Cartier CPCP Basculante 2499C
If this whole post seems backwards, it’s because we’re looking at something French with two faces. Or perhaps I should say a watch without a rear, because today describing something as two-faced and French is just how you pronounce Emmanuel Macron in English. This is the CPCP Basculante, with a quite rare exhibition caseback. Of all Tanks, or even all Cartier watchmaking, it is by far the most interactive and arguably beautiful. If you’ve always lusted after a Reverso but never pulled the trigger, you’re in luck. Here’s one for grown-ups (only jesting, we love a Reverso, relax).
The reversing case design here was released by Cartier just a year after the Reverso, 1932. There is argument whether it was in reaction to the JLC or just as uninfluenced innovation to make the Tank more sporting. Whatever the case (no pun), it was a purpose-driven design meant to protect the fragile glass crystal from accidental strikes in an era when tennis and golf were growing more popular. Basculante literally translates as tilting, which is all this case does. It becomes impossible not to enjoy flipping this case when its on your wrist, utterly addictive. While there are other reversing case designs, the Reverso and Basculante were really the only two there at the start. And the Basculante is just so often overlooked by comparison. Plus, because of this case design, it can stand fully upright on a flat surface: the ideal travel clock. Besides Hodinkee’s, obviously.
The Basculante disappeared from production for many decades, coming back in small runs during the 90s in the ref. 2390. Of all, the most desirable is this iteration, the ref. 2499 made for the CPCP collection, aside from a few limited editions. It features a full guilloché dial, and some of the production included a display back with a lightly decorated Frederique Piguet cal 610, which Cartier call the 060MC. The 2499C, which is what this is, is quite rarely seen relative to other CPCP models. No other watch I can think of is so elegant and playful in equal measure, surely in a class of one. And it spins. I’d love to see what else the French could design in watches today, if only they could stop setting things on fire.
This example has a great case, light surface wear visible on its highly polished sections and a few light scratches on the brushed back. But all engravings are deep. Its dial is undamaged and same goes for the sapphire back. It comes from a well-regarded collector out of Singapore.