Cartier Privé Tank Normale

CARTIER KNOWS THAT first impressions are everything in the watch world. It’s half of the reason why the French jewellery and watchmaking Maison continues to sit at the forefront of consumer’s minds. Cartier has never been in the business of designing just ordinary timepieces and jewellery, but rather pieces that can live on for an eternity.

Take the Cartier Tank, for example. Watch enthusiast or not, the Cartier Tank needs no introduction. A timepiece that is immediately recognisable, as well as loved and adored (and collected) for its elegance and sophistication, the enduring style of the Tank has no bounds. And while we know the Tank Louis Cartier as arguably the most popular iteration of the ethereal watch design, before it all, there was simply the Cartier Tank… and now it’s making its long-awaited return.

Earlier this year, Cartier wowed watch enthusiasts by bringing back the original design from over a century ago in the form of the Tank Normale, signalling what is quite possibly its best watch release for the year.

The somewhat forgotten Cartier Tank Normale—a watch that harks back to the very first Cartier Tank of 1917—is the latest inductee to Cartier’s Privé collection; a series introduced in 2017 to reinstate some of the Maison’s most classic timepieces with a contemporary, nuanced disposition. In other words, a “collectors’ collection that celebrates and explores the Maison’s mythical models through limited edition and numbered watches”.

Since 2017, we’ve seen iconic models resurface such as the Crash and Tank Cintrée, reimagined in a whole new light—much to the fanfare of watch collectors—but never the original Tank, which started it all.

So, in 2023, and now in its seventh opus of Cartier Privé highlights, the Tank Normale is having its moment, and what a moment that is.

Cartier Privé Tank Normale

A brief history of the Cartier Tank

For all intents and purposes, Cartier’s watch history begins with the Cartier Santos—a watch created in 1904. But the Cartier Tank followed suit only some years later. In 1917 to be exact, amid the years of havoc of World War 1, Louis Cartier designed a prototype for the Cartier Tank, a watch of practicality that was sturdy and without the frills we covet today. Remarkably, over a hundred years later, the Cartier Tank remains as relevant (and commercially-viable) as ever.

The Cartier Tank (which was later named the Tank Normale) takes its name and design directly from the French Renault FT-17 tanks used throughout the World War 1, in all of its brutalist glory (think the square, sharp and rigid case, for example). By 1919, Louis Cartier produced and sold the very first Cartier Tank pieces, only six to be exact, which spurred the exclusivity and popularity that came in the 1920s and beyond.

While the original Tank Normale might not have been as approachable in design as what the Tank Louis Cartier would become, it’s still the very first Tank that many watch collectors and enthusiasts want to celebrate. So enters the Cartier Privé Tank Normale 2023…

Cartier Privé Tank Normale

The 2023 Cartier Privé Tank Normale 

This year at the annual Watches & Wonders trade fair in Geneva, Cartier wowed media and pundits with the unveiling of the 2023 Cartier Privé collection. Sitting alongside the Crash watch, the Tank Cintrée, the Tonneau, the Tank Asymétrique, the Cloche and the Tank Chinoise—all equally impressive timepieces— was the star of the show, the new Tank Normale. Paying homage to the original watch of 1917, the Tank Normale does an incredible job at borrowing the proportions, design and feel of the original Tank.

The hour/minute version comes in yellow gold with a blue sapphire cabochon and brown alligator strap and in platinum with a ruby cabochon winding crown and black alligator strap. A first for the Cartier Privé collection, it is also available with a yellow gold and a platinum bracelet, with contrasting satin and polished finishes that offer a clear nod to the ’70s. If you get a chance to strap on either the yellow gold or platinum bracelet on wrist, you’ll marvel at the heft but also at the perfect ergonomics of case to bracelet to wrist— it’s a clear knockout!

Then there are three skeletonised models—two in yellow gold and platinum iterations and limited to just 50 pieces each—and one in platinum with a case set with brilliant-cut diamonds, limited to just 20 numbered pieces. An evident showcase of Cartier’s watchmaking prowess while not straying away from its theme.

The revived Tank Normale has clearly received a lot of love, attention and respect from Cartier watchmakers in paying homage to a watch that means so much to so many. While each Cartier Tank collection has always had a clear lineage to the original of 1917, this year’s Tank Normale takes it a step further by delivering on what avid watch collectors covet, history, and what the contemporary watch wearer looks for, immediate impact.


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