Cartier’s Iconic Timepiece, Reimagined for a New Generation

The all-black Tank Must watch, a style first launched in 1977, receives a sleek and understated 21st century update.

Article by Jordan Turner

Cartier Tank Must FeatureCartier Tank Must 2022 edition watch, from $4,200, Still life courtesy Jordan Turner.

In the early 20th century, as technology steamed ahead without respite, the jeweller and watchmaker Louis Cartier proposed a new design that played to the strengths of the eponymous house founded by his grandfather: line, shape, proportion and detail. It was the Tank wristwatch, which debuted in 1919, reinventing at a stroke the traditional round watch.

Cartier's 1977’s Tank Must.
Cartier's 1977’s Tank Must. Photography courtesy Cartier, N Welsh/Collection Cartier.
Cartier’s Place Vendôme flagship
Cartier’s Place Vendôme flagship circa 1973. Photography courtesy Cartier.

There was much to admire, from the unique squarecase to the elegant Roman numerals, the cabochon-cut sapphire crown and Cartier’s trademark rail-track minute dial. Since that time, the Tank has been made rectangular as the Tank Cintrée (1921) and diamond-shaped as the Tank Asymétrique (1936). It has been endowed with a water-resistant case and a folding buckle (1989’s Tank Américaine) and with an integrated bracelet and bevelled case sides (1996’s Tank Française), all the while remaining true to the spirit of Louis’ original.

In 2022, the design has shapeshifted once again, becoming the all-black Tank Must, a style first launched in 1977. Hour markers are absent, but the signature sapphire-set winding crown remains.This edition ties the design flair of the ’70s with the iconic elements of the early Tank for an understated accessory that’s at once modern and timeless.

Tank fan Andy Warhol
Tank fan Andy Warhol, photographed at his studio by Arnold Newman in 1973. Photography by Arnold Newman Properties/Getty Images. Used With Permission from The Andy Warhol Foundation For The Visual Arts.

Truman Capote once chided a journalist, ordering his interviewer to take off their inferior watch and wear Capote’s own. “I beg you, keep it, I have at least seven at home,” he said. It was a Tank, of course. In doing so, he confirmed what everyone already knew: the Tank is the mark of a creative and those who appreciate pure design and perennial style.

Cartier Tank Must
Cartier Tank Must 2022 edition watch, from $4,200, Still life courtesy Jordan Turner.
This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our eighth edition, Page 112 of T Australia with the headline: “First of Its Kind/Last of Its Kind”