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.
As I have mentioned many times, the ’90s was an unconventional and murky time for watch brands, having just come out of the quartz crisis that decimated most of the industry. Brands were either experimenting like crazy or strictly conservative, wary of the fact they just survived the equivalent of a nuclear bomb. The industry was slowly coming back, with consumers beginning to take an interest in mechanical watches, and with this in mind, Cartier decided that it was time to improve its image as a true watchmaking brand.
The result was the Collection Privé Cartier Paris division, referred to simply as the CPCP. The intention of the CPCP was to be the premier mechanical watchmaking division of Cartier and looking back on it today, it was one of the best decisions they ever made. The philosophy was simple, the CPCP took iconic models that were already loved by many, and reproduced them with high-grade movements, working with bonafide watch manufactures such as Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Frédéric Piguet, Girard-Perregaux, and more.
An incredibly iconic timepiece, the Cartier Tank is one of the most easily recognizable timepieces that is produced today. With its signature rectangle-shaped case, thin profile, and elegant dial, it is as classical a timepiece today as when it was released in 1917. Inspired by the Renault FT-17 Tank, the Cartier Tank is, somewhat paradoxically, a dress watch. Remarkably over the century, the Tank model has been reborn into many variants, all with different forms while still managing to maintain its DNA.
Debuting in 1933, the Tank Basculante took inspiration from the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, a double-sided sports timepiece that would swivel within its case to protect its dial. In keeping with this design, the Basculante also turned in its case to protect its dial. However, different from the Reverso, rather than turning on its horizontal axis, the Basculante turned over its vertical axis, allowing it to stand upright in mid-rotation to double as a table clock. All of this was done elegantly via the central jewel of the watch, where the user would flick it open with his/her nail.
While there have been quite a few iterations of the Tank Basculante since its inception, what you see here is one of the rarest and most desirable versions, the Ref. 2499. Released as part of the mythical Collection Privé Cartier Paris collection that features the signature CPCP guilloche dial with a distinctive ‘rosette’ at the center and an ultra-slim, manually winding F. Piguet 6.10. Furthermore, this particular example features a skeleton sapphire case back that displays the beautifully finished movement. There was another CPCP version that had a solid engraved case back for the new millennium, which is also very special.
With the recent resurgence of special, rare, and early Cartier pieces, this Tank Basculante from the Collection Privé is a perfect candidate- coming complete as a full set with its box and papers and in incredible unpolished condition.