There are legends of the watch world, and then there’s the Tank. Cartier has been making its beloved rectangular watch for over 100 years, and while its exterior design hasn’t changed all that much, it has inspired countless variations in sizes, colours and details. This year Cartier introduced several new models to the lineup, including versions of the Tank Must, a revived 1980s variant. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know.
Louis Cartier designed the tank in 1917, and its design was reportedly inspired by the boxy shape of WWI tanks. More to the point, however, it established the brand’s austere-yet-elegant approach to design, a philosophy that would inform the brand’s direction for the next century and beyond. “It’s the epitome of Louis Cartier’s thoughts about the best shape for an object,” says Pierre Rainero, Director of Image, Style, and Heritage for Cartier. “There’s nothing more simple than two parallel lines connecting the strap, and that’s what the Tank is. It’s two lines containing the dial, and that’s it. You cannot go further with a more essential design for a watch.”
Cartier Tank Louis Cartier
A direct descendent of Louis Cartier’s original 1917 design, this OG tank receives an update this year while maintaining the hallmark “Rail tracks” around the dial, cabochon sapphire on the winding crown, and Roman numerals. 2021 sees two new riffs on these classic motifs with dials accented in red or blue, and yellow gold, and matching straps. Both are powered by Cartier’s Manufacture 1917 MC manual-wind movement.
In the late 1970s, Cartier revived its Tank by creating a new version, the Tank Must, in gold-plated silver (or vermeil, in the parlance of jewellers). Cartier brings the Tank Must back this year, with a choice of multiple sizes, quartz or automatic movements, steel or leather straps, and a trio of ‘80s throwback colours.
Solarbeat Tank Must
Despite the Solarbeat Tank Must’s close resemblance to its brethren, this model has two key differences: a photovoltaic cell beneath the dial and a strap made from vegetable matter, not leather. As the first-ever solar-powered Cartier watch (and the first to feature a vegan leather strap), this Must marks a big step forward for Cartier’s watchmaking program, while remaining pleasantly familiar in all of the important ways.