For over a century, Cartier has honed its unique expertise in creating shaped watches. Its archives are replete with them, and the maison continues to regularly unveil new models. Drive de Cartier and Cle de Cartier are notable ones from the previous decade.
The brand routinely reintroduces discontinued models as well that are updated for the contemporary wearer in terms of both design and technical details. The latest historical watch to be rejuvenated is the Tank Must, whose origins go as far back as the 1970s and even the early 20th century. As is common for Cartier, the Tank Must’s return is accompanied by a full-fledged collection with different references in a variety of case sizes, designs and movements.
The Tank de Cartier needs no introduction. Since its 1917 debut, this icon has grown into a diverse collection of timepieces in a wide range of designs. Despite this, the different interpretations retain the signature elements that hark back to the original model’s conception by Louis Cartier, grandson of founder Louis-Francois Cartier.
What defines the Tank are the parallel brancards that form its flank. Louis Cartier was inspired by the caterpillar tracks of mechanised tanks – then a novelty on the battlefield – and designed the timepiece to resemble one when viewed from above. While the Tank’s rectangular shape is reminiscent of the vehicle, Louis also drew ideas from the Art Deco movement. The style’s unique aesthetics led to the dominance of geometric forms in the watch while also informing its other design elements, including the railway track chapter ring and Arabic numeral indices.
Different iterations of the Tank soon followed as Cartier experimented with its design elements. Among them, the Tank Louis Cartier was widely regarded as the archetypal Tank, thanks to its pleasing proportions and rounded brancards that give it an air of elegance and sophistication. The Tank Must de Cartier that debuted in 1977 took inspiration from this and marked a watershed moment for the maison and the collection by being the first Tank to be produced in large numbers. The monochromatic references of the original Tank Must de Cartier released later in the 1980s also offered a new aesthetic.
A classic returns
This year, the Tank Must returns. In contrast to the Tank Louis Cartier, available only in gold, the new Tank Must watches come in steel to offer a different aesthetic – and have more affordable price points. The classic style with Roman numeral indices and a railway track chapter ring on the dial comes in three sizes, with the biggest powered by a mechanical movement and sporting a simple date complication at six o’clock.
Its smaller siblings are two-hand, time- only and driven by quartz movements with diamond-set brancards as options. All are offered with a black grained calf leather strap or matching steel bracelet.
Cartier has also used the Tank Must as a platform to introduce greener technologies. Specifically, the maison is presenting variants of the Large and Small models fitted with the new SolarBeat photovoltaic movement that’s recharged by light. This is accomplished via tiny, invisible perforations in the Roman numerals on the dial that allow light to pass through. The SolarBeat movement doesn’t just represent greater convenience for the wearer, but also leaves a smaller environmental footprint since it doesn’t require batteries – at least for the next 16 years.
The most interesting variant of the Tank Must are arguably its monochromatic versions with coloured lacquered dials that are, save for the brand signature and the 02 minimal “Swiss Made” stamp, devoid of other markings. Originally offered in black and burgundy, the 2021 releases come in red, blue and green with matching straps. This trio recalls the heady vibrancy of the 1980s and strips the Tank down to focus on its iconic case.
To celebrate the reintroduction of the Tank Must, Cartier is offering complimentary maintenance and repair services to owners – regardless of the year in which their Tank was created. This campaign is conceivably limited both in scope and availability, so anyone with the Tank in their collection is encouraged to do so quickly.
(Related: Five new takes on classic timepieces)