto the big screen very quickly. In 1926, the watch made its first appearance with the silent film star Rudolph Valentino in "The Sheikh's Son". Actors like Clark Gable or Gary Cooper also wore a "tank" - but later artists like Andy Warhol and many other celebrities also wore them. Actors like Alain Delon were also considered prominent wearers in France.
Historical tanks are a real investment, a tank from the 1920s can easily fetch prices of up to 30,000 euros and more. Particularly valuable and rare is the stretched "Tank Cintrée", whose case is not only longer than that of the "Tank Normale" but also ergonomically curved. The Cintrée was presented in 1921 and, unlike the other tank models, was also equipped with Arabic numerals at the end of the 1920s. In the 1920s, Cartier also began to use the Tank as a platform for numerous variants in all directions. In 1922, the Tank Chinoise follows with an accentuated case, which is particularly noticeable due to the even more prominent lugs based on the motif of a Chinese temple.
In 1928, the “Tank à Guuchets” was launched – a digital watch that displayed the hours and minutes as discs beneath a brushed gold or platinum plate. The hour display is designed to jump. The winding crown is mounted at 12 o'clock and emphasizes the slim and elegant design. Also at the end of the 1920s, the single-button chronograph “Tortue” came onto the market. A little later, the reversible watch called the "Cabrio-Réversible" came onto the market, which is now sold as the "Tank Basculante".
The tank is a constant, even in changing times. In the 1950s, stars like Brigitte Bardot and Juliette Gréco wore a Tank, but in 1965 Pierre Cartier died and the company was no longer family-owned. It is almost ten years before Cartier rises again under the direction of Robert Hocq and Joseph Kanoui.
"Les Must de Cartier" set an example in 1974 and helped to open up new target groups. The Tank will be one of the leaders in the new collection right from the start.This means that a new material is also being used in the production of the most classic of all Tank models: vermeil. The case is made of sterling silver 925 and is then plated with 20 microns of gold. Quartz movements are used in Cartier watches for the first time.
In addition to the rectangular case, blue hands and Roman numerals on the dial, the blue sapphire cabochon still adorns the crown. The Tank remains an evergreen that keeps reinventing itself. In 1989, the "Tank Américaine" took up the motif of the domed clock again.
The Tank Française was launched in 1996 with a stainless steel bracelet. The watch, which is available in various material combinations with an automatic or quartz movement, is significantly more massive. In 2008, Cartier brought its own manufacture movement onto the market, which also celebrated its premiere in Tank Américaine a year later. The Hallmark of Geneva caliber 9452 MC features a flying minute tourbillon with a visible cage – in the shape of the Cartier “C”. 2012 is also a year of the tank, with three new models coming onto the market. Historical features are quoted - partly from old collections, partly from Louis Cartier's own sketchbook.
This is how the stylistic elements of the "Tank LC" from 1922 appear on the dial and case of the "Tank Louis Cartier XL". At just over 5 millimeters, the watch is significantly flatter than the model from the 1920s.
After Tank Américaine and Tank Française, Tank Anglaise comes to bring some balance to the international distribution of Tank watches. The “Tank Folle” breaks with the rectangular shape, which is nevertheless a tank with its abstract forms: in addition to the cabochon crown, the hands and dial with the Chemin-de-Fer minute scale are characteristic. Fresh like 100 years ago: The Tank is a classic.