HANDS-ON: Cartier’s centenary and the Tank Louis Cartier  HANDS-ON: Cartier’s centenary and the Tank Louis Cartier 

HANDS-ON: Cartier’s centenary and the Tank Louis Cartier 

Felix Scholz

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Cartier’s Tank. Not just in the rarefied world of watch design, but in the much broader fields of fashion and design. In a crowded scene full of pretenders it stands out, like an enduring style icon in a room full of so-called influencers.

This year the Tank celebrates its centenary, and Cartier has released a brace of new Tanks to mark the occasion, in the Française, Américaine,  Cintrée and Louis Cartier collections. We’re going to look at the new steel Américaine shortly, but today we’re spending time with the most classical iteration, the large Tank Louis Cartier in pink gold.

Cartier Tank Louis Cartier from 1925.

What you immediately notice about this Louis Cartier is just how little the design has changed since the Tank Louis Cartier was first introduced in 1922. Sure, little details such as the hands and Cartier text have changed, and the case construction is a little more sophisticated these days, but the fundamentals – the rectangular shape, softly curved case elements, Roman numerals and conical crown – are all the same.

The second thing you will notice is the size. Under no circumstances could you accuse this Tank of wearing large, even though it’s the large-sized model, which clocks in at 33.7mm x 25.5mm x 6.8mm. To be fair, my 20cm wrist is far from petite. However, because the style of the Tank is so timeless the size doesn’t really matter and, in fact, is entirely appropriate for this archetypal dress watch.

The design of the Tank Louis Cartier is so strong, and so instantly recognisable that speaking about it almost seems redundant, but in case you’ve never encountered the watch before, here goes. The Tank takes its name from its distinctive case shape, inspired by an aerial view of the eponymous armoured vehicle. This visual link is clearest in the brancards, those vertical, parallel case elements that seamlessly move from case to lug,  neatly bracketing the silvered dial, with exploding Roman numerals, railroad-track minutes ring, and guilloché centre dial. Then there’s the smaller but no less-important details, such as the secret signature at seven, and the blued hands that are a perfect tonal match for the sapphire set in the beaded crown.  The movement is the in-house, manually wound 8971 MC, which, even though it is less convenient than an automatic, is the perfect choice for this elegant number.

Cartier’s design credibility and staying power is legendary, and this celebratory Tank Louis Cartier rather proves the point. There are no gimmicks or tricks. Arguably, the only concession to trend is the use of pink gold. Otherwise this simple – yet versatile – rectangular dress watch proves that good design, and true style, is timeless.


Cartier Tank Louis Cartier Australian pricing

Cartier Tank Louis Cartier large, in pink gold, $17,500

Images by Jason Reekie.