1917 was an extremely eventful year. Shaken by the great suffering of the First World War, it was also the year in which Cartier introduced a watch that has long been one of the great icons of horology. We are talking about the Cartier Tank. A very small gold watch by today’s standards, which might be considered a military watch, since its inspiration came from the French tanks of that era. The first 6 units of this watch were delivered in 1919 – but it should not remain at this small number.
With the Tank, Louis Cartier created a watch that provided and still provides a perfect basis for further creations in the Maison’s characteristic style. Starting with the classic Tank Normale with a square dial, many different models were created over the years, all of them incorporated the DNA of the Tank.
In 1932, however, a watch was introduced that did not yet exist in the Tank line-up. We are talking about the Cartier Tank Basculante or “Cabriolet Réversible” as it was originally called. The watch features a folding mechanism, which was developed by Spécialité Horlogères S.A. in Lausanne. This is, by the way, the same company that developed the folding mechanism of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, designed one year earlier by René Alfred Chauvot. This folding mechanism is also what gives the Cartier Tank Basculante its name. “Basculante” is French and translated to “tilting”. The first watches of this model series are now very rare, and even the later models are very-quite difficult to find nowadays. Therefore, in this text, I would like to introduce you the most modern Tank Basculante, namely the Cartier Tank Basculante GM, reference 2390.
Introduced a little more than 20 years ago, this is a reinterpretation of the Tank Basculante from 1932. The reference 2390 is also one of the few Tank models which were made in stainless steel and thus offers, in addition to the much more expensive variants in white gold and platinum, a silver-colored Tank. In my opinion a feature that gives the watch some kind of additional understatement.
A special feature of the 2390 is its very slim casedesign. Next to this watch, which is thinner than an iPad Air, even a Reverso appears thick in compariso. This slim casedesign is made possible by the movement used. The high-quality caliber 610 from Frederic Piguet, which works in this timepiece is only 2.1 mm high.
While there exist many different versions of the 90 ́s Tank Basculante, my personal favourite Tank in collection is the Limited Edition 2390 with the exhibition caseback. As the
name suggests, the movement can be seen through the sapphire glass caseback on the back of the mid-case. So, you have the choice: Do you want the classic white Cartier dial with the fine guilloché or do you prefer to look at the movement, which is presented to you like a beautiful framed piece of art? usually opt for the latter.
So why is the Cartier Tank Basculante a perfect addition to your collection?
Quite simple! It combines everything the Tank stands for and even more. The watch is slightly larger than a classic Tank Louis, which generally makes it a bit more suitable for everyday wear and more present on the wrist. Moreover, because of the subtle feel of this timepiece you would even forget about the it while wearing if you didn’t know what iconic piece sits on your arm right now.
Oh, and the Cartier Tank Basculante is a true strap wonder too! Even when the screw- down pins, instead of springbars, make a quick strap change more difficult, it’s absolutely worth it. With it’s 20mm lug-width you will find a wide range of different straps on the market. Personally, I like to wear my Basculante on the OEM crocodile leather strap with the tried and true Cartier deployment clasp, which allows for variable resizing.
However, most of the time I wear the watch on a baby blue leather strap, which in my eyes harmonizes perfectly with the characteristic cabochon at 12 o’clock and gives the watch an even youthful touch. Thus, I manage to diminish the elegance of this watch and make it look almost sporty. This is also the main fact, why you should add a Tank Basculante to your collection. Through it‘s versatility it makes a perfect watch for every occasion. It really does feel just as comfortable with a hoodie and sneaker as it does with a suit and tie – so what are you waiting for? The Tank you were always looking for is right around the corner – and probably not much longer slept on!
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