Comme des Garçons Aoyama presents a rare cache of vintage Cartier Tank designs

Cartier created the Tank watch in 1917 and launched it in 1919. Since then this classic design – inspired by a top-view sketch of an armoured First World War Renault tank – has undergone a century of iterations and enticed a host of acolytes, from army generals to Andy Warhol, Ingrid Bergman and Norman Foster. The architect puts the enduring relevance of the Tank design into sharp relief: ‘Try to imagine the impact of the Tank watch at the time of its birth – the geometry of the strap, case, face and graphics are as absolute as the grid of a city block and the boulevards that extend beyond it. Imagine the shock and impact of this design when timepieces were dominated by the circle.’ Japan to present the most expansive vintage-Cartier Tank collection available for sale in any one place. We asked Fane to pinpoint his five favourite designs:

Cartier Arabic Cintree B 5378

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Cartier Tank Cintrée (1947-1948) in 18-ct yellow gold, with leather strap and European Watch and Clock Co. Inc mechanical movement

‘The Cintrées are the Kings of Cartier Tank watches. This one has Arabic numerals which I love. It’s a rare anomaly, as Cartier designs are typified by Roman numerals.’ – Harry Fane

Cartier Tank Chinoise B 6528

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Cartier Tank Chinoise (1926) in 18-ct yellow, with leather strap and Jaeger-LeCoultre’ mechanical movement

‘A very rare find, and a super-subtle variation on the classic Tank shape. The crossbar design was apparently influenced by Chinese Chippendale furniture. No other Tank cases were adapted to incorporate a new design feature.’ – HF

Cartier 1959 Tank Lc B 7162

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Cartier Tank LC (1959) in 18-ct yellow gold, with leather strap, with Cartier mechanical movement

‘This design represents the classic Cartier watch.’ – HF

Cartier Tank Normale 1929 B 7374

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Cartier Tank Normale (1929) in 18-ct yellow gold, with leather strap and European Watch and Clock Co. Inc mechanical movement

‘What an excellent example of this elegant classic... and perfectly preserved.’ – HF

Cartier Tank Allongee B 7478

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Cartier Tank Allongée (c.1940) in 18-ct yellow gold, with leather strap and Jaeger-LeCoultre mechanical movement

‘Here, Cartier has stretched the case to make a larger version of the classic Tank. The Tank Allongée is a supremely elegant and rare design. Note the tapered "eagle beak" lugs – a clever design feature that makes the watch seemingly grip the wrist.’ – HF

The exhibition is on view at Comme des Garçons Aoyama until 10 June.