How Les Must de Cartier Came to Define the Decadent Disco Era
By Nick Foulkes | 2 minute read
It is forty years since Robert Hocq became chairman of Cartier Paris and, along with his talented right-hand Alain Perrin, set about the transformation of France's most famous jeweler.
One day he asked a colleague. “What is Cartier for you?”
“Cartier? It's a must!”
And so, Les Must de Cartier was born – it was a breath of modernity that re-invigorated the king of jewelers and jeweler of kings.
Whereas Cartier’s heritage location on the Rue de la Paix in Paris was a sepulchral salon of old-world elegance; the Must de Cartier boutiques that appeared in Biarritz, the Place Vendome, Nice, Brussels, Geneva and around the world crystallized a decadent glamour in tune with the syncopated disco beat of changing times. With plush leather, smoked glass, lacquered burgundy walls, gleaming polished brass fittings and carpets unabashedly patterned with the double C logo of Cartier in an oval cartouche: it was as if you had walked through the door of a jeweler's shop and into a nightclub.
From lighters to luggage, Les Must de Cartier embraced a world of accessories, accouterments, and appurtenances appropriate to a modern jet set lifestyle. And as Concorde took the jet set supersonic, Cartier came up with the perfect watch for this age of brittle glamour: the Tank Must.
The Must de Cartier Tank captured the elegance for which Cartier was famous, but with its colored lacquer dials and vermeil cases offered Cartier chic with a pop twist that appealed to the tastes and the pockets of a younger generation. If you were destined for the dancefloor of Studio 54, Le Palace, or Tramp you could not consider yourself properly dressed without a Must de Cartier.
In 2021 the Maison reintroduced this disco era classic to great acclaim with colorful dials and interchangeable straps. But more than a timepiece, it is a time capsule an icon of disco elegance with the Proustian power to summon up a lost world where Halston emerges immaculate from a nimbus of cigarette smoke while Liza Minelli and Marisa Berenson beckon you onto the dancefloor. As Donna Summer would have put it, the new Tank Must is “Hot Stuff baby”.
The colored models within the collection were a fitting tribute to a bygone era of disco and were immensely sought after by watch enthusiasts. Now, looking ahead to the future, Cartier's core models within the Tank Must collection take center stage. The revival of the Tank Must has reinvigorated a retro model with a modern and contemporary appearance whilst still retaining the vintage charm that makes it so appealing.