Restoring my vintage Le Must de Cartier

Vintage Cartier Tank Le must watch after restoration |
After restoration

Le Must de Cartier is such an iconic yet affordable luxury timepiece. There’s something about Cartier that just breathes elegant luxury. So, when I recently found a beaten vintage Le Must de Cartier watch in my grandmothers jewellery box I couldn’t help but ask her if I could have it restored. And boy, the result is absolutely stunning!

Before showing the results of my restoration project, let’s dig into some of the history behind the iconic Le Must de Cartier.

The first Cartier Tank Watch |
The Original 1917 Cartier Tank Watch

It starts with the Cartier Tank Watch

When Louis Cartier created the Tank wristwatch in 1917, he was inspired by the tanks that drove on the battlefield during World War I. Not only do the watch’s brancards mirror the tank’s caterpillar treads, they also allowed for the strap to be seamlessly integrated in the design. He was, first and foremost, a jeweller. The watch with its roman murals and cabochon sapphire winder became a perennial classic that has been favoured by some of the most stylish people throughout the years amongst whom Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

Le Must, an affordable Must-have

Later, in the 30 years after World War II, France and its population saw surging economic prosperity. Suddenly there was a new upper middle class that found itself attracted to luxury items. The House of Cartier saw an opportunity to bring the iconic Must-have Tank watch to the masses in a more affordable version. In 1977, Le Must de Cartier Tank watch was born, a simple yet elegant wristwatch.

Original promotion material of the Cartier tank Le Must watch |
Seventies advertorial for Le Must de Cartier
The new edition the Cartier Tank Le Must Watch in Burgundy, Blue and Green |
2021 re-issue of the Cartier Tank Must Watch
The New Louis Cartier tank Must Watch in Black |
Tank Louis Cartier Watch

Re-imagining a classic

In 2021, Cartier re-issued the iconic wristwatch dropping the words “Must de” and the logo from the dial. The watch was produced in three statement colours: burgundy, blue and green. Following the great success of the re-issue in 2021, Cartier followed it with a black version in honour of its inventor Louis Cartier which launched this year. “Black with white metal or yellow gold is brilliant; it’s such a sign of elegance,” says Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s Director of Image, Style, and Heritage.

Restorating my vintage Le Must de Cartier

Tensen in Antwerp is an established name among watch collectors, and a certified Cartier partner. Consequently, I worked with them to have my vintage Le Must de Cartier Tank watch restored. 

When I first showed them my watch in May 2022, the Louis Cartier version of the Tank Must was already announced, however, not yet available for purchase. Since my watch had a black dial and a gold-plated case the team suggested to have it restored with the upcoming version in mind. That meant replacing the original brown crocodile strap with a black glossy crocodile one. The result? Absolutely stunning! Swipe right on the picture carrousel to see the before and after. I now own a dainty, elegant iconic Cartier time piece with a value that exceeds any amount of money.


I’m so grateful to my grandmother for allowing me to restore this beautiful vintage piece and gifting it to me. My eternal thanks goes to the team at Tensen for making my dream and vision come true. It is such a timeless piece that will be passed down and worn for many generations to come. But for now it’s mine to enjoy and create memories with!

A Cartier Tank Must watch in black with yellow gold is such a timeless piece that can be worn at all occasions and will be passed down for generations.


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