FORM FOLLOWS FORM:
THE CARTIER TANK BASCULANTE
BY WALT ODETS
Rooted in a long tradition of folding or reversing wristwatches, miniature travel clocks, and ermeto (or “purse watches”), the Tank Basculante is a contemporary offering from Cartier. Meaning, in English, tilting or tipping tank, the Tank Basculante is offered in stainless steel at a US retail price just under $5,000. It can, like the famous Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, be reversed on the wrist. But unlike the Reverso, it can also be used as a miniature travel clock on a bedside table.
The complete case assembly measures 38 by 25.5 millimeters, but is just six millimeters thick.
Four massive five-millimeter screws (left) hold the case bezel to the back. Note, also, the sprung ball bearing that locks the case to its frame. Another four screws hold the back section of the case together, and an additional two provide the pivoting of the case in its frame.
The dial is a classic Cartier dial with guilloche, distorted Romans, a minute track, and blued-steel spade hands. It is unmistakably Cartier, and very French.
Like most Cartier wristwatches, the Tank Basculante contains a “secret signature” on the dial.
With only about half the parts of a Reverso case, the Tank Basculante case offers far better water resistance, better shock protection of the movement, and a more easily-serviceable design. Shown left, the crown is supported by a massive case tube and the stem is sealed by an O-ring set into a groove in the tube (arrow). The two piece stem is extraordinarily massive, no doubt because of the unusual position of the crown and the possibility of abuse by those unfamiliar.
The blue cabochon (Cartier does not call it a sapphire) adorns the tab used to lift the case frame from the back. Perhaps it is French crystal.
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