Cartier Watches and The Many Shapes they Come In

Master of Shapes – Cartier stands for extraordinary creativity and expertise with the different shapes of watches through their iconic models

Design Sketch of the Tank de Americaine

Historically, Louis Cartier was the first to set the design codes of modern watchmaking from the perspective of a jeweller. A pioneer of his time, he believed that the beauty of a watch was not just a matter of decoration. The size, shape and proportions, the look of the meta, and the harmony between bracelet and case were just as important. He soon became interested in “special-shaped watches,” which means that the case of the watch that broke away from the traditional round design. Case in point: “Tonneau” (barrel) shaped watches in 1906, square cases from 1904, and “Tortue” (turtle) shapes in 1912 were the first examples of very beautiful watchmaking created by an innovative jeweler for the brand.

Until now, Cartier shaped watches have evolved over the decades. square or curved, rectangular or oval, their stylistic features becoming signatures of unrivaled originality in watchmaking. That being said, let’s take a stroll through memory lane and celebrate the multitude of watch shapes through the Maison’s iconic models.

The Santos de Cartier

Square Face and Screw Down Bezel – Santos Watch
Back in 1904, Louis Cartier made watchmaking history when he created the first modern watch specifically designed to be worn on the wrist. Specially made for Santos-Dumont, the watch comes in a square or straight shape, rounded corners, seamless curve of horns that converged towards the strap, and exposed screws. The Santos, which was first made available for sale in 1911, cemented the legend of Cartier style.

Tortoise Shell Arc – Tortue Watch
Invented back in 1912, the two stylized curved lines of the case for the tortue watch echoed the form of a tortoise shell. Alongside the Santos, by 1915 this watch had become a bestseller.

The Baignore

Oval – Baignore Watch
Created in 1912, the as-yet-nameless oval watch became an instant classic among ladies’ timepieces by the Maison. It was not until much later, in 1973, that it was named the Baignoire. Fast forward to 2009, Cartier gave a new stylistic lease of life to the character and timeless femininity of the Baignoire, when the curved case of the 1950s model was tightened. The tempered lightness of the new version is a rich addition to the heritage of the Maison.

The many facets of the Tank de Cartier

Unusual Rectangle – Tank Watch
This legendary watch was designed by Louis Cartier in back 1917. He had seen press pictures of the first army tanks that made their debut in the first world war. Their metal tracks inspired the watch’s principal feature: its lateral brancards or the vertical sides were the tracks of the eponymous tank while the case followed the design of a turret. This time, with a perfect simplicity that Cartier liked, the lugs and case formed a straight line.

The Cartier Pasha C

Round Case – Pasha de Cartier Watch
Digging into the archives of the storied Maison, a wristwatch that appeared in the Cartier collections in 1943 would go on to inspire the Pasha de Cartier watch collection. With a round and water-resistant case, four arabic numerals,
a screw-down crown cap attached to the case by a small chain, and sword-shaped hands come together to create a signature and a legend.

The Tank Americaine in rose gold

Curved Rectangle – Tank Américaine Watch
Named in honor of Cartier’s long-standing ties with the US, Tank Américaine watch—developed in 1989—was a contemporary twist on the Tank Cintrée watch dating from 1922. It reinterpreted the curve of the case in an elongated, slightly convex rectangular form, with a force and elegance that made the watch a definite classic.

The Cartier Tank Francaise

Square Inside a Rectangle – Tank Française Watch
In 1996, the tank française watch imposed the strict proportions of a perfect square by integrating the curved case with the bracelet. The indented edges of the bracelet evoke the tracks of the tank from which it takes its name furthermore, Cartier has meticulously bevelled the corners to produce a softer angle. Furthermore, its classic French proportions earn it the “Française” descriptor.


Perfect Alignment – Tank Anglaise Watch
The Tank Anglaise watch marked a new step from the Maison in its search for refinement. Created in 2012, the winding crown in this watch is seamlessly incorporated into the “brancard,” which accentuates the lines and gives
it a compact shape and perfect alignment.

The Cartier Crash

Deformed Oval – Crash Watch
Legend has it that in 1967 a client brought in a Cartier watch that had been damaged for repair to the New Bond Street Boutique in London. Jean-Jacques Cartier, at the time head of Cartier London, was so fascinated by the shape of the case that he decided to recreate it. As a result, the Crash watch crystallizes the encounter between the creator of shaped watches and the joyful, transgressive culture that overturned conformity. Produced in very limited editions, the Crash watch with its signature deformed dial went on to become a collector’s item.

The Cartier Ballon Bleu

Circle within a Circle – Ballon Bleu de Cartier Watch
Created back in 2007 with a design that straddles classicism and futurism, this watch is distinguished by the proportions of its profiled curves, and by its convex case that resembles a smooth pebble, both front and back. The
lens-like crystal magnifies the numerals for a visually stunning reading, while the sapphire cabochon winding crown is integrated into the case protected by an arc of precious metal. All in all, the Ballon Bleu de Cartier watch introduced a welcome element of complexity to the basic round shaped case design.

Cle de Cartier

Soft Curve – Clé de Cartier
Based on an objective to create a new, entirely curved shape, an infinitely refined and discreet watch, Clé de Cartier was born. Its name references the winding crown—seamlessly integrated into the curve—which bears a similar functionality of a key. Specifically designed to be ergonomic, this winding mechanism introduces a new gesture and enables the time and date to be adjusted with incomparable ease.

Drive de Cartier

Curved Square – Drive de Cartier
As an utterly elegant new addition to the Cartier men’s watchmaking repertoire, the cushion-shaped drive de Cartier watch is a truly distinctive watch. The finesse and generous proportions of the case run in counterpoint to the tension of the lines.


Panthere de Cartier

The Square Shape of a Jewelry Watch – The Panthère de Cartier Watch
An imposing icon of the 1980s, the Panthère de Cartier watch now looks edgier than ever. This irrefutable emblem of the decade of decadence slinks sensuously about the wrist of its wearer in gleaming yellow gold. With “jewelry first, timepiece second,” in mind, it’s instantly recognizable as Cartier.

In closing, Cartier style is built on the inherent design constraints and inventiveness associated with all of these kinds of shapes, and is clearly evidenced in their historic models from the likes of Santos, Tonneau, Tortue, Oval, Tank, Pasha de Cartier, Ballon Bleu de Cartier, Clé de Cartier, to the Drive de Cartier. All in all, with balanced proportions, elegance and true sophistication, it’s safe to say that Cartier never stopped conceiving new shapes, sometimes eccentric, often very daring, but ultimately, always refined.