Round case shapes are a staple in the watch trade, but there’s a definite appeal in brands that dare to look for different angles. Historically Cartier is synonymous with form cases, having devised icons such as the rectangular Tank and square Santos, designs that have endured for nearly a century. Here are five of Cartier’s best, ranging from its classics to the latest key-inspired Clé de Cartier.
Inspired by the tanks invented at the outset of the First World War, The Cartier Tank is distinguished by its convention-defying rectangular case that seamlessly integrates the lugs. Designed in 1917 by Louis Cartier, the Tank has evolved over a century into a myriad array of forms, all based on the original style inspired by the armoured vehicle. It now exists in six key versions: Tank Anglaise, Tank Louis Cartier, Tank Americaine, Tank Francaise, Tank MC and Tank Solo.
It’s easy to assume the Cartier Crash was inspired by surrealist master Salvador Dali, but the truth is a little darker. In sixties London, an executive of the company was involved in a fatal car crash and his watch – a Cartier Bagnoire Alongee – melted in the resulting fire. This “design” became a tribute to their colleague in 1967, and an icon in the decades that followed.
When Louis Cartier designed the tortoise-shaped Tortue in 1912 he intended for it to be a simple dress watch for men, but it has since gone on to become a horological power house for both the ladies and gentlemen. The Cartier Tortue XL Grand Complication – boasting a tourbillon, perpetual calendar and chronograph – remains one of the most expensive wristwatches Cartier has ever made, priced at well over half a million dollars.
Clé de Cartier
Subtlety and comfort are the focus of Cartier’s newest addition to its stable of case shapes. Its cushion-shaped case is made up of pleasing curves while the horn-shaped lugs have been sculpted to sit snugly on the wrist. The traditional round crown has been replaced with a pivoting key (clé means “key”) that allows the setting of the time and date with a gentle twist. And when pushed back in, the key-shaped crown always pops back into the correct position parallel to the case.
Bearing little resemblance to the stark functional and plain pilot’s watches we know today, the original Cartier Santos was an aviator’s watch. Designed in 1904, a time when wristwatches were primarily accessories for women, the watch was created for Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont who needed something to tell the time in the cockpit, without the hassle of a pocket watch.
Discover the history of the Cartier Santos here.