Top 5 Cartier Cases That Aren’t Round

Specialist Picks • 16 Oct 2015

Top 5 Cartier Cases That Aren’t Round

by Charmian Leong

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.

Cartier Tank Française 4c0f62 Quartz Steel case Steel bracelet Ladies' watch Sapphire Glass Black dial Roman numerals
The Cartier Tank is distinguished by its convention-defying rectangular case that seamlessly integrates the lugs. (Credit: Goldsmiths)

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.

Cartier Crash Manual windingPlatinum Crocodile skin Ladies' watch
The Cartier Crash “design” was introduced as a tribute to a colleague who perished in a car accident – “crash”. (Credit: Cjcharles)

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.

Cartier Tortue WA501011 Manual winding White gold case White gold bracelet Ladies' watch Mineral Glass Silver Roman numerals Fold clasp Guilloche Dial Blue Steel Hands
The tortoise-shaped Cartier Tortue was created in 1912, at a time when all watches were round. (Credit: Watchfinder)

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.

Cartier Clé de Cartier Automatic Ladies' watch Silver dial Roman numerals Date
The traditional round crown of the Clé de Cartier has been replaced with a pivoty key (clé means “key”) that allows the setting of the time and date with a gentle twist. (Credit: WatchesofSwitzerland)

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.

Cartier Santos 100 2656 Automatic Steel case Leather bracelet Men's watch/Unisex 049 caliber Sapphire Glass White dial Roman numerals Steel
The Cartier Santos was created in 1904 for Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont who wanted to be able to tell the time while flying, without the hassle of a pocket watch. (Credit: WatchesofSwitzerland)


Discover the history of the Cartier Santos here.

The Hour Glass is an official retailer of Cartier watches.

Tags: cartier cartier cases cartier crash cartier santos cartier singapore cartier tank cartier tortue cartier watch cartier watch singapore cle de cartier hour glass hour glass singapore the hour glass watches that are not round

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