This limited edition Tank Cintrée* is one of the most desirable iterations of the line, thanks to the "exploding" Arabic numerals found on the dial. Keeping more strictly to its vintage roots in terms of size, the design of the dial is also reminiscent of the "Astaire" Cintrée, making this a fascinating example for collectors seeking a more classic version of the Cintrée.
Where did the Cintrée come from?
When the Tank Cintrée was first introduced, it ushered in a new way of looking at wristwatches, as more than just functional objects to be strapped to the arm. In the early days of wrist-worn timekeepers, most designs were adaptations of pocket watches, designed with utility and purpose in mind. However, the Cintrée argued for a rather different idea of what a wristwatch could be, born from the mind of a jeweller, rather than that of a traditional watchmaker. Far larger and bolder than anything else on the market at the time, the Cintrée captured the attention of those looking for something different.
The story of how the Cintrée came to be is unclear. Initially released two years after the Tank, in 1921, its elongated form was rather radical at the time. “We know exactly how the Tank was designed,” says Harry Fane, a vintage Cartier expert who has been handling these pieces for over forty years. “However, we don’t know when they sat down, and how they decided to design the Cintrée.”Whilst we can’t point to a solid point of origin for this new shape, we can look at the period in which it was created for some useful context. “Wristwatches at the time were a very new thing,” Fane explains, “and getting men to wear a timepiece on their wrist, and not in their pocket, was no easy feat.” It is believed that this is part of the reason why the curved case was adopted. A watch which hugged the wrist seemed more comfortable and natural to wear than many of the other pieces being produced at the time, which had more rudimentary round or square designs. The Cintrée was an attempt to win over the sceptics. This plausible theory was put forwards by Franco Cologni in his book, Cartier: The Tank Watch, with no written records or official explanations put forwards by the jeweller for us to lean on.
The era in which the Cintrée was born certainly also influenced the design. The Roaring ‘20s were a period of economic prosperity following the First World War, which spawned a whole new set of cultural movements in the United States and Europe. In France, the decade was known as the “années folles” – or crazy years – emphasising the era's social, artistic and cultural dynamism. It was out with the old and in with the new. This is evident in the dramatic lines of the Cintrée, which captured the glamour and exuberance of the time, coupled with an embracing of Art Deco design principles. Measuring an astounding 46mm in length, it marked a rupture with the past.