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The famed Cartier Tank has come in various iterations and sizes, and perhaps the most unique of them is the Tank Basculante. Introduced in 1933, it features a reversible case that flips 360 degrees. This inspired its name, which comes from the French word bascule or seesaw.
It certainly shares similarities with the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso. Aside from being made by the same manufacturer, they were produced only 12 months apart. During this time, there was a rise in the popularity of recreational sports like tennis, golf, and polo, and people sought timepieces that could be protected from the impact of these activities. Their flip-case design was made especially for this purpose.
Even though the Cartier Tank Basculante started out as a sports watch, its Art Deco design signals a refined level of taste. Made available in stainless steel and gold, as well as in men’s and ladies sizes, the Cartier Tank Basculante wears beautifully on any wrist. Find yours today from our collection of Cartier Tank Basculante watches from SwissWatchExpo.com.
Designed by Louis Cartier, the Cartier Tank’s rectangular shape was a pioneer in design, having been made in an era where round watches dominated. Introduced commercially in 1911, the Cartier Tank became a hit, and various iterations followed every few years, while staying true to the design essence of the original Tank.
In 1933, Cartier introduced the Tank Basculante. At this time, partaking in recreational sports became more popular, particularly in tennis and polo. Watch wearers were constantly seeking ways to protect their timepiece while playing the sport. Spécialités Horlogères SA, a branch of distribution of LeCoultre, manufactured several designs with flipping cases to protect the fragile crystal. One of them was the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, introduced in 1931; and another was the Cartier Tank Basculante, released around 12 months after. Indeed the watchmaker’s watchmaker, the Tank Basculante’s flipping mechanism was patented by LeCoultre in 1932.
The Tank Basculante vs The Reverso
Several factors set these two iconic watches apart. Design details like the crown placed at 12 o’clock and Cartier’s hidden signature at 7 o’clock make the Tank Basculante truly unique. The vertically hinged cases had their blue sapphire crown at 12 o’clock (as opposed to the side, where it’s placed in most Cartier watches). Most enchanting of all is its subtle guilloche dial, a technique of carving small, repetitive patterns on the surface, that create a texture.
The major difference lies in their reversing direction. The Reverso slides out of its case and does a horizontal flip, while the Tank Basculante does a 360 vertical flip within the case. Aside from protecting the crystal, the Tank Basculante’s flipping system also allows the watch to be displayed upright like a table clock.
This motion was an exclusive patent made for Cartier by Spécialités Horlogers, Le Coultre, and Jaeger. It only shows the desire of these two iconic watchmakers to champion the rectangular watch.
While the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso was meant as a single collection and major part of the brand’s catalog, the Tank Basculante was never meant to surpass the original Tank in its popularity.
It ceased production after a few years, and was resurrected in the new millennium.
Collection Privée Cartier Paris
In its modern life, the Cartier Tank Basculante became part of the Collection Privée Cartier Paris, a range of limited edition watches produced from 1998 to 2008, which sought to revive Cartier classics from decades before. This celebration of Cartier’s 20th century designs was also quite exclusive, with only 100-150 units made for each watch.
The modern editions of the Cartier Tank Basculante had the option of mechanical and quartz movements, and were made in stainless steel or 18k yellow, rose, or white gold. Men’s models measured 26 x 39mm, while ladies models were sized at 22 x 25mm.
As one might expect, such a unique timepiece was also equipped with a special movement. The mechanical versions of the Tank Basculante are powered by the Cartier 610 movement, a modified version of the Frederic Piguet Caliber 6.10, a manual wind movement that measures only 2.1mm thick.
The Cartier Tank Basculante met its sunset in the late 2000s, but has become more sought after in recent years. Collectors scour the secondary market for the mechanical models in particular, resulting in a bump in pricing.
It’s not hard to see why. While the Cartier Tank Basculante offers all the characteristics that other Tank watches would, it managed to interpret the timeless design language of the Maison in an ingenious and truly special manner.
All Cartier models are given a reference number, in order to properly document their manufacture and sale. These are randomly assigned and are composed of 8 characters. They begin with a letter, followed by an alpha-numeric combination.
Below are the reference numbers for the Cartier Tank Basculante collection:
|Cartier Tank Basculante Mécanique
|25 x 38 mm, Stainless steel,
25 x 38 mm, 18k rose gold
25 x 38 mm, 18k yellow gold
|Cartier Tank Basculante Quartz
|22 x 25 mm, stainless steel
23 x 28 mm, stainless steel
26 x 39 mm, stainless steel, small seconds
22 x 38 mm, 18k white gold with diamonds
The Cartier Tank Basculante is a version of the famed rectangular watch with a “flipping” case that protects the sapphire crystal. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Cartier Tank Basculante.
While from a glance the Cartier Tank Basculante looks like a classic Cartier Tank, it stands out from the rest of the catalog because of its flipping case. The vertical motion, hinged at the 12 o’clock position, allows the crystal to be hidden inside the case, protecting it from damage during sports.
Because of its flipping mechanism, the signature blue cabochon often seen on the side of the case is placed at the top of the case.
Its name comes from the French “bascule” which means seesaw. It was first introduced in 1933, then revived in 1998 as part of the Collection Privée Cartier Paris.
Cartier Tank Basculante models are water resistant to 3 bar or 30 meters.
With this depth rating, the Tank Basculante can be worn on a daily basis and be protected from splashes, but they are not recommended for use during water sports or swimming. While it was initially produced as a sports watch, the Cartier Tank Basculante, by modern standards, is primarily a dress watch.
The Cartier Tank Basculante was only produced from 1997 - 2008. It was quietly discontinued with the rest of the CPCP range, but it remains available in the secondary watch market.
It is particularly sought after by vintage watch collectors who like dressy pieces. Explore our collection of Cartier Tank Basculante watches here.