Perhaps the quintessential version of a true luxury icon, the Cartier Tank doesn’t need much of an introduction. To our modern eyes, it’s hard to imagine that this classic wristwatch was once a revolutionary force in watch design, and yet, that’s exactly what it was. It helped change and shape an entire generation’s attitudes and perceptions towards the wristwatch which was right up till the time of the Tank, the only appropriate shape for a watch was round.
After pioneering watches like the Santos in its distinctive square case, the Tank with its geometric tank inspired design, a weapon of war was re-introduced by Cartier as one of the most sophisticated watchmaking designs ever in our cultural lexicon. When broken down to its bare essentials and viewed from above, a tank resembles a circle (the turret) inside a square (the main body of the tank) between branchards (the treads of the tank).
Cartier agonised over ways to align the watch’s basic premise of hour and minute hands traversing what is typically a circle of 12 hours; in a masterstroke, he simplified the Tank into four lines with two parallel shafts so that the strap could be integrated as an extension of the case.
Conceptualised in 1917 by the namesake founder and sold two years later, the Tank is one of the most remarkable creations of the Maison and indeed in the history of watchmaking, its design language has remained largely unchanged since its launch in 1919. Its meticulous design and pure lines have made it an icon that has transcended time. Consider that most of the other iconic men’s watches of the 20th century like the Calatrava, the Datejust, and the Reverso, were not created until the 1930s.
Although the Tank Normale was never produced in large numbers, its emblematic design paved the way for the numerous Tank models that would follow. Surprisingly, it has never appeared in Cartier’s now legendary Collection Privée Cartier Paris collection. This year, the Maison corrects that oversight – an hour/minute version that borrows the proportions and bevelled sapphire crystal of the original.
Available in yellow gold with a brown alligator strap and in platinum with a black alligator strap. The new Cartier Tank Normale is a first for the Cartier Privé collection, it can also be worn with a yellow gold and a platinum bracelet, where case and bracelet appear to be one thanks to matching contrasting satin and polished finishes in a clear nod to the 1970s.
This continuity is juxtaposed against the polished finish, which highlights the outlines of the brancards and the edges of the case. The Tank offered something different, something progressive and yet refined. It was minimal in its design and yet very attractive on the wrist, marking the wearer as someone of taste and sophistication yet still resolutely masculine. Presented in a 23 mm x 30 mm platinum case, with elongated polished flanks, it featured the same Roman numerals we know and love today, the railway track minute counter, the blued-hands and of course a winding crown set with a blue sapphire cabochon.
Cartier Prive Tank Normale Price & Specs
Case 25.7 mm (6.85 mm thick) in yellow gold or platinum
Movement Manual winding calibre 070 MC with 38 hours power reserve
Introducing Cartier Prive Tank Normale Skeleton
While the Tank Louis is often thought to be the ‘original’ Cartier Tank inspired its cousins, the Tank Normale is the actual progenitor of the Tank family. The least known among the Tank siblings featured an elegant yet at the same time utilitarian design that was, and still is, easily recognisable due to its angular case with vertical crossbars and this year, the Maison adds one of its signature complications with a skeleton movement to the iconic collection, featuring a 24-hour complication marked by a sun and crescent moon, also skeletonised. While the minute hand turns around the dial in one hour, the hour hand goes round in 24 hours instead of 12 hours. As a result, daytime hours appear on the upper part of the dial and night-time hours appear on the lower part. To symbolise the transition from day to night, watchmakers have coated the skeletonised bridges with a gradation of shades adorning the two halves of the dial.
A limited edition of 50 numbered watches, this skeletonised Tank comes in yellow gold on a brown and green alligator strap with a blue sapphire cabochon on the winding crown and in platinum on a burgundy and grey alligator strap with a ruby cabochon on the winding crown. A watch with a case set with brilliant-cut diamonds completes the ensemble, in a limited edition of 20 numbered pieces, featuring alligator straps in two shades of blue with a brilliant-cut diamond on the winding crown.
Cartier Tank Normale Skeleton Price & Specs
Case 27.8 mm (8.5mm thick) in yellow gold or platinum
Movement Manual winding calibre 9628 MC with 38 hours power reserve
This article first appeared on Augustman Singapore