Marketers love to talk about niches. 

There’s the saying, “niches get riches.” And for the most part, that’s true. There is power in niches. 

But there is one product out there defying the traditional definition of a niche, and reinventing it before our eyes. 

It’s a product that was loved by the likes of Princess Diana, WWI veterans, and Muhammad Ali. What a combo that is. 

Let’s dive in…
The year was 1917, World War I was in full swing in Europe and the Pacific, and a new military technology was taking over the battlefront.  

The Renault FT-17, a French tank, became a powerhouse on the frontlines. But what is most shocking, is that the Renault FT-17 became the inspiration behind one of the most iconic watches in the market today, over 100 years later. 

I know, not where you thought this lesson was going.
Let me introduce you to the Cartier Tank Watch. 

(I photoshopped myself wearing one in the first pic, one can DREAM – LOL). 

In the early 1900s, bracelet-like wrist watches were considered feminine. For men, pocket watches were all the rage. But when WWI was in full effect, the utility of wrist watches made increasingly more sense than the traditional pocket watch. 

This posed an opportunity for Cartier to be a first-mover in the male wrist watch industry.
Inspired by the firm edges and rectangular-like proportions of the Renault FT-17, Louis Francois Cartier crafted a watch that mirrored the silhouette of the tank from a bird’s eye view. 

This marked a distinct step away from the typical circular watch style of the 1910s and 1920s. 

After producing only 6 watches, Cartier realized the uphill battle he faced in trying to market his wrist watch to men.
Once the war ended in 1918, Cartier gifted a Tank Watch to General John Pershing, the Commander of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWI. 

Today’s equivalent of a TikTok influencer, Pershing became Cartier’s first global brand ambassador who could be seen wearing the watch everywhere. 

Nothing would get the men of the early 20th century to forget about the femininity of wearing a wrist watch better than the manliest of men, John Pershing donning a Cartier Tank Watch on his wrist. 

And that’s the story of how Cartier- wait just kidding. That’s only the beginning.
In 1926, there were few names hotter than that of Rudolph Valentino. An Italian actor who starred in some of the most famous silent movies, Rudolph was nicknamed the “Latin Lover.” 

A sex symbol, Rudolph had ALL eyes on him.  

When starring in his newest film “The Son of the Sheik”, Valentino refused to take off his Cartier Tank Watch.

Playing the role of the son of an Arab sheik, the Cartier Tank Watch is hilariously out of place. 

But this only added to the allure of the Watch.
Desiring the status Rudolph Valentino had in the eyes of women across the world, men flocked to the Cartier Tank Watch as a symbol of status. 

Then the clock really got ticking.  

The simplistic design that is not quite rectangular or square, began attracting attention from women as well.
The Tank Watch’s understated elegance drew the attention of Princess Diana and perpetuated the old adage of “money talks but wealth whispers.” 

Swiftly it seemed as if all of the A-list celebrities had a Cartier Tank Watch on their wrist.  

Because of their lack of flashiness, the Tank Watch built an aura of “if you know, you know” that elevated the status achieved with owning the watch. In turn, elevating the desire for consumers to own the watch.
From Rudolph Valentino in 1926 to Rami Malek in 2023, Cartier is still putting on a masterclass in leveraging celebrity endorsements to build an aura around their brand. 

All of Cartier’s ads are evidently high-budget and only feature the most astutely respected celebrities. 

After all, Cartier is selling status, the watch is just an added bonus.
Daniel Murray
Daniel Murray
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