The ‘Unknown’ Cartier Tank: The Louis Cartier Jumbo
The Cartier Santos-Dumont, known as Cartier’s first wristwatch, is the watch that brought the brand horological fame and recognition.
However, no less significant was the fifth watch that Louis Cartier created, the Tank of 1917, which became both Cartier’s most extensive collection with the largest variety of models and its most popular.
One year the Tank Americaine wins in popularity while another year it is the Tank Française, very much depending on what’s being promoted.
The model that’s still going strongest since its introduction almost 100 years ago is without any doubt the Tank Louis Cartier, launched in 1922 and worn by rich and famous like Yves Montand, Warren Beatty, Andy Warhol, Ingrid Bergman, Mohammed Ali, and even fashion designers Ralph Lauren and Yves Saint Laurent.
Even though the Tank Louis Cartier has a fairly small case – the classic men’s model measures only 24 x 30 mm – it remains a very well respected model worn by men (and women) all over the world. It is one of the few small men’s watches that has retained its popularity for the duration of the oversized timepiece fashion.
Ch-ch-changes: from XL to Jumbo
The Tank Louis Cartier has undergone myriad small changes over the years, and has been offered in red, pink and white gold, as well as platinum, and different dial options.
It has even featured a hopeless date window occupying the space where the “3” numeral should be, destroying the beauty and symmetry of the historic dial. Most models have been powered by hand-wound mechanical calibers, often made by Frédéric Piguet, while others had quartz movements.
Next to the classic men’s model, Cartier released a small run of the Tank Louis Cartier XL version in 2006, a watch featuring 30 x 39.2 mm case dimensions. This was followed by an even a larger version in 2012 with an ultra-flat case measuring 34.9 x 40.4 mm, which is still in the current collection.
These three cases sizes are the main ones to consider if you are interested in a Tank Louis Cartier.
There was, however, another model in the 1970s called the Jumbo, which was larger than the classic size and smaller than the XL. Launched in 1974, the Jumbo came in a yellow or white gold larger case measuring 28 x 34 mm.
The Jumbo is also the only Tank Louis Cartier equipped with an automatic movement, Caliber 170.
The difference between the Jumbo and other Louis Cartier Tank models becomes immediately clear when the watch is turned over. While the Tank Louis Cartier is known to have a flat case back, the Jumbo has a round thickening that gives away the fact that there is an automatic caliber inside this case with more height than the hand-wound calibers the line usually offers.
Cartier opted for an automatic ETA movement that it re-named to become Caliber 170. That same caliber was also used for the automatic version of the Cartier Ceinture watch.
At first glance the back of the automatic version looks a bit odd, but on the wrist it is not noticeable at all and the watch just looks perfect. What a cool and ideal size this is for those who find the classic size to be on the small side, yet still love the vintage appeal of an older Tank Louis Cartier.
Despite the small bubble on the back, the case of the Jumbo is unmistakably Tank Louis Cartier with its two screws on each case side holding the back tight and the plain, screwless back with the usual engravings and gold stamps.
As with the majority of Tank Louis Cartier watches, most Jumbos have a normal-shaped spinel gemstone in the crown, like the one pictured above, but some Jumbos have a longer, sharper spinel, which makes the watch perhaps a bit less masculine but more elegant. It’s a matter of taste in my opinion.
Availability of the Louis Cartier Tank Jumbo
I am slightly puzzled as to why Cartier does not use the beautiful Jumbo case size anymore. At SIHH 2018, Cartier presented a good-looking renewed version of the Tank Louis Cartier in yet another case size just a little larger than the classic version at 25.5 x 33.7, but still a lot smaller than the Jumbo.
As Cartier only made a small run of these Jumbo Tanks back in the 1970s, which over the last few years has suddenly gained interest among Cartier fanatics, the pre-owned price of the yellow and white gold Jumbo models has now surpassed the price of a classic Tank Louis Cartier in platinum with hand-wound caliber.
If you’re thinking to go on the hunt for a Tank Louis Cartier Jumbo, there are still some very nice ones on offer. But do your homework first and don’t overpay.
The Jumbo is a fantastic-looking Tank watch and great to wear on a daily basis, but it is not comparable in quality with, for instance, the highly collectable Tank Cintrée models.
Quick Facts Cartier Louis Cartier Jumbo
Case: 28 x 34 mm, white or yellow gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 170 (base ETA)
Functions: hours, minutes
Production years: 1970s
Current pre-owned price 2018: approx. €7,000
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What’s It Like To Get Your Grail Watch And Live With It? The Story Of My Louis Cartier Tank
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Do you know how many units were made of this model?
I understand that it was a very limited edition
It was not a limited edition, but a small production. Don’t forget that at that time Cartier did not produce the amount of watches, we’re used to nowadays.
Unfortunately I have no records about the amount of watches that have been produced.
I guess just a few hundred, since the watches are so rare.
I have one: and love it!
Do you know if the jumbo Tank also comes with a Plexiglas, because mine has one. I saw very few with Plexiglas at the internet but i am not sure if those are replaced ones … Do you have an idear.?
Hi Christian, To my knowledge Cartier did not use plexiglass. You can have it replaced if you prefer the original. Best, George
Thank your the nice review George. Would you happen to know why some Jumbo‘s have Paris on the dial and others Swiss? Are both authentic and contemporary, or is one perhaps a (later) service dial? Similarly, I have seen seen a few with Cartier in the thin leg of the VII and others that do not have this. Thanks, Hans.
Hi Hans, Both versions are authentic and contemporary and the secret signature was introduced in 1977.
I do unfortunately not know when exactly Paris, Swiss, Made inFrance were used.
There are even two sizes, the common large one and a rare smaller version, a fact that I only found out recently.
Thank you for this fascinating piece. I have one of the smaller versions, and it is joy to wear. The number on the case is “170110416” – is this a serial number, and can one date watch from this, I wonder. It seems very strange that Cartier decided to end production. Do you have any insight into the reason for this?
Cartier always ends every series after some time. Sometimes after a few years, sometimes after a year. Do not forget that La Maison has a huge range of models, that need to be released every now and then. This keeps the collection alive and exclusive. It is hard to track the year from the number on the case, at least I do not know how to proceed.
I own a « small » Jumbo tank Cartier automatic.
The measures are 33,5×25,5.
It is very fine…
The smaller version of the Tank Louis Cartier Automatic is a very rare watch.
I have only seen it on pictures. Treasure it, it is beautiful!
I managed to pickup one of the small versions this year. It’s a beauty, and heck of a back story. Wishing there was more information out there on these puppies.
Thanks for this wonderful review and the very good questions and their answers. Regards. Rolf PS: Is there any advisable book about the history of the tank?
Yes, Rolf, there are three books about the Tank watch by Franco Cologni. The first one is the best, but that is out of print now and can only be found second hand.
Thank you Rolf, good to hear that you enjoyed the read.
The best book on Cartier Tank watches is: CARTIER THE TANK WATCH by Franco Cologni. Make sure you get the first book ISBN: 2-08013–633-6. The second book by the same writer is very commercial and does not have all the vintage details that you find in the first book.
George did these tanks only come with enamel dials? I am considering one that looks all original but I don’t believe the dial is enamel. Thanks
To my knowledge the dials were enamel, I have never seen a Tank LC Automatic with a guilloche dial, but with Cartier we never know for sure. I would love to see a picture.
the jumbo is made of gold or just gold plating?
This Tank Louis Cartier Automatic was only produced in 18K yellow- and 18K white gold gold. Vermeil watches were produced in the Must de Cartier series.
Interesting read. We recently received a Vintage Cartier Stepped Tank Jumbo 15716 measuring 28x38mm which is bigger than the 1970s Tank Louis Automatic. Do you know if this model is listed in the Franco Cologni book? Or do you maybe have any knowledge about this specific model. I always thought that the Tank Louis was the only Jumbo issued in the 70s?
Cartier Stepped Tank is a 1973-76 pre-must model. See watch review link for more info. https://forum.tz-uk.com/showthread.php?487735-1970s-Cartier-Pre-Must-Ghost-watches!-Cartier-Stepped-Tank-Jumbo-etc
I hv found a Cartier Tank in my late Dad’s Jacket pocket… it has no straps.. can I send u a picture so that u can advise me accordingly.. many tanks 🙏👋
Post the numbers on the back of the watch, minus the last 2 or 3 digits of the serial number (if you are worried about it). I’m sure we’ll be able cross reference the numbers and tell you what it is.
I just sent you an email.
Hello, I have a jumbo automatic Tank and the dial has Paris with the secret signature within the VII. Could this be a service dial (later replacement), because I have not seen another example of a jumbo automatic Tank with a secret signature !
The secret signature was introduced in 1977, while the Tank Louis Cartier Jumbo,
was released a little earlier, in 1974.
Of course, I am not 100% sure, but I think you have just one of the later models produced.
I am super excited !! I just bought a Tank Jumbo from 1975 with Deployment Clasp …should be here in 2-3 weeks.
Can you tell me how many jewels the Caliber 170 has?
How much did you buy it?
I just picked up a 1701 from a dealer in Germany. It did not come with a deployment clasp instead came with a Wempe traditional strap clasp. Should I look for a deployment clasp or a Cartier clasp ?
Love your writings on this watch
What are the small jumbos going for these days?
The small Tank Louis Cartier Automatic (or Jumbo) is even rarer than the regular model.
I have seen it only once, about three years ago.
Congratulations! It’s such a good and different Tank Louis Cartier.
The choice is yours; I prefer a Cartier folding buckle, but a Cartier pin buckle is may be easier to find and easier if you would like to change straps.
Hi George. one is being offered to me in good condition but needs an original crown. I don’t know where to start in being able to source one. I want to bring it back to its original condition. Do you have a recommendation, or does anyone, of a good vintage cartier watchmaker?
Hi George, congratul;ations, that’s great news.
The crown is not a too difficult detail to replace and the Boutique can certainly help you,
getting the right model.
Please keep us posted.
Hi George, thanks for a great article. I have just been lucky enough to purchase a 28mm Tank Jumbo which has its original purchase receipt, warranty card and several service history documents of Cartier services. Its a Paris dial and was purchased in 1976. I am puzzled that it came in a Cartier Must de Cartier box. I wondered if you or any other owner might know if that is its correct box as I thought the Must branding was for the cheaper watches? Many thanks