FORM FOLLOWS FORM:
THE CARTIER TANK BASCULANTE
BY WALT ODETS
Perhaps unexpectedly, the Tank Basculante is not simply a “jewelry watch.” It contains a first-grade movement.
Illustrated left, the movement is nothing less than a Frederic Piguet caliber
6.10. A diminutive 6.5 lignes (15.2 millimeters) and 2.1 millimeters thick, the movement runs at 21,600 beats per hour in 21 jewels. While not the form movement we might have hoped for in a
rectangular watch, the Piguet is nevertheless a first-class job, through and through. It is, for example, a much finer, much more sophisticated piece of work than Jaeger LeCoultre’s basic Reverso
movement, the caliber 846.
Close inspection of the keyless works reveals the fine craftsmanship of the
Piguet. Note the unusual separate (and beautifully executed) minute wheel cover (arrow).
Instead of Geneva stripes, the top plate is decorated with repetitions of the Cartier logo. This is embossed (rather than
engraved), and is the single cost-saving effort apparent in the movement.
Cartier calls the 6.10 a Cartier caliber 060, and the Piguet name and caliber markings are no where evident on the movement.
With its fanciful scalloping, the wheel train bridge might have come from no one but Piguet. The wheel train contains an extra wheel (
arrow) between the third and fourth wheel which rotates once each two minutes. I believe that this may have been done to properly position the fourth wheel at six o’clock (to allow for subsidiary seconds)
without compromising the size of the balance or mainspring barrel.
The three-spoked Glucydur balance wheel is protected by KIF shock
absorbers. The flat balance spring utilizes a simple regulator of notable quality.
The Tank Basculante offers a piece of tradition, considerable charm, and surprising quality throughout. The design integrity of this watch is woefully lacking in the majority of contemporary Swiss watches. The
Tank Basculante is also useful and comfortable on the wrist.
If there is a caveat about this watch, it lies in the marketing behind the watch. The red leather owner’s booklet suggests no less that four
times that the watch be serviced by Cartier. Indeed, on changing the leather strap, the owner is advised to allow a Cartier agent to do it, “in order to maintain the validity of the Cartier International
As if to make their point, the bottom strap screw (but not the top) was impossible to remove without destroying it. I believe that this was deliberate (done with high-strength Locktite), and it
required making a new screw on the lathe.
Like Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger LeCoultre in the US, Cartier has been in the vanguard of attempting to monopolize service on its watches by selling no parts to independent
watchmakers–not even strap screws or other, simple external parts.
If you like the Tank Basculante, be prepared to meet your local Cartier service agent sometime in the next few years. Or, better yet, treat
yourself to a Tank Basculante and watchmaker’s lathe at the same time.
© 2016 Bourne in Time Inc.