The name Cartier needs no introduction. As one of the most influential and celebrated jewelry and watch brands of the last 100 years, it has always stood as a mark of luxury and desirability. Without taking away from its historical significance, I would say that when it comes to watches, Cartier has always been predominantly known as a ‘design’ brand rather than a pure watchmaking one, with stunningly iconic models such as the Tank, the Crash, and the Santos all seen as important due to how it looks. In fact, to this day, it is the beautiful and unconventional designs that attract collectors and a unique position in the watch brand hierarchy that no other possesses.
While many of Cartier’s design dates back to the early 20th century, the Tank Americaine is a relatively new creation. Released in 1989 and intended to be a more accessible and masculine version of the flagship Tank Cintree, it was released as a normal and unspectacular quartz watch. The dimensions of the Tank Americaine were enlarged, swapping the Cintree’s elongated case for a thicker and wider watch with more presence.
It wasn’t until 1993 that Cartier released a mechanical version of the Americaine, and since then, this model has been a mainstay in the company’s model lineup. While many variations of the Americaine have been released, from different sizes to movements and dials, the most desirable version is the one you see here today- full-sized and manually wound.
Despite the provenance of this particular piece being shrouded in mystery, what we know for certain is that this extremely rare and special Cartier Tank Americaine was produced to commemorate the 50th anniversary in power of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in 1996. Housed in a 45mm by 26mm full-sized case and powered by the manually wound Piaget 9p2 caliber (Cartier Caliber 430MC), the dial of the watch features a beautiful crest of the Thai King atop a salmon guilloche surface. Despite this manually wound Tank Americaine Ref. 1735 being nearly identical to the CPCP watches, it actually predates the Collection Privé.
There are rumors that this piece is either part of a handful of examples or a possibly unique prototype that never made it into full production, as the story goes that when Cartier presented this example to the Royal Court, it was rejected as the crest was ‘beneath’ the Cartier name and not acceptable. Further evidence seems to support this as there is a more common example of this commemorative Tank Americaine in platinum and with the crest at 12 o’clock.
Whatever the truth is, this mystery combined with the recent resurgence in rare and early Cartier pieces makes this example hugely appealing and a must for any ardent Cartier collector.