The opening scene of Guy Ritchie’s latest masterpiece begins with American actor Rami Malek standing by the iconic Pont Alexandre III bridge in Paris. A jaunty jazz piano number—Lillies of the Valley by Jun Miyake—plays as he checks the time on his watch. A stainless steel Cartier Tank Française. Malek then gets on the bridge and begins crossing river Seine.
Suddenly, he’s transported back in time. How do we know that? Because he crosses paths with a young Catherine Deneuve. She turns back to look at him as she passes; he whips out a digital camera and tries to capture a shot of the French screen legend. The camera flash blinds us for a split second.
When the scene returns, the camera in Malek’s hands has been replaced by a vintage model with an oversized flash bulb. He lowers the camera slowly, still in disbelief, as he recognizes the image in the viewfinder: Deneuve again, but this time, in her role as Geneviève Émery in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Malek has presumably been transported further back in time to 1964, the year the film was released.
In one short minute, Ritchie’s video campaign for the relaunch of Cartier’s Tank Française simultaneously captures the spirit of the timepiece and pays tribute to French New Wave cinema. Timeless, yet avant-garde at inception; simple, yet sophisticated; so very French, yet universal in their allure; there are clear parallels between the watch and the film genre.
Cartier’s now-iconic Tank collection began in 1917 with the unveiling of its first model, known as the Tank Normale. The collection was so named because Louis Cartier was inspired by the shape of the military tanks that were being used in World War I. A unique feature of the Tank timepieces are the left and right sides of the rectangular bezel, which extend beyond the face to double up as lugs. Cartier named these brancards—French for stretchers.
Debuted only in 1996, Tank Française was a latecomer to the collection, preceded by Tank Louis Cartier, Tank Must de Cartier, and Tank Américaine, to name a few. Its main claim to fame was being the first Tank with an integrated bracelet—the feature that is the focal point of the watch’s 2023 makeover.
The Tank Française has brancards with bevelled ends that taper towards the bracelet, giving the watch case an illusion of being a “softer” rectangle instead of one with harsh 90-degree corners. In the new Tank Française, this effect has been further enhanced by rounding out the ends of the brancards, so that the case now more resembles a rectangle with rounded corners. The links of the bracelet, which have always had tapered edges to match the brancards, have been similarly modified.
The attention lavished on a detail as minute as the bevelled ends on brancards become understandable when one considers that this is the feature that distinguishes the Française from its fellow Tanks. In other Tank models that offer the chain link bracelet, such as the Tank Must de Cartier, the brancards and links have straight edges that result in a conventional rectangular profile.
In a bid to achieve a more streamlined look, the bracelet of the new Tank Française is attached to the case with a single-piece end link. And while the original timepiece combined brushed and polished finishes to create contrast on the bracelet, the updated models feature a satin brushed finish all over for a more uniformed and contemporary effect. The crown is now faceted and more recessed into the case—again contributing to the streamlined look.
Just as the Tank Française’s timeless design has taken it effortlessly from the 90s into the 21st century, so too has Deneuve’s enigmatic charm kept her star shining on the silver screen for more than six decades. As Malek continued his walk across Pont Alexandre III, he encountered her again and again; one moment he’s back in 1992, seeing her as Éliane from the film Indochine, and the next, he’s in 1998, bumping into her as Marianne Malivert in Place Vendôme.
The short film ends with a sleek black car pulling up beside Malek on the bridge. Present-day Deneuve is in the backseat. She glances at her stainless steel Tank Française, then looks up to meet Malek’s eyes. Together, they have carried a narrative about the icons of both film and watchmaking that transcend time and generations.
Watch the full video here.