Cartier Tank Basculante: the essence of a Tank watch!

Feb 29, 2012,14:27 PM

Cartier is one of the most important brands in the history of wristwatches. If the Santos was the first Cartier wristwatch, the Tank is clearly the most iconic Cartier watch. I write "the Tank" but I should write "the Tank family". Collecting Cartier Tank watches would be enough for a fulfilled collector's life. Here is mine and maybe the first of a collection?



The Cartier Tank Basculante was launched in 1932. I'll say more about 1932 and the origin below. For the moment let's look at the watch. It may look like a competitor to the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso launched in 1931. In some way it is. An inner case pivots (in French we can also say "bascule" hence the name) inside an outer case, to return itself and protect the dial inside the "box".



The case of my modern Tank Basculante is quite similar to a Louis Cartier Tank, at least on the outside.


It is quite straight overall and rounded at the corners. It is in fact extremely simple and sensual.



The general design and dial is clearly Cartier. It is a simple watch with just hour and minute hands and a steel case, still it lacks no presence.



About the origin of the watch, it was created by "Spécialités Horlogères SA" a branch of distribution of LeCoultre. A patent was asked the 1st of July 1932. In fact as you can see below the original Tank Basculante pictured - with a different case style from the modern version – is similar to the one shown on the patent file (itself taken from a JLC catalog).



The full patent drawing below clearly shows the original Tank Basculante. You can see that the overall design has very lightly changed in nearly 70 years (my watch is already ten years old). Only the case has been refined underneath and aligned on the Louis Cartier Tank style.



If the Reverso has been produced at the time for several brands, it seems that this Basculante design was reserved for Cartier. The "Cabriolet Reversible" as it was named at the time was produced in very low quantities until the relaunch in the late nineties.



It was in fact made to be part – in its modern life – of the Collection Privée Cartier Paris, the best modern attempt IMO to put back Cartier in the realm of high horology. This collection launched in the late nineties and now defunct reunited some very fine versions of the best classical designs of the Cartier wristwatch history.


My watch was not part of this collection as the CPCP was composed only of gold or platinum case watches. Still it was possibly the closest steel watch to what a CPCP watch was.



Below is pictured the platinum and pink gold Basculante. The watch was also offered in yellow gold.



The most appealing quality aspect of my Basculante is that it was fitted with the same calibre as the CPCP versions. It is a Frederic Piguet 6.10, a very thin (2.10mm) and small (15.3mm diameter) calibre of real high horology class. This small piece of horology is still quite precise after ten years of use!



I've always loved plain and engraved backs. They have a definitive charm and elegance. And to read "mécanique" on a Cartier back is a promise of style.



The inside of the « box » is decorated with the Cartier pattern.



Here is below the small calibre and its Cartier pattern as bridge decoration. My watch was equipped with a sapphire back on a steel watch as part of a limited production made for the French market for a year. Normal watches were made with a plain back aimed at receiving engravings. Some gold watches were even enamelled on the back side.



What could I say ? This watch is a simple and thin Tank. It exudes quality everywhere you look at it. It is original and very classy IMO but still elegant and discreet. It is a steel and very affordable Cartier but for me a real piece of high horology. It is what a Tank should be: a watch of style but a watch that you want to keep forever!



I hope to see Cartier come back to such fine pieces. They make some nice watches but they don't seem to keep making such fine pieces. For me a Cartier watch is a watch a king could wear. I'm not sure all current models could answer that request with a king of taste!







More posts: SantosTank

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Thank you Dje for a nice post!

 By: dr.kol : February 29th, 2012-15:02
I wrote about my Tank Basculante in January 2011. I'm really fond of this watch and I'm looking for a gold brother for my steel watch. There are not very many Cartier watches which have turned me on. Basculante is the first and this January (the year when... 

Thank you Kari

 By: Dje : March 1st, 2012-06:46
Hi, This is a watch I can't imagine selling! The Santos Dumont is a nice one too! One of the few modern models that keep a certain fineness, even if definitely modern. I'm sure you'll enjoy it! Best Dje

I love this watch , too think they made it in steel with a ....

 By: Miranda : February 29th, 2012-16:00
Magnificent calibre as well The most underrated watch of the 90's We will never see such a watch again I fear Jerome you are one lucky guy Especially to have the sapphire back Superb piece of horological magic And a wonderful post as well Thanks Best Imra... 

Thank you Imran

 By: Dje : March 1st, 2012-06:48
Thank you Imran, It is indeed one of those under rated horological machines that remained quite discreet and never found their deserved audience. But time will tell! I'm lucky yes but you're not that unlucky either! Best Dje

Very nice piece, thanks Dje. [nt]

 By: SJX : March 3rd, 2012-22:31
No message body

Thanks! nt

 By: Dje : March 4th, 2012-05:11

Fantastic report...and if I may chip in a photo...

 By: Jacky : March 19th, 2012-02:13
I am glad this Basculante / Convertible is not forgotten. Regards...  

does Cartier or Spécialités Horlogères SA own the patent?

 By: Hororgasm : March 29th, 2012-13:00
and was the Basculante as reaction to the success of the Reverso? excellent article with great pictures btw. nearly missed this one. best, Horo


 By: Dje : March 31st, 2012-04:26
Hi, I guess Specialités Horlogeres owned the patent. As of today no idea. I don't think it was a reaction to the Reverso success as it was launched right after, too early for the Reverso to be a success yet. IMVHO I suppose it may have been another o... 

Your platinum tank basculante

 By: tmapward : April 14th, 2012-07:43
Care to sell it? Cheers, Tom

Nice Review

 By: redwatch : June 21st, 2012-14:55
Thank you for the detailed review. Do you know if the regular production basculantes have the same movment?

You're welcome!

 By: Dje : June 22nd, 2012-06:57
Hi, Regular production Basculante models had the same calibre for mechanical models, but they made also quartz versions. Best Dje

Lovely watch and a great review!!

 By: Roni M : June 22nd, 2012-14:47
Thank you for your tireless contribution to the Forum Best, Roni

Wonderful documentary! Quick question:

 By: bweyhe1 : January 27th, 2018-00:35
Does the inclusion of the word “mechanique ” on the caseback indicate the watch has the mechanical, in this case Piguet, movement? Of course Cartier made the Basculante with quartz movements as well. Would “mechanique “ mean the watch is not quartz but ra... 


 By: Dje : January 27th, 2018-01:15
yes you're right.

Really great article and pics

 By: Geo : January 27th, 2018-23:20
Enjoy your Basculante, it is a beauty. Geo

Thank you

 By: Dje : January 29th, 2018-01:09
Thank you Geo, It's still a great watch, and hopefully will not stay my only Tank. Best regards Dje