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Cartier Tank Must SolarBeat

So far, Cartier Watches & Wonders has brought us some genuine surprises, and not the least of them is the new SolarBeat movement-equipped Tank Must. The watch is the first solar-powered watch in the Tank collection, but it is also the first solar-powered watch ever from Cartier. The watch is cased in stainless steel and comes in two sizes, at 33mm x 25.5mm for the large model, and 29.5 x 22mm for the small model. Cartier says that owners can expect, on average, a running time of 16 years before the watch requires a service (I assume that's the number of years that we can expect the rechargeable storage cell to last, as even rechargeable batteries have a finite number of recharge cycles). The idea is to not only make the watch an elegant, trouble-free, daily-wear, set-it-and-forget-it watch, but also to reduce its environmental impact, and in keeping with that theme, the straps – in black, blue, or light green – are made from non-animal leather, produced from scraps of apples grown for the food industry (in Switzerland, Italy, and Germany, says Cartier). The light for the photovoltaic charging system reaches the movement through the dial – specifically, through the Roman numerals. I don't know why the announcement of the SolarBeat Tank took me quite so much by surprise. In retrospect, it seems perfectly logical. If you're going to make a quartz Tank, why not do so using the most up-to-date possible technology? Cartier's creative director for watches, Marie-Laure Cérède, told fashiontourbillon earlier this week that the watch posed some interesting design challenges. Modern solar movements can be very efficient – we've come a long way from the first generation, back in the 1970s (the first solar watch ever was the Synchronar, which went on the market earlier than you might think – 1972). However, the fact that the amount of light necessary to charge the movement comes through the Roman numerals, meant that their overall area had to be enough to admit a sufficient amount of light into the watch. This constraint on proportions, Cérède said, was one of the more interesting problems that had to be solved during the design and development of the SolarBeat Tank. I think it's a great development and a further step in the direction Cartier first established with the original Must de Cartier watches, back in the 1970s. Cartier was one of the companies that established the notion of classic luxury in the 19th and early 20th centuries (and, although the official line from the company is that it is not a watchmaker, but rather, a jeweler that makes watches, the fact is that a major percentage of the most memorable and most original watch designs have come from Cartier as well). The Must de Cartier watches can be seen from a number of perspectives, but to me, they have always, at least partly, demonstrated that while luxury can be luxury of materials, or craft, or exclusivity (or all three), there is also such a thing as luxury of design, which need not necessarily be defined by cost. The SolarBeat Tank Must is the most practical Tank yet, sure, but it's also a great way to connect to a piece of real watchmaking history – and no less beautiful for being affordable.
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