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How to authenticate a Cartier Tank

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    Introduction how to authenticate a Cartier Tank 

    Although spotting a fake Cartier can be easy. Being sure a Cartier watch is authentic is definitely not. In this blog we will explain how we authenticated a vintage Cartier Tank. This specific piece was sold on 27 February 1988 in Brussels. We can only imagine what it has seen from the moment it left the boutique. But it left some beautiful marks...   

    Our Cartier watchmakers have more than 20 years of experience with the brand. They have the knowledge and experience to authenticate both vintage and new watches. As you will read here, it is all about the details. And connecting the details with knowledge and experience. We will touch on the Cartier serial number, the brand marks and authenticating the vintage box and papers.

    We invite you all to contribute to our share knowledge and experience through our comment section at the bottom of this blog. 

    How to authenticate a Cartier watch (highlights)

    You can authenticate a Cartier watch by checking:

    • if the serial number is correct;
    • the brand logo's and icons are engraved on the case back and lugs
    • the brand logo's and icons are engraved on the movement
    • the movement contains highly finished parts
    • the buckle contains the Cartier brand logo

    Apart from checking if the above is correctly present on the watch. Authenticating a Cartier watch takes a good close observation. You must be sure the quality of engravings is correct and authentic as well. Fake Cartier watches carry the logo's and icons as well. But the quality and position of the engraving is always correct. Trained Cartier watchmakers can spot fake watches by closely observing this details. In the remainder of this blog we will explain in detail how we authenticated a vintage Cartier tank. Supported with real photos.  

    This vintage Must de Cartier Tank

    This watch carries the following specifics:

    • Reference number 3 66001
    • Case size 20mm x 28mm
    • Time function
    • Vermeil case (solid silver and gold plated)
    • White dial with bi-color finish
    • Crocodile leather strap
    • Original vermeil buckle  
    • Full set (box and papers included)
    • Sold in 1988
    • Movement: Quartz

    In this blog we will explain in 5 steps how we authenticated this beautiful Cartier Tank from 1988.

    Must de Cartier Tank Price

    Must de Cartier Tank prices vary from €1.000 to €220.000 for diamond set watches. The average pre-owned Must de Cartier Tank is between €1.000 and €5.000.

    The Must de Cartier Tank 3 66001 is obviously not produced anymore. And although prices are increasing for Cartier watches. This example is currently for sale on marketplaces for around €1.300 - €1.800. Depending on the condition and full set or watch only. 

    New Cartier Tank Prices

    New Cartier Tank watches for women start from €2.500 to €102.000. Whereas the Tank Solo is the cheapest and a diamond set Cartier Tank Cintrée the most expensive.  The average price is around €6.000 to €7.000 for Tank models.


    Step 1: check the box and papers

    The first step is validating if we have all the genuine Cartier box and papers. Vintage boxes and papers are extremely difficult to authenticate. The main reason is the absence of available information. Even Cartier did not document everything well back in 1988. And even the internet does not have all the answers. Asking a salesperson will not provide consistent answers.

    Luckily our Cartier watchmaker is a true expert. Who has seen more than a 1000 Cartier watches. And knows which boxes and papiers were issued in a certain period. The stamps of Cartier shops and how authentic papers and boxes age during time.  

    The box and cards

    This full set Cartier tank comes in the red outer box and carries a red booklet holder. The booklets comprise the international guarantee papers and instruction booklets. We check the following:

    • If we have the correct red outer box, which is the box that carries the watch
    • If the authentic international guarantee papers are present 
    • If the authentic red booklet holder is present (a wallet that carries the booklets)
    • If the authentic instructions booklet is present 
    • How we authenticate the box: Our watchmakers have more than 20 years of experience in working with Cartier (at authorized dealers) and know how the material on the outside and inside of a box feel and even smell. We validate of the box is indeed correct for the period that the watch was sold (27 February 1988). We concluded this box is indeed period correct and shows the correct ageing. Although it is in very good condition.  
    • How we authenticate the internal guarantee papers: we know how the material should feels, which fonts are used and what type of branding is applied to the papers. On this specific papers you see "Cartier" applied in light grey on the paper. In addition we have checked the authenticity of multiple aspects. The stamp used, ageing of the paper, ink and quality of the paper and cover. 

    Full set vintage cartier tank with box and papers reference number 3 66001
    Full set with box and papers. The red outer box carries the watch (top middle). Card and card pouch (middle to left bottom). The international guarantee papers (right bottom).

    Cartier International guarantee papers
    The international guarantee papers with the sold date "27 Feb. 88". The shop stamp (right bottom). The salesmen filled in more than alone the serial number. He added the reference number but forgot the "1" at the end.  

    Step 2: How to authenticate the Cartier Tank serial number

    Serial numbers are used for every Cartier watch and are unique numbers used to track all individual watches. The serial numbers structure changed of the years. But for this specific example we know it is a 5 digit serial number. Only comprising of numbers. It is located on the case back (see image below). The reference number 3 66001 is located at the bottom.

    In case of a full set we perform the following checks:

    • Observe the serial number on the case back at the bottom
    • Check if the correct serial number is also included on the International guarantee papers 
    • We observe the quality of the engraving of the serial number. And whether it is done in accordance with the quality and finishing that is applied by Cartier tools. This is basically shown by the quality of the engraving that can only be concluded by an experienced watchmaker.
    • On the official website of Cartier you can validate your serial number. Unfortunately it doesn't cover watches sold in 1988. As it only covers watches sold with the International Limited Warranty cards (since 2019 at least).

    The serial number of a vintage Cartier Tank from 1988
    The serial number of a vintage Must de Cartier Tank starts with "92". The reference number 3 66001 is included at the bottom.

    Step 3: The Quartz movement

    The movement can be really complex to authenticate. Many forums have photos of very basic movements in vintage Cartier. Something fraudsters often use in fake watches. But back in the days, movements from Cartier were a bit basic as well. Especially the movements before 1970. In 1988 the standards were a bit higher. Engravings were better. Indication of number of jewels used were applied. And the movements were numbered.

    We observed the movement in detail and concluded on the following aspects:

    • Verify if all components are real Cartier parts (by observing quality of finishing, branding, use of fonts, use of correct materials)
    • Make sure the Quartz complications is build up correctly  
    • We also authenticate if the watch carries the correct movement by validating the movement number 66 is engraved
    • Observe the quality of the engravings is correct
    • No dirt or damage to movement parts
    • We also verify if the movement is in good running condition.
    • Observed if the watch was complemented with a Energizer battery (standard at Cartier)

        We provide protection over quality to buyers when buying with Relleb. So if a listings says it is in good running condition, we make sure it really does.

        Movement Cartier Tank 366001
        The Quartz movement with 6 jewels. Number "66" engraved on the top. 


        Step 4: The case and buckle

        The case and buckle are both authenticated when they were dismantled. This provides the opportunity to better observe the glass, condition, damages and incorrect finishing.

        Genuine Cartier watches have the blue stone set in the crown of the watch. This blue stone is called the "blue synthetic spinel". This part of the watch is often replaced and sometimes by a fake part. We always make an authentic blue synthetic spinal is set into the crown. 

        We observe the following in detail:

        • Observing the quality of case and lugs finishing including materials used, the sharpness of the edges, crown and logo's applied on the case back
        • Observing the quality and finishing on the dial including the word "Cartier" incorporated in the roman numeral "X" at ten o'clock.
        • Observing the quality and finishing of the buckle including the pins, material used, finishing applied to the bracelet and text on the inside
        • Observe the condition of the glass and the glue that was used to apply the glass

        With observing the watch, we specifically look if the watch has the high quality standards. Most luxury watches are finished with a high quality. Fake watches cannot achieve these high quality standards and often give away fakes. The better the fake, the more difficult it is to distinguish quality differences. That's why you need an expert to authenticate a watch.

        In this case the seller claimed the battery and glass were renewed. As such we checked this as well during our authentication service. In addition we renewed the pin of the buckle, since that was in poor condition.

        Cartier Tank dial up close
        The dial and case up close. Showing "character" on the case.

        Must de Cartier Tank case back
        The case back with specific engravings highlighted.

        Step 5: Timekeeping testing

        For this quartz movement we use a Quartz Motor Test. This machine will test if the pulse from the battery is still strong enough to drive the time indication. In this case we see the battery is strong and (with our watch) we timed if the watch was accurate on the minutes.

        The Cartier Tank on the quartz motor test
        The Must de Cartier Tank on the quartz motor test

        The conclusion on authenticity and quality

        This watch was sold as a vintage watch, with new glass and a new battery. Based on authentication and quality assessment, we deem this Cartier is authentic and in accordance with the listing. 

        After the authentication and quality report was issued to the buyer, the watch was delivered in person to our customer in the Netherlands.

        Cartier Tank in Box with Relleb tag
        The Cartier watch without it's seatbelt on the road to a happy customer.

        Can you authenticate a Cartier watch on your own?

        If your are a Cartier watchmaker or Cartier expert and have the tools to open the watch and dismantle the bracelet, yes! If you are not, you will not be able to perform certain steps such as

        • Open the case back to observe the movement
        • Dismantle the bracelet to observe the case and buckle
        • You need the experience to conclude if the materials used are correct
        • Determine if the correct Cartier finishing is applied correctly
        • Determine if the cards and box are correct
        • Verify the correct complications and build up of the movement
        • Determine if the ageing of the watch is correct
        • Etcetera

        So our advice would always be to have it authenticated by an experienced Cartier watchmaker.


        Where to buy an authentic vintage Cartier Tank

        Looking to buy an authentic Cartier Tank for the best price? We advise to use luxury watches marketplaces like our Relleb marketplace for private sellers, eBay or Chrono24. And have the watch authenticated by an expert.

        Many certified pre-owned sellers like Chronext or Watchfinder&Co are most of the times far more expensive. They have more overhead costs and service every watch (in our opinion sometimes overservice watches) which adds up to the cost price. But, buying from private sellers bears risks and therefore we always advise to have a Cartier expert or watchmaker help you authenticate a watch. 

        Are Cartier Tank watches waterproof?

        Cartier Tank watches are not waterproof. You can wear them briefly in the rain. But it is recommended not to swim or shower with a Cartier Tank.

        Written by

        Kenny Vaes, watch enthusiast, co-owner of Relleb

        Last updated April 11, 2023

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