He list of famous people that have worn out a Cartier Tank watch during the previous century is as colourful as it is diverse. General Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, was allegedly given a prototype of this Tank watch in November 1918 for his crucial role in the Great War. However, the story that takes the cake is credited to Rudolph Valentino, above, and his odd request of being allowed to wear his Tank wristwatch when filming The Son of the Sheik at 1926. The incongruity of the Middle Eastern props and costumes with all the modern watch on his wrist is funny to us now, but it will attest to the passion this watch has inspired one of its wearers.
Cartier’s Tank watch appealed to both women and men and American first women Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama as well as Britain’s Lady Di have all succumbed to its charm.
Having made its big-screen debut, Cartier’s Tank watch was soon being seen on the wrists of actors and actresses alike, such as Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo and Tallulah Bankhead. The simple fact that the opinion appealed to both women and men only strengthened its cause and American first ladies Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama, as well as Britain’s Lady Di, previously, have all succumbed to its charm. The Tank also appealed to counterculture characters such as Patti Smith and Andy Warhol, under, who famously said:”I don’t wear a Tank to tell the time. In fact, I never end it. I use a Tank because it’s the watch to wear.”
Andy Warhol famously said about his Cartier Tank watch:”I do not use a Tank to tell the moment. In fact, I don’t end it. I use a Tank because it’s the opinion to wear.”
Evolution of the Tank
As any long-living species will confess, adapting to your surroundings is your secret to success. The first Tank, rechristened the Tank Normale in 1919, has undergone 35 mutations within its 100 years of life without radically altering its character.
The first metamorphosis occurred in 1921 with the Tank Cintrée, a more elongated and curvaceous descendant made to sit beautifully on the wrist, followed by the Tank Chinoise, which captured the chinoiserie style so in vogue throughout the Roaring Twenties.
In 1922, the Tank LC (Louis Cartier) shed some of its horizontal geometry, providing the framework of the watch a rounded, softer end. The Tank à Guichets of 1928 are the first Tank to include a drawback and featured a digital time display with jumping hours and minutes peeking out from behind two windows cut into the metallic dial. Much like vocation into Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso, which was designed for polo players, Cartier watches made the Tank Réversible watch (later referred to as the Tank Basculante) in 1922, allowing the dial side to be hidden for protection as a result of a clever tilting mechanism.
Although the quartz watches crisis of the late 1970s practically decimated the Swiss mechanical watch industry, Cartier, which acquired most of its movements from third parties and’d never really considered itself a manufacturer of calibres, was mostly unaffected and was quick to accommodate to the revolutionary technology. In 1989 the Tank became robustly Américane, while in 1996 it reverted to its original French nationality with an integrated metal bracelet that looked like the caterpillar treads of a tank. In 2012, the Tank Anglaise rolled to the scene. Among the most iconic watches of all time, it’s primed to enjoy many more years of popularity.