Celebrating 100 years of the Cartier tank watch: A timeless timepiece

Cartier Tank WatchThis year marks the centennial of a classic timepiece: the Cartier tank watch. From its start in 1917 to the latest version in the 2000s, its iconic silhouette and style have kept it in style throughout world changes in clothing, materials, and fads.

“I don’t wear a Tank to tell the time. I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear.” –Andy Warhol


1917: Louis Cartier, whose grandfather established the brand, designed the Tank  to represent the clean lines of a military tank. The Tank Normale was one of the first wristwatches that wasn’t just a redesigned pocket watch. Every part of it—the case, the face, even the strap—was carefully thought out to create a piece of wearable art.

1921: The next version was  the “Tank Cintree.” The case was longer and it was curved to fit the wrist more snugly. If you were to come across one of the original ones today, collectors would be offering about $50,000—and up to $250,000 for a platinum version in excellent condition, according to Forbes.

1979: When the Cartier business was sold, they produced a mass-market version of the Tank—“Le Must de Tank.” It was gold-plated and swapped out a mechanical movement for a quartz version. The Must de Tank sold for around $150 but even these are collectible (though not in the thousands of dollars…).

Little-known facts about the Cartier Tank watch

In recent months, there have been a number of articles celebrating the classic Tank watch. Town and Country has these little-known facts:

  • Silent film actor, Rudolph Valentino, demanded that he wear his Tank in the film, “The Son of the Shiek,” even though it didn’t match the period piece.
  • Tank watches are generally considered to be unisex, wearable by men or women.
  • Jackie Kennedy’s Tank fetched a record amount at auction this past June—$379,500—when it was bought by Kim Kardashian.
  • All of the Tank versions have a crown-like stem, often with a blue, sapphire-like gem at the top of the crown.

Celebs and their Tank watches

Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Princess Di, Clark Gable, Michelle Obama (she wore it in her official portrait).

A final word…

While I generally write about—and appraise—jewelry with gemstones, antique watches are a passion of mine. Don’t overlook any watches that you might have inherited. They should have an updated appraisal and appropriate insurance. Call me at (617) 304-0174 or email me to set up an appointment.

Timelessly yours, Aimee

, , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply