An icon for over a century, the Cartier Tank requires little introduction. Among the countless versions of the model, the Tank Française was originally presented by the French Maison in 1996 and has been one of the brand’s greatest commercial successes of the past decades. As 2023 kicks off, it is time for a revamp of the Tank-on-bracelet with a launch campaign directed by Guy Ritchie featuring Catherine Deneuve and Rami Malek. To update an emblematic design without compromising it is always a delicate task. The exercise of reimagining a classic and retouching the details is quite different from coming up with something totally new… And this is what we’ll discover with the new Cartier Tank Française collection.
Cartier Tank – an icon for over a century
The origins of the Tank go back to the beginning of the 20th century. During World War I, the quest for new shapes led to the creation of this model of unparalleled style and trajectory, a resolutely modern and elegant design with a square face and an integrated strap held between two straight parallel brancards. To give birth to this timeless model, Louis Cartier drew inspiration from the Renault Tank FT used by the French forces in the later stages of World War I. Although some Cartier watches with similar shapes were actually made by Cartier before Louis Renault began working on the tanks, the watch is named after the armoured vehicle.
The Cartier Tank Transformed into a bracelet watch
Over the years, the Tank has demonstrated a unique ability to reinvent itself and stand the test of time. Countless variations of the original Tank concept have been created in different sizes, shapes and all possible proportions; its design has been stretched, curved and even distorted with the Asymétrique.
Presented in 1996, the Cartier Tank Française is a Tank through-and-through. In many respects, it is as classic as it gets: it has classic proportions, a dial with Roman numerals and a railroad minute track, blued sword-shaped hands and a crown adorned with a blue cabochon. What transformed the stylistic features of the Tank Française to make it stand out was the incorporation of a metal bracelet. Seamlessly extending from the brancards to form a continuity of lines, the bracelet made it incredibly versatile and easy to wear.
The transformation of the Tank into a bracelet watch was a stroke of genius by Alain-Dominique Perrin and a huge commercial success, particularly for the stainless steel models (from 1997). The Cartier Tank Française was originally available in four different sizes and in steel and steel and gold cases. There were also gold and jewellery versions, some of which were fitted with leather straps. Quartz movements powered the SM and MM models, while the XL version was fitted with an automatic movement. Last, the XXL chronograph was based on the perpetual calendar chronograph Chronoreflex quartz calibre.
The 2023 Cartier Tank Française
If they seem relatively similar at first glance, the old and the new Cartier Tank Française are actually quite different. Updating an emblematic and well-established design without compromising its signature, recognisable features is always a delicate exercise. While the new Tank Française retains its jewel/bracelet watch DNA, it has been modernised into a more radical, relatively speaking, and sportier version. The lines are more dynamic and assertive than before; it feels more like a one-piece object than before, with more squarish corners, sleeker lines and more streamlined surfaces.
The bracelet of the new Cartier Tank Française (a fundamental element in this context) is more compact, and the overall build feels more solid. As you can see, the link that connects the bracelet to the watch head has been entirely redesigned with a simpler, better-integrated solution. The crown has also been revamped and is now partially integrated into the caseband. Last, the overall satin-brushed finish of the case and bracelet, with fewer polished surfaces than the previous generation of Tank Française, contributes a great deal to its more contemporary personality and sportier feel.
“The new Tank Française reflects a creative conviction. Like rediscovering the raw nature of a cut stone, it was about capturing the watch’s radical shape, simplifying its essential lines and stripping them of all embellishment to return to the myth’s origin,” says Marie-Laure Cérède, Creative Director of jewellery and watchmaking at Cartier.
The classic Cartier dial displays some subtle changes compared to previous versions, such as a different finish, lines in negative relief framing the Roman numerals and the railway minute track. The evolution isn’t as dramatic as the case, but thanks to these slightly recessed lines and more pronounced numerals (which are now applied and not printed), there is more depth in this new version. Incidentally, all models in this 2023 collection have brushed dials (either radially or vertically brushed), and no guilloché-like stamped option is offered. The steel models have a classic silver colour while the gold versions opt for a light champagne dial.
The New Range
The new Cartier Tank Française launches with a compact collection of seven references in three different sizes – with a new large size and a revised medium size – in stainless steel or yellow gold.
The Small Model (SM) is 25.7mm x 21.7mm x 6.8mm; the Medium Model (MM) model measures 32mm x 27mm x 7.1mm, and the Large Model (LM) is 36.7mm x 30.5mm x 10.1mm. While the SM and MM models are equipped with high-autonomy (8 year) quartz movements, the LM model is powered by the automatic calibre 1853. This small 17.20mm movement is based on the SW100, Sellita’s equivalent of the ETA2671. Contrary to the SM and MM, this large version comes with a date indication. It runs at 28,800 vibrations/hour and delivers 37 hours of power reserve when fully wound.
The three different sizes are available in stainless steel, while the SM and MM models are also produced in yellow gold and yellow gold with diamonds. The large model is only available in stainless steel. Prices start at EUR 3,750 for the Cartier Tank Française Small Model in steel (quartz movement). The Large Automatic featured in this article retails for EUR 5,850.
For more information, please visit cartier.com.