Cartier Tank Normale - White gold - Mark 1 - Ref. 78092
A stark symbol of war and destruction magnificently transformed into a symbol of endless, evolving and ever-lasting beauty and elegance. The story behind Cartier's Tank is a golden example of the enduring magic and mysticism that continuously and beautifully swirl around the Cartier name. It is also the definitive proof that Louis Cartier's brilliance really knew no bounds.
Louis' exquisite eye for potential beauty combined with his intuitive feel for when and which limits to push brought the now world-famous, instantly recognisable and profoundly desired Cartier Tank into the world. It was 1917 when the design would come to him, reportedly after seeing the revolutionary Renault FT-17 Tank - the first Tank to incorporate a fully rotating turret. That turret would become the centre of his Tank's dial, and the FT-17's ground-crunching caterpillar treads - his watch's gleaming brancards.
This very first Cartier Tank would come to be known as the Tank Normale, although its brazenly geometric form was anything but 'normal'. It was a sharp, 4 times over 90-degree rupture from the smooth, gleaming curves of Cartier's Tonneau and Tortue, it was an angular intensification and simplification of the Santos-Dumont.
A raw, radical case design that fully captured the steeled spirit of its time. Louis Cartier's original Tank Normale would sport the strictest and strongest of all Cartier Tank lines, yet with its sapphire capped beaded crown and radiating Roman numerals, refused to relinquish the purest elements of Cartier's trademark elegance. Cartier's ever-charming curves would soon glide back in with the Tank Cintrée of 1921 and the Tank Louis Cartier of 1922 but those staunch and definitive lines of the Tank Normale were the spark of the revolution that rocked not only Cartier's world but the world of watchmaking at large.
Over the last few decades, the Tank Normale has been surprisingly absent from the Cartier catalogue. Notably, there was no CPCP release of the watch. Yet in Spring 2023, a Cartier aftershock like no other hit the Geneva-based Watches & Wonders. Each year at the pinnacle event, Cartier launches a new limited-edition model as part of their Privé collection and this year, it was the turn of the revolution-inciting Tank Normale. La Maison brought those staunch and definitive lines back with such a sensational vengeance - releasing not one but five new, limited-edition versions of the watch. This spectacular, long-awaited and much longed for return of the original Tank caused an ecstatic chaos of admiration, excitement and immense delight amongst Cartier collectors and enthusiasts. The original Tank was back - where it has always belonged - in pole position.
A one in a million Tank Normale.
A near-on 1970s vintage first. One of not many of its kind to appear on the market. Potentially the first. There is nothing remotely 'normale' about this tenaciously marvelous vintage Tank.
1970s timepieces fashioned from the eternally cool, calm and collected white gold are incredibly hard to come by. They are, almost, non-existent. Yellow gold was the decidedly dominant precious metal used in the 70s, with the vast majority of timepieces that have survived the considerable passage of time from then until now exhibiting a warm, ochre golden glow. This utterly unique Tank Normale emanates the crystal cool sharpness of white gold.
The reference number of this piece is 78092 and numerous examples with this reference can be found in yellow gold but as far as examples in white gold go, they are few and far between. On the brushed caseback, a solo engraving can be seen, which is an indication of this piece's early production - later examples would most certainly display further markings including 'Cartier'. The solo engraving is the watch's reference number (78092) plus serial number (0009), a single digit serial number, which places this timepiece amongst the first ten examples of this model.
This Tank Normale, with reference 78092, was produced from 1973 to around 1980. In the space of seven years, only around 2,500 pieces of the model came into existence and four different versions of the watch were produced. The piece presented here, with its incredibly low serial number (0009), was a 'Mark 1' version of the watch. Approximately the first 800 pieces, of the 2,500 created, fall into the category of Mark 1. Each Mark of the watch (1,2,3,4) has small variations in its design. For example, for the Mark 1 and Mark 2 versions, the Cartier signature at the 12 has an 'A' which is pointed rather than flat, a signature which can be referred to as the "70's signature". Another feature which sets the Mark 1 and Mark 2 versions of the watch apart from the Mark 3 and 4, is the absence of a secret signature at the 7.
However, one rather distinctive feature which sets a Mark 1 watch apart from a Mark 2, 3 and 4, is the incredibly smart and refined, flat sapphire crown. As production continued, the sapphires of the crowns would become more prominent. Both Mark 2s and 3s display a short sapphire, while by the time production had reached Mark 4, the sapphire had become long.
Pieces with the reference number 78093 also exist, these were the ladies' version of the watch and have smaller dimensions - with some also sporting diamonds.
The timepiece presented here however, exudes its own extra glimmer of Cartier charm.
This piece was a custom order. A custom order made by a gentleman working in a Cartier boutique in the 1970s, who decided to order this classically crisp and refined timepiece for himself. As would therefore be expected, it is a timepiece that has been treated with the greatest of care - and love. The signed and bright white lacquered Paris dial, with printed black Roman numerals and traditional railway track minute markers, shows not a single sign of age. The watch's 30mm x 22mm case is exceptional and in unrestored condition. This piece radiates vintage Cartier at its spellbinding best.
Blued sword hands give a glint of colour to the otherwise stark monochrome composition of the piece. While the original Tank Normale sported Breguet hands, sword hands appeared on the Tank Normale from the 1940s onwards and were the style of hands also chosen for the new, limited-editions launched in 2023. However, those Privé editions of the Tank Normale were given the same style of beaded crown as found on the original, while this 1970s timepiece exhibits a faceted crown - with a much more contained sapphire cabochon. With not a hint of excess in sight, this piece has a look and feel that is as sharp and brilliant as the white gold light emanating from its polished brancards. Glazing light tempered only by the brushed horizontal lines of its composed case.
This incredible piece of brilliant Cartier is an early-edition, vintage example of the original, revolution-inciting Tank. A vintage example fashioned from a precious metal almost unbeknown to the vintage era and, despite the passing of circa 50 years, still looking as stunningly pristine as it would have done that first day it left the Cartier boutique.
In brief, a unique piece of Cartier collector heaven.
Powering this terrifically prized piece of vintage Cartier is the Swiss made Cartier calibre 78-1 which contains 17 jewels, beats at a frequency of 21600 vph and gives the watch a power reserve of 42 hours. Calibre 78-1 is a round movement that displays Côtes de Genève decoration and exhibits a lever escapement, monometallic balance as well as flat hairspring.
How it wears
Universally recognised elegance in its most genteel and clearest of forms. This timepiece is simply as sophisticated as it gets on the wrist. A minimal design that expresses such a wealth of heritage and in this particular case - extreme exceptionality - all contained within such elegant, modest vintage dimensions. An immaculate Cartier creation that speaks volumes on the wrist, yet in such a refined and understated manner.
The set & condition
An exceptionally rare vintage Cartier timepiece in astoundingly exceptional and untouched condition. Two highly - and ever-increasingly - desired characteristics that so rarely and so infrequently unite. This timepiece comes with its original box and original 18k white gold folding buckle, a buckle which is just as rare as the incredible watch to which it belongs.
If you desire to take a closer look at this precious timepiece, don't hesitate to contact us and make an appointment. No stock is kept on site.
* Every watch is delivered in a Mr WATCHLEY Membrane Protection Box for a safe transportation in addition to its original set *
|White lacquered dial
|30 mm x 22 mm
|White gold case & folding buckle
|Custom made Madras Black