As a serious collector well-versed in classic style, Louis Cartier developed his own jewellery aesthetic and deliberately distanced himself from the Art Nouveau style.
From 1904 onwards, his jewellery designs were characterised by geometric lines and abstract forms; Cartier had pioneered the avant-garde or modern style known as Art Deco.
At the same time, Cartier watchmaking was enjoying a booming trade. Louis Cartier was the force behind the introduction in 1904 of this watch, designed to be worn on the wrist, which caused a sensation in the world of watchmaking.
Sensing the potential for success, Cartier soon grasped that this invention would transform the very nature of the watch and overturn the landscape of the watchmaking business. The wristwatch seen by Cartier would become an essential accessory, as functional as it was elegant.
The early years of the 20th
century were dedicated to formal research into aligning the circle (of the hours) with the strap and paring down the design. The ultimate goal was seamless integration of the lugs and the case as an extension of the strap.
The project of the Tank watch was designed in 1917 and took its place as a reference model in watchmaking. The strength of the design lay in its dramatic break with the elaborate curves fashionable at the time and the exercise of restraint in its form.
The story goes that Louis Cartier himself modelled the design of the Tank watch on the top view of a tank: the brancards evoked the treads and the case represented the cockpit of the vehicle.
The hours are shown in Roman numerals on the majority of Tank watches. When used in combination with the chemin de fer chapter ring, they lend a heightened graphic impact to the dial.BRANCARD
Brancards are the parallel and vertical bars on the side of the Tank that incorporate the lugs of the strap. The harmonious blending of the case and lugs signalled a unique stylistic leap forward within the field. This crowning achievement for the newly invented wristwatch was the culmination of years of deliberation and research.CHEMIN DE FER
Chemin de fer is the term for the double line on the dial that represents the chapter ring. The design evokes train tracks. An unmistakable Cartier signature, this graphic crops up throughout the dials of Tank watches.WINDING CROWN
Set with a sapphire cabochon, the winding crown is beaded or faceted.
The Tank is a universal watch. Its shape, as if governed by a golden ratio, is not quite square, not quite rectangular. By turns masculine and feminine, the Tank asserts that freedom and elegance have no gender. Loved by men and women of all generations, it is the ultimate eternally contemporary watch, made beautiful by its judicious proportions.
From Gary Cooper to Andy Warhol, from Madonna to Catherine Deneuve, the Tank watch is worn like a code, a tacit allusion. Since the very beginning, it has appealed to free-spirited men and women – free to appreciate its fine, understated design, enhanced by harmonious lines; free to choose a watch for its perfectly proportioned composition rather than the status it symbolises. These visionary admirers sensed the power that emanated from this creation and formed a special bond with it. Countless anecdotes and quotations testify to its power of attraction.GARY COOPER
RU$F VALENTINO - 1926
For his final cinematic appearance, in George Fitzmaurice’s The Son of the Sheik,
Rudolph Valentino demanded that he be able to wear his Tank watch in every scene.
This delightful cultural discrepancy can be seen today in stills from the film: the great seducer in traditional Middle Eastern attire with his favourite watch on his wrist. This was the Tank’s first cinematic role.GÉNÉRAL PERSHING - 1918
According to the Maison, the story goes that Louis Cartier offered one of the first models of the Tank watch to General John Pershing - the commander of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during the Fist World War - as a token of thanks.ALAIN DELON and JEAN-PIERRE MELVILLE
While filming Un flic,
Alain Delon discovered he wore the same watch as the director, Jean-Pierre Melville: a Tank Arrondie.GUNTER SACHS
Gunter Sachs at the opening of his fashion boutique Mic Mac in Saint-Tropez in 1965. He is seen wearing his Tank watch.ANDY WARHOL