For many, the surprise of the year will be, without any doubt, the comeback of the colorful Tank watches, inspired by the ‘Must de Cartier Tanks‘ from the Seventies. Before I continue with what Cartier has in mind for us with this release, I’ll do a brief explanation of what the original’ Must de Cartier’ series was, what it meant for ‘La Maison’, and why this watch was so important.
-‘MUST DE CARTIER’ 1977-
The ‘Must de Cartier’ Tank was created in 1977 and launched at an affordable price to make it appeal during a time when the watch industry was experiencing a downturn. It was in the Seventies when the market was flooded with affordable digital watches. At that time Cartier was still producing its watches in 18K gold and platinum only, and the company suffered from a decline in turnover, like most other higher-priced Swiss brands.
The Cartier collection was, from a price point of view, no match, for these new, low-priced electronic timepieces, that were coming our way from Japan. Still, the watch to have and the watch Cartier had always been famous for, was the ’Tank Louis Cartier’ in 18K gold from 1922. Cartier realized that very well and came up with a brilliant idea, to create a watch that paid tribute to the original Tank, but then at a more affordable price. This was a radical decision. It was the first time, since Cartiers beginning in 1900, that a Cartier watch was built in a non-precious metal: namely silver! To retain the luxurious look of the watch, where La Maison has always been so famous for, these Tanks had a gold-plated finish.
The result was a gorgeous-looking Tank, with a strong resemblance to the famous ‘Tank Louis Cartier‘.
The designers did not come up with only one different watch face; more than a dozen different dials were presented, one more stunning than the other. And instead of picking just one, the marketing team decided to launch them all, over a period of time. The first and best looking ‘Must de Cartier’ Tanks were released with dials in plain red, blue, and in black, without any numerals, just ‘The Must de Cartier’ logo, the double C, and two gold vermeil hands. But later on, versions with striped dials in three colors of gold, variations with numerals, and even a limited-edition Art Deco dial were hitting the shelves of the Boutiques and dealers. But the ones that stood out in this vintage series, were the ones with the red- or the blue dials. And they actually still are. The first pieces were delivered in 1977 with a mechanical hand-wound ETA caliber, while the models with quartz movement, followed in 1982.
-‘TANK MUST’ 2021-
Time flies, because now almost 45 years later, Cartier is bringing back the colorful ‘Must‘ Tanks and they are better build than ever. It will not have escaped anyone that vintage ‘Must de Cartier Tank’ watches are currently sought after. Despite the fact that these watches are quite small and are often in bad shape because the gold plating has worn off. These problems are now things of the past, as new ones can be obtained.
From the conversation I had with Mr. Pierre Rainero, ‘Director of Image, Style & Heritage for Maison Cartier’, I learned that the new ‘Tank Must’, should be seen as an inspiration from the ‘Must de Cartier’ series; this should not be seen as a relaunch. The watches are made in polished stainless steel and have a case shape that is comparable, to that of the original ‘Tank Louis Cartier‘ and not of the Tank Solo! – In fact, the new ‘Tank Must’ replaces the Tank Solo. These new red-, blue-, and green dialed Tanks that are now being launched and will be available at Boutiques and dealers in June, are the eye-catchers of the series. The three Tanks are supplied with uni-color matching straps.
But imagine how these watches would look like when you swob the straps for another color, (or even from another make) to make the watch more colorful and more like the ones from the Seventies! The straps have the QuickSwitch patent (2018), so you can easily change the strap yourself, for another one, without the use of a screwdriver. Just before you’re off for dinner or for a coffee with friends in town.
In addition, there is also a version with the classic white dial. A very classy watch that looks a bit out of place in this series, because it has no visual link with the vintage ‘Must de Cartier’ line. It is indeed a ‘Tank Must,’ and in fact, this is the true successor of the Tank Solo.
Only the XL version, in my opinion, the ideal businessman watch, has a date window and it has a nice guilloche centerpiece, within the minute track. The 1847MC automatic caliber powers this XL version, while the other two sizes have quartz movements. These white dialed Tank models, which are also available on a steel bracelet, are the only ones that come in three sizes. The bracelet may look familiar but is, in fact, redesigned and improved. When I asked Pierre Rainero about the availability of just the bracelet, he confirmed that it could be an option, for the die-hards to add the bracelet to any of the other models in the Must line, in a later stage!
Prices and sizes Tank Must: SM: 29,5 x 22mm from Euro 2.510 ex. VAT • LM: 33,7 x 25,5mm from Euro 2.760 ex. VAT • XL: 40,95 x 31mm Euro 3.600 – 3.950 ex. VAT
But there is more:
-THE ‘TANK MUST’ THAT RUNS ON LIGHT-
And if all this is not enough, Cartier also launches their first ‘High-Tech’ Tank that runs on light! This smart-looking white-dialed ‘Tank Must’ comes in two sizes and looks like the well-known platinum ‘Tank Louis Cartier’. Those that are familiar with Cartier, realize that the dial of a Cartier Tank stands for simplicity, and the ones who know Cartier very well, realize that this is a fact, something that absolutely had to remain, no matter however important a new energy generation, that should run the caliber, would be.
Cartier’s Manufacture in La Chaud-de-Fonds has always been more than just a Manufacture. It is in fact a creative and innovative laboratory, with an emphasis on research. The engineers worked two years before they finally succeeded to apply the, by Richemont, Manufacture Horlogère of Val Fleurier and Cartier developed, SolarBearTM movement, into the Tank watch’s case, without altering its aesthetic. And this was where it was all about since this was the really ambitious part because most watches that work with solar cells have dials with disturbing and visible parts, that are necessary for energy generation.
The dial of the Tank Must ‘Voltaic‘ still looks like any other Cartier dial because the responsible Team succeeded to attach delicate and invisible perforation in the Roman numerals. The tiny openings allow sunlight to reach the photovoltaic cells, hidden under the dial.
There is absolutely no need to put the watch daily in bright light since the timepiece catches enough light when part of the watch peeps regularly from underneath the cuff of a shirt or a sweater. Daylight, sunlight, and even lamp light are all enough to let this new Tank running. Nothing needs to be done actually and the photovoltaic cell only needs to be replaced after 16 years!
Prices and sizes Tank Voltaic: SM: 29,5 x 22mm Euro 2.070 ex. VAT • LM: 33,7 x 25,5mm Euro 2.180 ex. VAT
-TANK LOUIS CARTIER-
The stunning Art Deco dials, from the ‘Must de Cartier’ years, are not forgotten either. Two Art Deco models, a red- and a blue one, will be presented at ‘Watches & Wonders’ but La Maison decided to keep these arty dials for the ‘Tank Louis Cartier‘ collection.
The result is two very smart-looking Tanks which are like other ‘Tank Louis Cartier‘ watches available in an 18K pink- or yellow gold case and with the mechanical 1917MC movement. These colorful newcomers enrich the legendary Tank Louis Cartier collection!
In the Seventies, the ‘Must de Cartier’ series was a separate budget series of lesser quality. Today ‘La Maison’ is involving the new and ‘grown up’ ‘Tank Must‘ more in the existing higher-priced ‘Tank Louis Cartier’ series, by making a little distinction and omitting the old ‘Must’ logo, to keep the dials as clean as possible. Cartier shows with this addition the importance of the ‘Tank LC’ model and makes the entire Tank LC’ series more accessible to everyone.
Prices and sizes Tank Louis Cartier: LM: 33,7 x 25,5mm Euro 13.300 ex. VAT
Currently, most Cartier watches, such as the new Tank watches, and almost all Cartier Privé models, come with a pin buckle. However, Cartier has developed a new Deployant buckle (or folding buckle), which can be retrofitted to the existing belt.