In a market full of round watches, it’s the square one that has stood the test of time, writes Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan
THERE is a danger in being square: armed with four sharp points, the shape is angular, restrictive and rigid. It’s also the complete opposite of the universal, well-loved round.
But square has character. It shapes much of the designs of the Art Deco movement in the 1920s, giving art and architecture a solid form.
In 1917, when French house Cartier created its first prototype Tank watch in a square shape instead of round — a pared down design and a dramatic break from the elaborate curves fashionable at that time — that exercise in restraint was armed with style.
That watch was designed and presented in peacetime as a gift to General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe.
Two years later, the production of what is now known as one of the classics in the watch industry, began.
The crisp, clean lines and distinct shape suited both male and female. The seamless integration between the strap and the dial makes it a perfect partner for the wrist.
In the age of complications and movements, time has stood still for clever design, and that makes the Cartier Tank a constant favourite among watch fans.
In fact, the Cartier Tank is often a starting point in a person’s watch collection. And while it has achieved cult status — Rudolph Valentino wore it in Son Of The Sheik (1926) and Clark Gable and Andy Warhol were fans — the simple design was simply too clever to ignore.
It sits on the wrist like an elegant bracelet, nothing flashy or showy. It tells time with no complicated feature or different time zones.
Almost a century after its birth, the watch still bravely retains its simplicity. You will never find a complicated Tank no matter how many movements bombard the market.
This year, Cartier continues the simple story of a classic watch with the global launch of Never Stop Tank, on Friday.
It features the Tank Anglaise — pure, distilled and featuring a concentrated form and emboldened lines, the fortified design offering proportion to spare.
The watch marks a milestone in the pursuit of pared-down design. With a winding mechanism that blends seamlessly into the brancard, the Tank Anglaise seemingly follows to the letter the aesthetic demands of Louis Cartier in his quest for streamlined design.
The Tank Anglaise watch is available in three ladies’ and men’s sizes in three colours of gold. The large models are powered by the Manufacture MC 1904 movement, visible through the open back.
And then there is the new Tank Folle watch. Whimsical and unexpected, it channels the extravagance of the 1960s Crash watch.
While it deconstructs Tank’s harmonious lines, it cheekily checks all the boxes in the Tank legacy: The sunburst dial, Roman numerals and blued-steel baton hands are reinterpreted with a bejewelled twist. It’s available in a limited series of 200 timepieces.
Finally, as a symbol of the extravagant elegance of the 1920s, the Tank Louis Cartier watch is one of the House’s classic timepieces.
This child of 1922 fastidiously embodies the marked contribution made by Cartier to Art Deco: The proud, taught lines of the square and rectangle are softened, and the geometry of corners is relaxed.
Exhibiting seamless harmony all the way, this piece, like all the Tank watches before it, is destined for greatness.