Why The Cartier Tank Is A Favourite Among Influential Personalities

Nothing says power—and pedigree like this 100-year-old watch.

BY Michael Hainey | Oct 30, 2017 | Feature

Tank Louis Cartier watch by Cartier

Think of the Cartier Tank as the Muhammad Ali of watches. Designed 100 years ago by the French jeweller Louis Cartier, it was as revolutionary as Ali was—an unbeatable melding of elegance and performance that feels current even today.

When the Tank was created in the closing months of World War I, pocket watches were the standard. But with the invention of the airplane and the automobile, men of action needed a timepiece they could actually use. Cartier ingeniously made something strong enough for the field and light enough for your wrist.

Legend has it that Cartier based the design on France’s FT-17 tank, and that, looking to thank the American military for turning the tide in the Great War, he gave a prototype to General Pershing. Since then, the Tank has attached itself to outsized personalities, showing up on the wrists of everyone from Andy Warhol to Prince William. It’s also a favourite with men in the fashion world, owned by Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford and Thom Browne.

“It’s the chicest watch ever made,” a men’s fashion designer told me when he saw one on my wrist. “It’s all I wear,” he said, pulling back his cuff. “Nothing can compete.”

A century on, it still packs a punch.