A Collection of Tank de Cartier Watches Over the Years

THROUGH THE AGES – Join us for a tour through a century of Tank de Cartier and enjoy glimpses of some of the most iconic models in this legendary collection

When it comes to watches that would become truly essential, functional and, above all else, elegant, you’d be hard pressed to find any collection that would come close to the Tank de Cartier. Born in 1917 of a powerful vision from Louis Cartier, grandson of the brand’s founder, it is the culmination of an extensive design process. As the story goes, Cartier modeled the design of the Tank watches after the top view of actual tanks. In this case, the brancards—the parallel and vertical bars on the side of the tank that incorporate the lugs of the strap—evoke the treads of the combat machines, while the case represents the cockpit of the vehicle.

As a truly universal symbol of style and elegance that has taken an unprecedented path spanning an entire century, the Tank watch has never been so new. For one, it was a timepiece which swept aside tradition, shook up habits and ushered modern design into the workshops, and ultimately became a watchmaking icon. Today, as the Tank de Cartier embraces the new generation and celebrates its 101st anniversary, let’s take a stroll through memory lane and revisit some of the most important models in the collection’s timeline.

1917 – Tank

The Tank Louis Cartier made by Louis Cartier himself

Born in 1917 from a solid concept and through a lengthy process of deliberation, this is a timekeeping instrument that brought modern design into the ateliers. its revolutionary form, style and elegance were to pioneer a decisively modern lifestyle.

1921 – Tank Cintrée

Back in 1921, Cartier favored rectangle cases—after choosing between squares and rectangles—for one of its first watches called the Tank Cintrée. The curved form in this watch, on the other hand, was meant to closely follow the natural shape of the wrist.

1921 – Tank Chinoise

The shape of the Tank Chinoise pays tribute to the architecture of Chinese temple porticos. Two horizontal bars straddle the watch face and slightly protrude on either side, mimicking the interplay of interlocking lintels left in full view. Then, the balance of the forms shifts and recenters on the square.

1922 – Tank Louis Cartier

The Tank Louis Cartier was an unapologetic choice of the rectangular form. This watch embodies the contribution made by Louis Cartier himself to the modern art style later known as art deco.

1928 – Tank à Guichets

The dial with “guichets” symbolized modernity. Louis Cartier created the aesthetic of the Tank à Guichets—one indicating the hours and the other minutes—based on the fascinating jumping hour complication.

1932 – Tank Basculante

As it became increasingly fashionable to play sports while wearing a watch in the 1930s, the Tank Basculante watch became the perfect choice to follow the trend. It featured a case that pivoted lengthwise within an articulated framework, while the integrated winding mechanism was positioned at 12 o’clock.

1936 – Tank Asymétrique

The unusual Tank Asymétrique

This particular watch perhaps expresses the contradictions of an era, as it turned the aesthetic of traditional watchmaking on its head. The result? The entire balance of the watch was shifted, with 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock moving into the corners and the winding mechanism placed at 2 o’clock.

1952 – Tank Rectangle (broad model)

Boasting a gold dial to match the gold case, the Tank Rectangle (broad model) manifested an unapologetically classic style and ushered in a new definition of opulence to the 1950s in no uncertain terms.

1960 – Tank Allongée

The tank watch underwent a makeover in the 1960s and was given smaller and more feminine cases. Then, the dainty Tank Allongée took pride of place, and the range expanded to include the Mini Tank Louis Cartier.

1970 – Tank Must de Cartier Vermilion and Burgundy Dial

The Tank Must de Cartier burgundy dial

Back in the 1970s, Cartier infused its timepiece collection with modernity and elegance. Then, at the height of Must de Cartier period, a new collection of vermilion watches paid tribute to the form of the Tank Louis Cartier and evoked the world of haute joaillerie through the dial.

1980 – Tank Américaine

The Tank Américaine

The Tank Américaine was the first Cartier watch to offer a curved water-resistant case. On top of that, this watch featured a new folding buckle that allowed the strap length to be precisely adjusted to the wrist of the wearer, replacing the mechanism employed by Cartier since 1910.

1996 – Tank Française

With a curved case set in a chain-link bracelet, the Tank Française watch updated the classic Tank legacy. The chosen finishes toughen the lines of the watch, creating an all-new Tank.

2002 – Tank Divan

Cartier celebrated the year 2000 with the launch of a new watch that made space for time. With the dial sprawling toward the sides and roman numerals that are elongated with contained extravagance, the Tank Divan watch stretches to make room for a new balance.

The selections above only represent brief glimpses into the history of Tank de Cartier, but perhaps it can show us how this single watch collection has evolved through the ages to become one of the most famous mainstays of haute horlogerie.