If you’re going to opt for the classic Cartier, a Tank, you might as well opt for the variant that looks like its namesake. The Tank À Guichets is perhaps the watch which, in Cartier’s entire set of offerings, stands furthest apart from the limelight. This has shifted slightly in the last year or so, but for over ninety years Cartier’s first jumping hour wristwatch has been a domain of the niche. For something with the technical weight of an early Zeitwerk, surprisingly little is known about the conditions which produced this gorgeous silhouette of art deco eccentricity.
The Guichet was brought to market in 1928 as a limited edition for VVIP clients, much like the Crash. The name refers to the counters (Guichets is French for windows), which ‘jump’ as the time advances digitally (still mechanically powered). I find it quite interesting that while the Louis Cartier Tank was inspired by a WWI Renault FT17, the Guichet is the silhouette which, by far, looks most armoured. Not only that, but its history is downright clandestine. See, despite documented origin and order history, no one seems know just why Cartier chose to go digital or what inspired the change. What is certain is that the design was, and always has been, special order and coveted.
It was so coveted, even in period, that Duke Ellington wore one daily, as well as the Maharaja of Patiala. It has remained a limited production release across various decades ever since. Six examples were released after the originals in 1996. Then, in 1997 and for Cartier’s 150th anniversary, 150 examples were produced (this example hails from that run). In was last in 2005 that a limited release arrived in boutiques in 100 examples. No one knows just how many 1928 Guichets were produced, but most estimate total production well under 400 examples. The earlier 96 and 97 releases are easily distinguished by their crowns, which are slightly smaller in overall crown size and smaller in their set ruby cabochon. While latter pieces decorated their calibres through CPCP, these first runs utilized a factory Piaget Cal. 9752MC and were exclusively yellow gold or this platinum in 26mm x 37mm. This run’s weight may be comparable to that Renault FT17 as well. In any run, the Tank À Guichet is a reference perennially on the fringes, waiting for spellbound Cartier hardcores to wander across its charm.
This 1997 example comes in a platinum case with light and even surface wear. The brushed surfaces show wear on all facets, though that’s a mark of the dealer’s character in my estimation. It would be very easy to refinish those surfaces, I quite like and applaud the retailer for leaving this watch’s history on its exterior. No known service history. It comes with a box and without papers from a well-regarded haute-specialty Swiss retailer.
Find this Tank À Guichet here from K2 Luxury listed as POA.