1970s Cartier Pre-Must Ghost watches! Cartier Stepped Tank Jumbo etc

benbenny

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All images used in this thread do not belong to me and are only used by me for reference purpose only.
If you have any rights to one of the pictures than please contact me and I will remove these.

Cartier is not very helpful with releasing their records, and finding references for vintage Cartier watches can be difficult, and therefore the rarer models can go unnoticed and be overlooked duo the lack of information. I'm planning to post some reference differences and some knowledge which I have on certain vintage Cartier watches.

Did you know that the 1970s Cartier ''Le Must'' was not the first affordable gold coated Cartier watch!? It's a history that has gone unnoticed for all these years, even by Cartier, willingly or unwillingly may some argue.

It seems that almost any Cartier model is well documented by hands-on research and literature. Information for many of the models is generally widely available. But this is not the case with the PRE-MUST gold coated Cartier Tank watches from 1973-76. These are the so-called Cartier ghost watches, not much is known about them, if anything. The 1973-76 Pre-Must series is a particularly interesting collection which was produced in very low quantities and went under the radar for the last five decades. Launched in the early 1970s during the quartz crisis in the Swiss watch industry, it looked very much like an LC Tank but with some notable differences and designs. The watches were offered with different case designs and had gold coated brass and steel cases depending which Cartier Boutique they were made (NOT silver like the later Must models!), and were powered by ETA mechanical movements. Some of the models had dials which were offered in lots of different colors like white, black, brown and the rarer color blue. While back than not considered in the same league as other Cartier Tank models, the Pre-Must models performed extremely well in terms of sales and introduced Cartier to a broader audience. It was apparently because of the success of these watches that Cartier released the "Must De" line in 1977, once the three separate Cartier brands NYC, Paris and London were reunited and became one.

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Today I will start with one of my favorites of the models which were released between 1973-76. Its the oversized ''Cartier Stepped Tank Jumbo''. It is the rarest Tank model of these series and the largest of its time. It was basically a Cartier Tank on steroids!

The oversized Stepped Tank was a true Jumbo. The case measured 38x28 mm which was considered larger than any other Tank model during the 70s and years to come.

The Stepped Tank models came in a few different variations depending in which boutique it was made. It came in three similar (but o.. so different) references, and I will try to explain the differences.

This specific model seen above is the Cartier Ref: 15176 (made in New York). this is the rarest variation of the Stepped Tank series. It was the only model which had a 14k gold coated case (American standard) and the only one which was gold coated on a Brass metal case (The other variations from London and Paris were issued in 18k and were gold coated on ''Steel'' cases). It was produced between 1973-76 in the Cartier boutique New York. It was also the only reference which had the ''Four-Screw'' back case (the others had snap back cases), It is also the only one with an unusual large elongated spinnel cabochon crown. The only one which had a recessed area in the case design to protect the winder and forming a crown guard. It was also the only reference which had the true Cartier markings and serial numbers. It had deep punched Cartier logo and text in French language, and deep punched serial numbers. These case serial numbers on the Stepped Tanks should always start with the number 12 followed by its 5 digits case serial number. The other references did not had a serial number on the outside case and where lightly / shallow engraved with the Cartier brand and text. Serial numbers of these watches point out that the ref: 15716 was only produced in max 2500 pieces before it was discontinued in late 1976 which makes it the rarest of the three references.


The London ref: 471 & Paris ref: 1543 versions were issued in ''18k'' rolled gold on ''Steel'', unlike the ref: 15716 New York boutique which was gold coated in ''14k'' (American standard) on ''brass''.


The London boutique version Ref: 471 had a Small crown. It did 'not' had a recessed area in the case design for the crown. They had a snap back case with no screws. It had a engraved back case (in English language) with No serial numbers on the outside (numbers are inside the case). It was issued in 18k gold coated on steel and serial numbers show that only max 5000 pieces of the ref: 471 were ever made before it was discontinued in 1976.

The Paris boutique version had Ref: 1543 and also had a Small crown and a snap / push back-case with No screws and also did not had a recessed crown guard. It had a engraved back case (in the French language) with No serial numbers (numbers are inside the case). These were also issued in 18k gold coated on steel and case serial numbers show that also only max 5000 pieces of the ref: 1543 were ever made before it was also discontinued in 1976.

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Many of these differences have to do with that Paris & London boutique were based closer together and exchanged the same ideas, designs and stock parts exchange. The New York boutique was a more isolated store on the other side of the globe and they came up with their own parts and designs which reflects today back in many of the pre 1977 models, and the three different variations of the Stepped Tank Jumbo is a good example of this.

All three variations came with a signed Cartier caliber 78-1 hand wind movement which was based on the ETA 2512. And all three had a slightly domed curved ''Natural Crystal Glass'' which was level with the case sides and not raised.

The dials from these series were always signed in the old style Cartier typeface font. They were hand painted and Cartier back than used a new experimental lacquer paint. Because of this almost all of these Pre-Must dials have patina aged to different colors and developed crackling trough the paint which we consider today to be tropical spider dials. They came in white, blue, black and brown with black or gilded hand painted numerals and had sword hands / pointers which came in black, blue and gold.

Overall: These Stepped Tank Jumbo watches can be considered sleepers duo the lack of information out there. They were produced in very low volumes. The Ref: 15716 New York is the rarest version of the Stepped Tanks, with a production of max 2500 pieces in 14k rolled gold (American standard), unlike the Paris and London versions which each produced in max 5000 pieces and issued in 18k rolled gold.

Comparing these Stepped Tank models on rarity with for example an Rolex Daytona (Paul Newman) ref: 6239, which were produced in only 14.000 pieces, the Stepped Tank was produced in much lower quantities. This was because of the low demand duo to the oversized nature and design of the case, and because it was discontinued in late 1976 when the three Cartier boutiques decided to reunite their three branches into one in early 1977. Therefore not many of these were produced and sold, and are today very scarce and sought after.

Cartier is not very helpful with releasing their records. But by studying the Cartier literature and researching these watch models over the years by their case serial numbers and differences, me and my colleagues have come to the following conclusions.

Ref: 15716 (made in New York) - very rare - 14k gold coated (American standard) on 'brass alloy' - estimate approx 2500 pieces.

Ref: 1543 (made in Paris) - rare - 18k gold coated on 'steel' alloy- estimate approx 5000 pieces.

Ref: 471 (made in London) - rare - 18k gold coated on 'steel' alloy - estimate approx 5000 pieces.


These production numbers are rough estimates based on the research done and the case serial numbers found.

For example: up to date the highest number which was found on the reference 15716 New York edition was 2070, so the figure of 2500 pieces is a rough and high estimate.

The London and Paris edition was found with a serial 4426 and the Paris edition with serial 4651, So the figure of 5000 pieces is also an rough estimate.

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Some watch pictures of the Cartier Stepped Tank Jumbo which I found on the net.


110206440_152428743125925_4434287126283736245_n.jpg 101418g20052-cartier-tank-louis-cartier.jpg 13781767c_zoom_v1579745681274.jpg 109846066_151738399867633_549099089360010395_n.jpg Capturejk.JPG sold_cartier_jumbo_tank_mechanical_1543634162_f8aa2d51.jpg watchessfv.png
 
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Dave Haynes

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I seem to recall a special tiny coding letters on the Roman Numeral for 7. I always thought these plated watches were gold on silver. A steam roller smashing a bushel of fakes.
 
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benbenny

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I seem to recall a special tiny coding letters on the Roman Numeral for 7. I always thought these plated watches were gold on silver. A steam roller smashing a bushel of fakes.
Yes these tiny coding letters in the numeral 7 or 10 were later introduced after 1977 probably in the early 80s, Its impossible to find a Cartier that was made before 1977 with a dial that has these cartier lettering in the numerals. If you do find one than that means that it has a aftermarket dial or refurbished dial.

The Cartier must which was introduced 1977 did had a sterling silver case which was vermeil gold plated.

The Pre-must 1973-76 had gold plated brass or steel cases depending in which boutique they were made.

The New York models had gold coated brass cases and the London and Paris models had gold coated steel cases.

What do you mean with ''A steam roller smashing a bushel of fakes''?
 
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Dave Haynes

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Sep 12, 2000
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Yes these tiny coding letters in the numeral 7 or 10 were later introduced after 1977 probably in the early 80s, Its impossible to find a Cartier that was made before 1977 with a dial that has these cartier lettering in the numerals. If you do find one than that means that it has a aftermarket dial or refurbished dial.

The Cartier must which was introduced 1977 did had a sterling silver case which was vermeil gold plated.

The Pre-must 1973-76 had gold plated brass or steel cases depending in which boutique they were made.

The New York models had gold coated brass cases and the London and Paris models had gold coated steel cases.

What do you mean with ''A steam roller smashing a bushel of fakes''?
There was a big write up that was from either the Swiss or Cartier showing a steam roller running over a huge pile of fake Cartier watches
Google "cartier steam roller smashing fakes" and you'll see it there.
 
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benbenny

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I always thought these plated watches were gold on silver.
Here are two examples showing a pre-must 15716 New York boutique with a gold plated brass case,
and a badly polished 1543 Paris boutique with a steel case.

The 15716 has a slightly damaged/worn back plate and you can see the brass metal alloy underneath.
In the other picture you can see a 1543 were they polished the back case all the down to the core metal and removed all the gold coating.

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Ive googled the steam roller smashing a bushel of fakes. I see what you mean now. Never seen that before.
Well done! Not a fan of franken watches
 

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