Fighting the tides; Cartier ’Tank’ Étanche

When the wristwatch took over from the pocket watch, the next aim was at making it water-resistant, which would eventually lead to the birth of the sports watch. In this field, Cartier was at a disadvantage as it produced mainly form watches with a particular focus on the rectangle. These types of watches are considerably more challenging to make waterproof then round watches. A screw case is not possible, and the square corners make it more difficult to work with seals. Yet this didn’t stop Cartier from trying.

– The Tank Étanche remains hard to find in the vintage market –

One of the stories explaining what let Cartier to do so was that it was the result of a request from one of their clients; the Pasha of Marrakesh. He wanted a wristwatch to wear when he was swimming in his pool. While there is also a story that this would have resulted in the creation of the Pasha de Cartier, it is more likely that it was indeed the Étanche that was developed for this purpose. There are several reasons for this; first and foremost, is it more likely that the Pasha de Cartier was indeed designed by Gerald Genta in the late ’70s and named after Cartier’s famed patron, as no Pasha from before this time was ever entered into an auction. It is also unlikely that the Pasha of Marrakesh, who was known to be a man of refined taste, to opt for an oversized round watch with a grill at a time where elegant, modest-sized rectangular searches were at the height of their popularity.

– The complex construction of the Tank Étanche –

To create the Tank Étanche Cartier called upon the genius of Edmond Jaeger, with which they have been collaborating for quite some time. Jaeger developed an ingenious case to make the Tank design waterproof. The movement and dial were screwed into an inner gold case, which was surrounded by a seal of rubber, which not only held the crystal but also covered the winding stem. It was then placed in the outer case, which was secured tightly together by screws. It proved to be, however, quite difficult to make, and the production was to believe very limited.

– The Étanche, recently sold by Phillips –

The watch was by the way never called Tank Étanche when it was introduced but just Étanche. The Tank-part was added later to its name by the public, as it’s shape follows that of the famous Tank models so closely. Today is the Tank Étanche among the most challenging vintage watches to find of La Maison. Phillips recently auctioned a beautiful example on a gold brick bracelet with an excellent provenance as it was given by Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress and a prominent client of Cartier, to Count Haugwitz-Reventlow. The watch ended up fetching CHF131,250

– The Tank a Vis in a rare skeleton version –

The Tank Étanche would later also be the inspiration for the Tank a Vis, which was among the watches that were part of the legendary CPCP-collection of La Maison. The design of this watch had the same distinct bezel construction as the Tank Étanche, yet now with four visible screws added. Cartier introduced the Tank a Vis, next to a time-only, in a few varieties such as one with wandering hours, as well as a dual time-zone version. While these watches sold considerably better than the watch they were inspired upon, the Tank a Vis remains an insider secret among Cartier connoisseurs.

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