Cartier Rolls Out A Tank for the People, Reviving the ’70s and Debuting a New Solar Movement

Few watch brands demonstrate such universally recognized elegance as Cartier. With watches just as popular among men as they are among women, and delicate styles that straddle the fine lines between jewelry, watch, and fashion-accessory, the French maison speaks to a wide and appreciative audience. This year, in an effort to grow that discussion, and enlarge that audience, Cartier has added an intriguing new extension of its classical, emblematic Tank collection, the entry-level Tank Must.

The Tank Must collection finds its inspirations in a similar watch line from the 1970s, dubbed Les Must de Cartier, which consisted primarily of vermeil (gold-capped silver) watches with simple, often brightly lacquered dials. Those vintage watches were designed to offer the luxurious Cartier Tank style to an increasingly aspirational middle class, helping position the French maker, as the brand to own, especially for women. Today’s Tank Must collection aims at much the same goal, with a diverse assortment of sizes, styles, and colors.

Cartier Tank Must
The 1977 Tank Must de Cartier in Red.

At its launch during Watches & Wonders 2021, the Must series comprises three distinct parts: a traditional group, a new SolarBeat series, and a vintage-influenced lacquered series. The watches in the first group are closest to the classical Tank in style, with Art Deco-inspired dials and containing either quartz or mechanical movements. Sizing ranges from Small to Large for the quartz editions, each of which is available with or without diamond-set cases and the choice for either a leather or H-link steel bracelet, while the Extra Large model is the sole version to include a mechanical movement. This version is also the only one to feature a date window and a guilloché inner dial, positioning it as the most luxurious of the non-diamond-set editions.

The next set of watches within the Tank Must collection are the SolarBeat group, distinguished by their namesake Solarbeat Photovoltaic movements. These models bear the same Art Deco aesthetic but are all equipped with a seamless, solar-powered quartz movement that allows for a 16-year-plus battery life, according to Cartier. The use of the technology is significant, as it’s the first use of a solar-powered movement by a major, non-sport-luxury Swiss brand to date. Thus far, such technology had been found almost exclusively within the sub-$1,000 price range, and in watches made by Japanese brands, notably Citizen, Casio, and occasionally Seiko.

Finally, and arguably the most attention-grabbing of the Tank Must models, are a group of three watches in red-, blue-, and green-lacquered dials that hearken back to the most famous of the original 1970s Les Must de Cartier watches. Featuring bright, minimalist dials, simple quartz movements, and the signature Tank silhouette with its clean lines, these watches are only available in Cartier’s “Large” sizing.

The exclusive use of quartz is interesting here as it carries on a long tradition by the brand best summarized by a position I took on the brand a few years ago:

“In truth … the reason why Cartier uses quartz movements in these watches is abundantly clear: the Cartier Tank was (and is) famous not because of superb or innovative mechanics, but much more due to a design that made it the watch that so many people want as their personal accessory. Andy Warhol somewhat notably said, ‘I don’t wear a Tank watch to tell the time. Actually, I never even wind it. I wear a Tank because it is the watch to wear!’ I can only imagine that many other people shared this sentiment, and Cartier was smart enough to adjust the product accordingly.”

What’s more significant than the exclusive use of quartz, though, is the wide praise the lacquered-dial models have thus far garnered from the watch community and watch press. It wasn’t so long ago many critics dubbed the vintage Les Must collection “unfortunate” for its use of cheaper cases, quartz movements, and simpler styles; the embrace of these new versions is a sign, perhaps, of a shift away from interest exclusively in mechanical movements and toward larger appreciation of diverse movement types and aesthetic styles.

Pricing for the whole Cartier Tank Must collection is still largely under wraps, though with regular production and distribution to begin in September and the brand marketing the launch as its new entry-level range, prices will likely stand along the lines of the current Tank Solo series, ranging from the mid $2,000s up to around $4,000 for the non-diamond-set models.

To learn more, you can visit Cartier’s dedicated page for the launch, here.

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  1. Danny Simenauer

    Excellent article reviewing Cartier’s new watches! Kudos to Cartier on its Watches & Wonders announcements and creating excitement. I would love to buy one of them for my wife. Thumbs down on not adding the watches to its website! Not sure why Cartier wouldn’t capitalize on its hard work and put them on its website AND in its showrooms for immediate purchase.

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