George and I get quite a few questions, almost on a daily basis, about Cartier. We thought that it was time to group some of them and discuss them in an article. An interesting question asked recently was my opinion about the ‘Must de Cartier’-watches, in particular, the Tank, which featured previously on Troisanneaux here. Before answering that question, it is important to know that the Must de Cartier-collection was about much more than just watches. It was almost a movement, the first of its kind in the luxury industry, and a vital element of transforming Cartier from a three-boutique family business into the luxury conglomerate that it is today. It’s collection consisted not only of watches but also included pens, lighters and other luxury objects and everything was a ‘must’ to own!
Especially back then it was unheard that a premium brand would introduce some of their most iconic models at a much lower price range into less precious metals, yet that is exactly what Cartier did. At the time this was a brilliant move because it gave a much larger group of people the ability to purchase a Cartier, also because the brand began aggressively expanding the number of outlets where they were available.
At the time Cartier lacked the production facilities to make these watches. Most of them are therefore made by Ebel. This means that their quality is quite high. The vast majority of the Must de Cartier Tank’s are fitted with quartz movements, which Ebel made in-house, as they were one of the leading manufacturers in especially the 1980s and one of the few Swiss brands that were successful during the Quartz-crisis. Some examples also exist with a manual wind movement. These are obviously more in demand and cost more.
Cartier was able to offer the luxury feel of their products at a lower price point thanks to the use of Vermeil. This is an ancient technique in which a layer of gold is applied to a base of sterling silver. This is much higher in quality than gold-plated pieces, not only because the layer of gold is quite thick, but also because it is still through-and-through precious metal. While it is less prone to wear opposed to gold-plated pieces, decades of wearing it will leave its marks, yet applying a new layer of gold is often neither a problem nor extremely expensive.
That all combined makes it that the Must de Cartier Tank is quite a desirable watch and for some the perfect piece to start their collection of ‘La Maison’ with. It is well made, played a very important role in the history of the brand, and also offers a vermeil case, which is not only all precious metal but also quite uncommon in the world of watchmaking. Cartier has made quite a few different dial designs over the years for this collection, and especially the red and dark blue varieties are stunning and add extra appeal to the watch. So we at Troisanneaux are fans of the Must de Cartier Tank and agree with ‘La Maison’ that it is a ‘must-have’ in the collection of anybody looking for an iconic dress watch at a more affordable price.