Historically rich with its heritage in American racing and culturally famed with Paul Newman proudly adorning one, the Rolex Daytona certainly warrants the price tag.
What is So Unique About the Cartier Tank?What Makes the Cartier Tank So Unique?
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Taking inspiration from World War One military vehicles, The Cartier Tank has seen an interesting resurgence among Generation Z. Its timeless elegance, Art Deco influence and popularity among Hollywood A-listers ensures after 100 years it still remains a powerhouse investment.
Undeterred by time, this vintage model remains one of the hottest watch searches on the net. Powerful stuff given the Cartier Tank started off in 1917 thanks to none other than Louis François Cartier.
But why is it gaining popularity again and what makes this timepiece so special? First, it’s high time for a little background.
History of the Cartier Tank
“I don’t wear a Tank to tell the time. In fact, I never wind it. I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear.” - Andy Warhol
Now, highly respected watch collectors are all too familiar with models like The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or Patek Philippe Aquanaut. Subtle, sophisticated and timeless, these models will never go out of fashion.
However, loyal watch collectors…listen up for just a second. If you are in the market to buy a Cartier, The Cartier Tank is right up there.
Paying homage to the bold lines of the Renault FT-17 tanks during The Great War, Cartier wanted to capture practicality on the one hand and refined engineering on the other. The two parallel brancards (stretcher in French) portray the tank treads with the case symbolising the turret.
But its break with conventionality saw its appeal skyrocket. While round dial designs were all the rage, The Tank broke down all horological barriers. Its Roman numerals, leather strap and iconic blue sapphire located on the crown made it an instant hit. In 1918, the actual prototype was given as a gift by Cartier to General Pershing of the US Expeditionary Force.
But what’s with the military connection? Renault tanks were given high praise for their innovation during World War I and were the first that included a fully-rotating turret. Consequently, it was a powerful symbol that Cartier represented in his one of a kind creation.
By 1919, The Tank was launched to the public with only six pieces produced extending to 33 pieces in 1920. One year later in 1921, Cartier threw a curveball by launching The Tank’s first contrasting model - The Tank Cintrée.
Considered to be one of the most highly collectable timepieces of the 20th Century, these limited edition models are consistently selling at top dollar. In the range of £20,000 to £40,000 to be precise. If you intend to sell a Cartier and have a platinum version you are certainly in luck as these babies can fetch upwards of £200,000.
Design of the Cartier Tank
What makes watch collectors lap up The Cartier Tank is of course the stunning Avant garde visuals.
Following on in 1904 The Santos, created by Cartier's grandson for his close pal and respected pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont, the classic Tank is hot property again. More than a century later and its overall look has hardly changed. The smooth transition from case to lugs is one of the signature characteristics of a Cartier Tank
From its bespoke cabochon-cut sapphire crowns and slinky silhouettes to its arrow shaped hands, these essential design aspects have made The Tank one of the ultimate dress watches for men or women. If you want to buy a watch, you cannot go wrong with this ornate example of timekeeping.
It really has stood the test of time thanks to its enduring allure among hardcore watch collectors. Sure, we have seen the Tank’s design altered across numerous pieces such as the stretched out and slimmer version of the Tank Américaine. Nevertheless, it is easily identifiable with a beautiful presence on the wrist and a genuine eye-catching piece.
Iconic Cartier Tank Models
Throughout time, The Cartier Tank has had a myriad of variations including The Solo, Must de Cartier, Française, Américaine, Solo and Anglaise among others. Let’s now take a brief look at some of the most renowned models.
Must de Cartier Tank - Source: The Rake
Must de Cartier Tank
Launched in 1977, the Must de Cartier Tank was a price conscious option for avid time lords. Introduced by Cartier to compensate for the peak of the Japanese Quartz crisis, this craze became as popular as Anarchy in the UK and Donna Summer.
Solid gold or platinum cases were quickly replaced with cheaper options on Must de Cartier Tanks like vermeil. Gone were the ultra-slim Frédéric Piguet mechanical calibres which were replaced by mechanical or quartz movements.
Yet the appearance of Must de Cartier Tank watches still evoked The Cartier Tank. Furthermore, the dial was tweaked removing the traditional Roman numerals and substituting them with a selection of colourful lacquered dials that soon gained popularity among fashionistas.
Originally retailing around the £140 mark, sales were remarkable and currently, these remain highly collectable with resale values close to £1,000.
Cartier Tank Américaine - Source: The Rake
Cartier Tank Américaine
As Black Box sang to us about being “Ride on Time,” in 1989, Cartier was pressing ahead with launching the Tank Américaine.
Bringing The vintage Tank Cintrée right up to the contemporary era, the distinctly stretched out and curved case harks back to the roaring 20’s. Initially, The Cartier Tank Américaine was only available in yellow gold but in 2017, it went on to offer steel as part of its 100 year celebrations.
its place in the best Cartier watches to buy. And in the same year for its centennial birthday, The limited edition Tank Cintrée benefitting from incredible skeletonization was launched with only you guessed it…100 pieces produced!
Cartier Tank Francaise - Source: Collector Square
Cartier Tank Française
By 1995 when Take That was dominating our telly boxes, Cartier brought out the sporty Tank Française.
Targeting the modern buyer who wanted to buy a Cartier watch, its recognisable link bracelet paid tribute to the caterpillar-like treads from former WWI tanks.
Thanks to this particular mode, Cartier launched its first Tank watches manufactured completely from stainless steel. To this day, the Tank Française still achieves epic status among Cartier’s impressive watch catalogue for this reason.
Cartier Tank Anglaise
At the beginning of the new Millenium, the Tank Anglaise, the artist formerly known as The English Tank emerged. Paying homage to Cartier’s flagship stores located in Paris, New York and London, this model provided much fuller brancards which were even curvier.
But this time, the winding crown was set into the brancard positioned on the right leading to a more uniformed case aligned with The Tank Anglaise.
Cartier Tank Solo - Source: Collector Square
Cartier Tank Solo
By 2004, Cartier introduced The stainless steel Tank Solo, which was an entry-level watch reflecting the original LC Tank.
In this case though, its brancards are significantly flatter while the case is slightly chunkier. Powered by a quartz movement, the crisp dial showcases the magnificence of this sublime model.
Cartier Tank MC
Derived from the in-house movement that it runs on, The Cartier Tank MC (Manufacture Cartier) burst onto the luxury watch scene in 2013.
This featured an understated yet elegant curved case and sapphire caseback for visibility of the Cartier movement. The factors we have all grown to admire remained a staple boasting Roman numerals and sword-shaped hands.
Available in a host of finishes, functions and colours, there’s also the added bonus of a running seconds subdial.
Cartier Crash - Source: Sothebys
Cartier Tank Crash
We have saved one of the best till last. The Crash.
First launched at the end of the 60’s by Cartier London, this quirky, Daliesque timepiece was manufactured directly at its flagship Bond Street store where innovation led the way instead of following Parisian conceptions.
No, this is not an alternative dimension you have stepped into but as you see they are undeniably Cartier. This legendary asymmetrical shaped number has been on every watch lover's lips for the best part of six decades. So how did it come to fruition? Apparently, it is claimed that in 1967, one of Cartier’s customers took in a mangled Baignoire after a car collision.
Capturing the Zeitgeist of Swinging London perfectly during the 1960’s, Cartier knew they were on to a good thing. The ideal expression of creative freedom, nothing of this nature came close to this distinctive model during this decade.
In fact, if you are determined to buy a watch like this, Cartier Crash prices have been rocketing of late including a 1967 model sold via an online auction site for an astonishing £1.3 million.
Furthermore, many celebrities such as hip hop mogul Kanye West have been a long term wearer of the Cartier Crash enhancing its appeal and value.
Famous Wearers of the Cartier Tank
Throughout the ages, the number of Cartier Tank wearers is as dizzying as the number of models and varieties of this truly emblematic bastion of timekeeping.
Beginning in 1926, The Cartier Tank was the star of the silver screen in The Son of the Sheik thanks to Rudolph Valentino. In his last movie, Valentino was insistent on wearing one and so Cartier’s infamous script was written.
And the big hitters just keep on rolling. Everybody from Muhammed Ali, Humphrey Bogart, writer Truman Capote and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis have adorned their wrist with the Cartier Tank.
In June 2017, the former First Lady’s watch was sold at auction to none other than Insta wonder Kim Kardashian for a princely sum of £315,000. This smashed all records for being the priciest Cartier Tank ever to go under the hammer.
After her split from Prince Charles, Princess Diana was often spotted wearing a gold version of the Tank Française while another First Lady, Michelle Obama posed in one as part of her official picture in 2009.
Fast forward to 2023 and The Cartier Tank remains a global hit and the mainstay among red carpet regulars. Brand ambassadors like American actor Rami Malek and influencer Troye Sivan have catapulted the Tank’s popularity to a new worldwide audience.
With so many iterations, the Tank Watch is a horological beacon that is absolutely fundamental to Cartier’s watch stable. It is as on trend today as it was more than a century ago.
The brand’s attitude towards repositioning and revamping their models has made these time-only pieces achieve legendary status with the trend not likely to buckle any time soon. For passionate watch aficionados looking to buy a Cartier watch, there’s one for everyone with prices around the £2,500 mark.
Guaranteed precision, first rate refinement, exquisite detail and indescribable luxury legacy will always make The Cartier Tank one to collect.
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