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Think Tank

A style icon 

 On 15th September 1916 in a muddy, cratered field in northern France 36 metal machines we now know as tanks were deployed for the big push during the Battle of the Somme. These machines of death and destruction were the unlikely inspiration for Louis Cartier to design the Tank watch. This he began in 1917 and unveiled his design to the world in 1919. This watch is still in production today and is seen as an iconic design to the extent if someone says tank shape it means the watch not the armoured vehicle. As to the shape, the 1st World War tank as seen from above is a box in the middle with tracks either side extending further than the box. Louis Cartier saw this and distilled the shape to a square in the middle, which has the dial, and the lugs extend from each corner with no decoration to detract from the purity of shape. To this elegant shape Cartier added the now trademark white dial with bold roman numerals and a cabochon Sapphire winder crown.

  This watch spawned many derivatives from Cartier starting with the American Tank, this being an elongated rectangular shape to the more recent Tank Francaise, this being a sportier model. But there are others such as the Obus, Divan, Chinoise etc…

  Whichever model you choose to own they are all classics. A regular Tank can be had for as little as £700, this would get you the Must de-Cartier model made in silver with at least 20 microns of gold plate. An 18ct gold version starts at about £1500 for a ladies quartz model to £3000 for a gent’s mechanical. Vintage models from the 1920s to the 1960s are rarely available but when they do come up at auction they start at about £2000 and go to over £10,000.

  A Tank American is rarer than the regular Tank as Cartier never made as many, also they are only made in gold or platinum. These start at £2500 for a ladies 18ct gold quartz on a strap to £10000 for a gent’s 18ct gold large automatic on a bracelet. Platinum ones are too rare to have an average price.

    The Tank Francaise is more recent design, and as such more robust, there is a larger choice of models from the ladies steel, to a gents Chronoflex 18ct on an 18ct bracelet (don’t buy this version). The Francaise is the flavour of the moment so any model on a bracelet is good (bar the above), as are any of the 3 sizes. This model is made in all materials and combinations, steel, steel and gold, gold, and platinum. The only other no no with this watch in my opinion is diamonds. Only buy diamond versions if you know them to be original Cartier fit, and you like it, diamonds models do not command a premium on the secondhand market.

  Almost any Tank you buy will be a great watch, you will love wearing it, and it will hold its value.  

Michael Delage-Pandeli for Vintage Explorer: 1st Sep 2010 11:14:00

 

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