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A Collector’s Guide To Vintage UK Perfect 1970s Super Clone Cartier Watches

The year 1972 marked a pivotal moment in Cartier’s history. First, a group of investors acquired Cartier Paris, soon followed by the acquisition of the Cartier branches in New York and London. This consolidation united the three separate houses after they’d been split up following Pierre Cartier’s death, setting the stage for Cartier’s growth.

The second significant development was Cartier’s partnership with Ebel to move its watch production to La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Before then, 1:1 Swiss Cartier super clone watches had been produced in Paris (or London) using Swiss movements. While production continued in Paris in limited numbers through the ’70s, with Ebel, Cartier had set up in Switzerland to begin producing more watches than ever before.

This began in 1973 when Cartier released its first true historical collection, the Louis Cartier Collection. It started as a collection of 12 perfect Cartier replica watches that brought designs from Cartier’s golden years into serial production – like the Tank and Santos-Dumont – while also introducing new designs such as the Cristallor, Ellipse, and Coussin.

Even though Cartier is one of the most popular watch brands in the world – the second biggest in 2023, if the annual Morgan Stanley report on the Swiss watch industry is to be believed – there is still much less documentation and information readily available compared to brands like Rolex or Patek. While pre-1970s top UK super clone Cartier watches remain extremely rare, the increased production of the 1970s brought reference and serial numbers that are easier to understand, document, and collect.

This Collector’s Guide consolidates some of this information so you can begin to better understand 1970s models, dials, and even production numbers. I hope to follow it up with additional information on some of the more popular models in the future.

In this article, I start with general information on 1970s Cartier, and then dive specifically into the most popular model, the Tank Louis ref. 78086.

1970s Cartier Models And Production Numbers

Buoyed by its new partnership with Ebel, Cartier did something ambitious in 1973: It released 12 new high quality Cartier fake watches as part of the Louis Cartier Collection. All had gold cases, simple white enamel dials with Roman numerals, epée hands, and manual-wind ETA calibers signed for Cartier. While Cartier would go on to add additional models to the collection through the decade, these core features stayed, mostly, the same.

Instead, Cartier experimented with one thing: shapes. These were the 12 models of the original 1973 L.C. Collection, all defined by their unique contours:

    Baignoire (ref. 78094)

    Ceinture (ref. 78099)

    Coussin (ref. 78102)

    Cristallor (ref. 78096)

    Ellipse (ref. 78091)

    Faberge (ref. 78101)

    Gondolo (ref. 97050)

    Santos-Dumont (ref. 78097)

    Square (ref. 97051)

    Tank Louis (ref. 78086)

    Tank Normale (ref. 78092)

    Vendome (ref. 78090)

Some of these models had a large (“LM”) and small model (“SM”), while others, like the Baignoire, did not. For those with both, I’ve included only the LM reference above. Thanks to Matt Takata, aka @cartier_chronicles, for this information, which is also supported by period advertisements in Europa Star (I love their archive).

Each model has a five-digit reference number engraved on the bottom caseback. The serial number is engraved immediately after the reference. Sometimes, you’ll also see a hand-engraved stock number below the reference and serial, which would’ve been specific to the local Cartier branch where the AAA China super clone Cartier watches was sold. The serials for each reference are sequential (e.g., 0001–10,000), which means production numbers can be estimated if you document enough examples of a given reference.

For example, I’ve estimated luxury online super clone Cartier Tank Louis watches (ref. 78086) production at 15,000 (i.e., I’ve documented serial numbers up to 14,xxx). I assume the Tank Louis is the most common model because, well, it’s The Tank. Meanwhile, others have estimated production of the Coussin “Bamboo” at just 250 examples, presuming it to be the rarest (or most obscure) of the bunch.

The caseback will also be stamped with gold hallmarks, though these have sometimes been polished away over the years.

After 1973, Cartier continued to experiment and add different models and shapes to the collection, including the Tortue and other Tank variations. But they maintained the formula established in 1973.

Cartier produced the vast majority of these Swiss made Cartier copy watches in yellow gold but also made some in white gold. For example, less than 10 percent of the Tank Louis examples I’ve documented are white gold; interestingly, all are also clustered in a few tight serial ranges.

1970s Cartier Dials

In general, there are three generations of dials for these ’70s-era Cartiers. With other brands, these are often referred to as “marks,” so let’s do the same for Cartier. They’re as follows, chronologically:

    Mark 1: Defined by a wide, flat “A” in the Cartier signature and no hidden signature in the numerals;

    Mark 2: Defined by a pointy “A” in Cartier and no hidden signature;

    Mark 3: Defined by a flat-top “A” in Cartier and a hidden signature, typically within 7 o’clock.

Not every reference will have all of these dial types, and some can have additional variations within these marks. For example, I’ve only seen Tortues with later Mark 3 dials, which suggests the model wasn’t introduced until the late ’70s. Again, Matt Takata (@cartier_chronicles), was the first person I saw to begin publicly documenting these dial types, and I thank him for his help here.

At 6 o’clock, every dial will be signed “Swiss” or “Paris.” Dials signed Swiss were sold through the Cartier New York branch; Paris dials were sold through London and Paris. Service dials are signed “Swiss Made.” A common misconception I see is that Paris dials are either rarer or more valuable, perhaps just because we romanticize Cartier as a Parisian purveyor of luxury goods. In reality, there’s no difference in the dials. In fact, in the couple of models I’ve studied somewhat closely – the Tank Louis and the Tortue – Paris dials seem to slightly outnumber Swiss dials.

For me, the much more interesting distinction is between these Mark 1, 2, and 3 dials. Mark 1 dials are significantly rarer than Marks 2 and 3. The Cartier signature and style maintain some of the hallmarks of earlier Paris-made luxury super clone Cartier watches, giving the dial a charm all its own. To give just a peek at their rarity: I’ve documented a few hundred Tank Louis examples, and have seen only a few Mark 1 dials. Meanwhile, Mark 2 dials even outnumber Mark 3 dials, roughly 2:1. I assume that many of these early dials have been replaced with service dials over the years, as the enamel is prone to cracking.

Cartier Calibers

The movements are not the selling point of these ’70s Cartiers. Inside most are simple manual wind, ETA movements signed by Cartier. Typically, it’s the Cartier caliber 78-1, which is actually just Cartier’s version of an ETA 2512. It’s a reliable, if boring movement. For some models, like the Tank “Jumbo,” Cartier ref. 17002 used an automatic movement.

The Full Set

You don’t see a ton of these 1970s Cartiers that still have their full set with box, papers, and original warranty card. For example, less than 10 percent of the Tank Louis examples I’ve seen still had their box and papers. The set is lovely, a token of the luxury of old: the red Cartier box is probably the size of two iPhone packages stacked together, with gold-colored trim and detailing. The papers, certificate, and warranty card are all in matching red.

Originally, these replica Cartier watches wholesale were typically delivered on one of a few different styles of leather straps, stamped “Cartier Paris” on the inside, along with a matching gold deployant clasp. It’s a rare treat to find one with a Cartier beads-of-rice bracelet.

After The Fact

Production of many of these original 1970s models continued into the mid-1980s. Then, Cartier began transitioning to its next generation of watchmaking. Cartier moved away from ETA calibers to use Frederic Piguet movements, most often the manual ultra-thin FP caliber 21. While some of the shapes from the 1970s stayed, they received new reference numbers, movements, and often became even slimmer. For example, the Tank Louis ref. 96065 replaced the 78086, eventually swapping the enamel dial for a guilloche treatment. It’s also called the extra plat (extra flat) because the use of the thin FP caliber allowed the case to be even slimmer. Some of these models laid the foundation for the CPCP that Cartier produced from 1998 through 2008.

Putting It Into Practice: The Tank Louis (ref. 78086)

Now that we’ve covered the basics of 1970s cheap Cartier super clone watches, let’s look at a specific reference: the Cartier Tank Louis ref. 78086. As mentioned, I’ve documented a few hundred examples that have sold via auction, dealers, and marketplaces like Chrono24 to arrive at this information. I won’t claim any of it is definitive, as new watches can always be discovered.

The Tank Louis ref. 78086 is the quintessential Cartier Tank that you probably know and recognize. It has a thin rectangular gold case measuring 23x30mm, usually on a leather strap, and it’s powered by a manual wind movement that’s wound with a blue cabochon crown.

Tank Louis Dials

Since Cartier introduced the Tank Louis in 1973 and produced it through the ’80s until it was replaced by a new reference, it has the three dial types discussed above:

    Mark 1: Wide A, no secret signature

    Mark 2: Pointy A, no secret signature

    Mark 3: Flat A, secret signature at 7 o’clock

In general, you can think of these as listed from earliest to latest.

But, for now, it’s difficult to define even broad serial number ranges for each dial type. There is so much overlap in the serial numbers these dials can be found in, specifically for Marks 2 and 3, that I wouldn’t doubt if the two were being produced side-by-side for a time.

Early Mark 1 dials are by far the rarest. I’ve seen only a handful, all with three-digit serial numbers. I really like these dials because they resemble the printing you’ll see on ’60s Tanks.

Mark 2 dials appear beginning in serial numbers in the hundreds – I have documented Mark 2 dials with serials before Mark 1 dials – and as high as 6xxx serials.

Mark 3 dials can be seen in serial numbers as low as 1xxx, but they become much more common in the 6xxx–7xxx range. It’s possible these earlier examples with Mark 3 dials are original, but I also wonder if they were swapped or serviced at some point instead and not original to the best quality Cartier fake watches.

Crown Types

Like dial types, there are also three types of cabochon crowns seen on the Tank Louis:

    Type 1: Tall crown, pointy end

    Type 2: Short crown, pointy end

    Type 3: Stubby crown, rounded end

Each type meets the case via a knurled base to make for easier winding. Again, in general, you can think of these types as listed from earlier to later.

Type 1 cabochon crowns are the tallest, coming to a long point at the end. They can be observed from the start of production and remain somewhat common through the 6xxx–7xxx serial range.

Type 2 crowns are noticeably shorter than Type 1, but still come to a point at the end. While these are also observed in low serial numbers, they become the more common crown type in the 7xxx–8xxx serial range.

Finally, Type 3 crowns are shorter than the first two types, and are rounded at the end, not pointed. These are, mostly, seen in serial numbers from 10,xxx–14,xxx.

While the three seem to be roughly equally common, I consider the tall crown to be the most desirable. I’d guess this was the earliest crown type, and many original tall crowns were lost and replaced over the years since that cabochon that sticks out so rudely could’ve chipped quite easily.

Case & Hallmarks

Like all 1970s Cartier super clone watches shop, most Tank LCs were made in yellow gold, but Cartier also made few examples in white gold. Less than 10 percent of the examples I’ve documented are white gold, and they all have serial numbers that put them in the first half of production. Interestingly, of those I’ve seen with complete serials, they all seem clustered in a few tight serial ranges. This is common in vintage watches and suggests the cases may have been produced in batches.

Since they’re so much rarer, and because people perceive white gold as more subtle and easy to wear, these white gold Tanks are about 2x the price of a yellow gold example, and that’s if you can find one. While you can find a yellow gold Tank LC every day of the week and twice on Sunday, you might only see a few of white gold examples pop up publicly in an entire year.

Over the years, the cases of most of these vintage Tank Louis have been polished. Honestly, it can be hard to tell just by looking at the lines of the case profile since the LC already has a rounded, polished profile. But there are also hallmarks present on the case which can help in evaluating condition:

    First, you’ll see a couple of hallmarks stamped somewhere on the caseback;

    Then, there’s a hallmark on the midcase, right under the crown. This second hallmark is often gone or barely visible because the case has been polished.

It’s nice to find a sharp case with hallmarks still visible or even untouched, but I don’t think it’s quite as big of an issue as compared to vintage Rolex sports watches, where cases can lose much of their sharp edges and bevels after a couple of polishes.

A Note On Other Tanks

Alongside the LM Tank Louis, Cartier also produced the small-size Tank Louis ref. 78087, which measured 21x28mm. Except for mentioning it, I won’t talk about it any further – I once owned a small-size Tank and got rid of it in about a week. It was just too small, even for me. In the mid-’70s, Cartier also introduced the Tank Automatique ref. 17002, a larger Tank Louis with an automatic ETA movement. While it’s also called the “Jumbo,” I actually find it quite wearable at 28 x 35mm (roughly the size of the modern “Large” Tank).

Cartier also made other Tanks in the ’70s, including the Reverso, Arrondie, and Stepped Tank, but we’ll leave those for another day.

Collecting The Tank Louis And 1970s Cartier

Today, a Tank Louis 78086 can be found for anywhere from $6,500 to $10,000, give or take, depending on condition. These aren’t rare China replica Cartier watches – search the internet right now and you can find at least a few available – but it’s best to hold out for one in good condition. That means no cracks or serious spotting on the enamel dial, a case that hasn’t been chewed up or polished to death, and hopefully, one where the pieces all “make sense” together.

For me, the most desirable Tank LCs are those with Mark 1 dials and long Type 1 crowns. Mark 1 dials in particular are very rare and I think they deserve to command a premium over the later dials. I don’t pay attention to the “Swiss” or “Paris” signature at 6 o’clock – one shouldn’t demand a premium over the other.

Beyond that, collectors are still learning about this era, and all periods, of vintage Cartier. So many of these Cartier super clone watches site still pop up from original owners or estates, often in unexpected places. They have cool engravings and stories, the type of stuff that becomes less common every day in the collecting world.

Earlier this year, I was an underbidder on a little Cartier Vendome from the estate of Neile Adams McQueen, the once-wife of Steve McQueen. It was engraved on the back, indicating it was a gift to her second husband on their wedding day in 1980. I thought it would’ve been a fun, if slightly attenuated, connection to one of the biggest actors of his day, who also happens to mean a lot to the world of watch collecting.

I mention this to illustrate that, in the world of vintage Cartier, watches like this are still waiting to be discovered, though they’re not easy to find. And the fun thing about vintage Cartier is that there’s something for pretty much everyone. Happy hunting, and I hope this Collector’s Guide helps your search, even a little bit.

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