Cartier revives the must-haves from the 1970s.
As the legend goes, Louis Cartier, having been inspired by the shape of the Renault tanks and its treads during the first world war, designed a prototype of the Tank watch and sent it to the American General, John Pershing in 1917. Today, more than a century since this event, it is remarkable how the Tank de Cartier still lives on. Not only has its unique design withstood the test of time, but the watch has even garnered a cult status among watch enthusiasts. Cartier’s latest Tank collection, the Tank Must, combines the much-adored Tank shape with Must de Cartier, a collection that harks back to the 1970s.
In the 1970s, the entire watchmaking industry was deeply affected by the quartz crisis where the emergence of mass-produced watches with quartz movements threatened to make mechanical watches obsolete. The Must de Cartier, launched in 1977, was Cartier’s answer to this problem. Their goal was to create a collection that could offer the elegance and style of the Cartier Tank to a wider audience.
The very first Must de Cartier watches still offered a mechanical movement, however, the case was made out of vermeil, which is essentially silver with a layer of plated gold. This was considered a radical idea at the time for Cartier because up until then, all of Cartier’s Tank watches were made with 18k gold or platinum cases. The Must de Cartier was even more astounding if you considered that the Tank de Cartier was a pretty exclusive watch where it was never stocked in the boutiques and only made to order until the Cartier family withdrew from the business.
The Must de Cartier would go on to be one of the first Cartier watches to house a quartz movement in 1982. And the entire collection (loosely translated as the Cartier must-haves) consisted of not just these watches but an assortment of travel clocks, lighters, rings, pens and leather goods.
This year, Cartier has decided to revive the collection under the Tank Must name, bringing back the spirit of innovation and timeless design, and infusing it into the Cartier of today. As a nod to the Must de Cartier of 1977, the new Tank Must collection offers a watch with the same burgundy dial, along with additional references in blue and green. These monochromatic watches take the minimalist principles of the original one step further, offering only the two hands and the prominent Cartier insignia on the dial. And the case material for the Tank Must, no longer use vermeil silver but rather use a more sensible stainless steel material, polished to a high sheen.
As the early Must de Cartier watches represented a radical shift in ideology, the new Tank Must collection also offers a reference designed to initiate a conversation about sustainability in luxury. One reference in the Tank Must collection comes with Cartier’s very first solar-powered quartz movement, called SolarBeat. Although the concept is not new in the watch industry, what’s interesting about Cartier’s version is that they have managed to incorporate the photovoltaic panels underneath the dial which is only visible from the delicate and invisible perforation of the Roman numerals. Additionally, the strap for this watch is also composed of 40 per cent plant matter, made from the waste of apples grown for the food industry in Switzerland, Germany and Italy. It offers a much lower carbon footprint compared to traditional animal leathers, but Cartier affirms that it still guarantees a high level of both quality and comfort.