object study: the cartier tank
It has always been a wish of mine to buy a proper, timeless "forever" watch for myself, and this is the last of the watches I'm considering.
It might be a cliché to name the Cartier Tank as one of my dream watches - it's classic to the point of ubiquity, it's certainly not the most original of choices. But when it comes to watches, I have always loved clean, simple design, and ever since I took my first good look at a Cartier Tank (the Tank Louis Cartier to be exact), I've loved its spare elegance and its crisp pre-Art Deco lines.
Left: the Tank Solo, introduced introduced in 2004, and the Tank Louis Cartier, created in 1917 and offered for sale in 1922
Anything with heritage interests me. The Tank isn't the first wristwatch to be invented; it wasn't even Cartier's first wristwatch. But in the early days of a watch worn on the wrist to afford freedom to its wearers, the Tank stood out for its sleek, geometrical design - the square face instead of round, its simplicity and its foreshadowing of the Art Deco hallmarks in a time where the more elaborate Art Nouveau style was in vogue. It was all straight lines and no curves with an industrial air. The first Tanks were placed in shops in 1919, but they look every bit as modern today, and have inspired countless copies since. Great design endures.
There have been over 30 variations of the Tank, some more elaborate than others, sone with tiny tweaks, but for the most part, they are remarkably unchanged from its ancestors. I like how the new Cartier Tank Solo is largely identical to the classic Tank introduced at the beginning of the 20th century - there was nothing superfluous about the original design and therefore it doesn't need anything more. It's perfect the way it is, for both men and women - the Tank has been worn by Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Warren Beatty, Andy Warhol, the late Princess Diana. Fashion designers seemed unusually fond of it: Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Balmain, Hubert De Givenchy, and Pierre Cardin all wore one.
I went to Cartier a couple of times this year to have a good look at the Tank Solo. It has the signature sapphire blue sword-shaped hands and cabochon winding crown, the graphic Roman numerals, the same flat-edged sides - a beautiful little Art Deco grid on my wrist, in polished steel for that air of utility and modernity. The other Tanks are beautiful in their own right, but the Tank Solo is the closest to the original, with the simplicity that makes it perfect for everyday use.
I've always loved watches for their combination of utility and aesthetics, and I've treasured every watch I've ever received. In posts here and here, I've gone on about other watches I've admired and loved, but I think the Tank Solo stands out for the way it looks absolutely right once I slip it on. It looks like it's already part of my life.
A watch is on my list this year, since I finally saved up a "ballpark sum" for it, and I have a good feeling this could be it.
P.S.: This article on Vanityfair.com by Laura Jacobs nicely sums up the historical significance of the Cartier Tank.
Pictures from cartier.com, vanity fair.com