The ‘Unknown’ Cartier Tank: The Louis Cartier Jumbo
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.
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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Also published on Medium.