This particular Cartier Tank threw us for a bit of a loop when we first laid our eyes on it. The dial reads only ‘Cartier’, bears no hidden signature, has a snap on case back, a manual 78-1 movement and is gold plated. We then came across some research and a story that brought the watch into focus. The title of that story was “1970s Cartier Pre-Must Ghost watches“. The story goes that the three independent Cartier boutiqued released these gold plated Tanks sometime between 1973 and 1976 before the “Must De” era and as a result the dials simply read ‘Cartier’. Rumor has it that these models, of which there were multiple designs, were used early on as gifts for great clients of the Maison and quickly caught on with those in the know which lead the Boutiques to offer them for sale. It was apparently because of the success of these ghost watches that Cartier released the “Must De” tanks in 1977 once the separate Cartier brands in NYC, Paris, and London were reunited. While this is simply a story the watches that have popped up surrounding this story all share a number of attributes including a dial that reads only ‘Cartier’, bears no hidden signature, has a snap on case back, a manual movement and are gold plated. Just like the watch seen here. Watchuseek user BenBenny put together the most comprehensive research on the subject recently and if you are interested in Cartier we urge you to read his post on the subject.
Andy Warhol famously said “I don’t wear a Tank to tell the time. In fact, I never wind it. I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear”. That pretty much sums up everything that you need to know about the Cartier Tank. It is the definition of cool and has been since it debuted in 1917. Over its illustrious history it has graced the wrists of such style icons as Clark Gable, Fred Astair, Duke Ellington, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana. Calling this watch chic is an understatement.
The Cartier Tank was the brainchild of Louis Cartier, the grandson of the original founder. The story goes that he was inspired by the treads on a Renault FT-17 light tank and used it for the basis of his design. He then gifted the first watch to American general John Pershing. Over the next 100 years Cartier would use the Tank architecture as the foundation for many variations. From the Cintree to the Chinoise and the Basculante, each variation has added to the legacy and iconic lineage of the Tank line.
The 23mm by 30mm gold plated (20 microns) over base metal case is in great condition. The snap on caseback shows its original vertically brushed finish as well as deep engravings that are very legible. The sapphire crown, as is seen on all pre-Must plated watches, is smaller and pointier in shape than later Must moder. The watch also features slightly domed curved ”Natural Crystal Glass” which can also be seen on other pre-Must models.
The Dial and Hands
The dial and hands are classic Cartier with roman numerals, inner rail road track minute markers, and, blued hands. Overall condition is good with no major scratches or chips although the dial has taken on a fair bit of patina over the years. Interestingly, the hands of this watch are a slightly darker shade of blue than what we are used to seeing on later Must tanks but matches that of other pre-Must watches that we have seen. The dial is signed SWISS at 6 oclock.
The manually wound Cartier caliber 78/1 is a signed ETA 2512 movement. The watch is running and the service history of the movement is unknown.
|Location||New York City|
|Movement||Manual, Cartier 78/1 (ETA 2512)|
|Case Material||Gold Plated Base Metal|
|Band Material||Leather Strap|
|Clasp Type||Buckle (Original buckle also included)|