Image: Princess Diana's Cartier Tank, 1995. Source: Getty Images

The History of the Iconic Cartier Tank: A Princess Diana Favourite

Since its debut in 1917, the Cartier Tank remains to be one of the most elegant and enduring timepieces in the Cartier collection. Inspired by the view of a combat vehicle, the Tank is defined by its strong rectangular lines and flowing strap to case design. The Tank has appeared on the wrist of a number of celebrities and high profile people. Princess Diana owned two Tanks, a Tank Louis Cartier and an all-gold Tank Française, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wore a 1962 gold tank and Andy Warhol famously claimed that he wore a tank because “it’s the watch to wear.”

This timepiece has undergone countless reinventions over the years, with the Cartier Tank now being available in over 73 different models to choose from – the Louis Cartier, Américaine, Française, Must, MC, Cintrée and Asymétrique designs – perhaps some of the most popular from the collection.

“What’s amazing is that the Cartier Tank wristwatch—which has accompanied every major happening in the last hundred years—has not changed in design in a hundred years,” says Harry Fane, a Cartier watch dealer who is considered the world’s most preeminent authority on the brand. “So it’s an interesting story of endurance and design.” 

 “A Cartier watch was a part of the so-called upper classes of England uniform along with the crocodile handbag, the nice shoes, the pearls. [Diana] didn’t create the image, but she very much bought into the image.”

Harry Fane

Tank Louis Cartier

Worn by Louis Cartier himself, the Tank Louis Cartier offers an elegant and classic watch design. Featuring the Tank’s signature rectangular watch face, the timepiece is characterised by it’s bold roman numerals and rounded lugs. The Tank Louis Cartier comes in a variety of metals, including white gold, rose gold, and yellow gold with a choice of a chain link or leather strap.

Tank Américaine

The Tank Américaine is one of the more feminine designs of the Tank collection. Featuring an elongated case with a more pronounced curve than the original model, Cartier’s Tank Américaine is an elegant and sophisticated model. The timepiece comes with both chain and interchangeable leather straps, with stunning diamond finishings available.

Tank Française

The ultra masculine Tank Française updated the classic wristwatch with a sporty chain-link bracelet. With a curved case, the watch face mimics the bracelet’s strong lines and distinctive details. This contemporary Cartier model come in steel, yellow gold and rose gold metals, with diamond encrusted finishing available on selected models.

Tank Asymétrique 

Cartier’s Tank Asymétrique was originally given as a gift to General Pershing before it came to the market in 1919. WIth the lug’s blending seamlessly into the flat vertical brancards, the unique shape gives the timepiece an alluringly bohemian edge. The watch is made with both traditional and skeleton faces, with a range of warm toned leather straps available.

If you’re interested in Cartier’s other watch collections then you may enjoy our favourite Cartier watches for him and for her.

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