Louis Cartier’s gently subversive designs of the early 20th century added an innovative edge to traditional watch design codes. Famed for designing the ‘Santos’ – reportedly at the request of French aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, who wanted a timepiece for his wrist to leave his hands free in the cockpit – Louis was perpetually quick to tap into the zeitgeist.

The original ‘Tank’ watch was designed by Cartier in 1917 in response to the First World War. The angled architecture of the armoured vehicles used on the Western Front became the sharp silhouette of the ‘Tank’ case, a rare rectangle when watches were typically round. Two decades later, the ‘Tank Asymétrique’ built on this original design with a mischievous tweak. All components of the watch now shifted 30 degrees to the right, purportedly because the angle made the time easier to view when you raised your wrist, putting functionality at the heart of the dress watch.

Last year, Cartier re-released the ‘Tank Asymétrique’ as part of its Privé collection, which reworks its classic watch collections for a new generation. The face of the reworked model nods to the original 1936 design with Arabic numerals (a rare stylistic device for Cartier), but their elongated serif forms add a more modern take to the rounded curves of the original font. Three new versions, in yellow gold, rose gold and platinum, imbue this rich design heritage with a contemporary twist. §