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What The Vintage UK Best Super Clone Cartier Tank Cintrée Watches Tells Us About The Future Of Restoration

From 1920 until 1960, Cartier produced less than 15,000 perfect Cartier super clone watches. For perspective, it’s estimated Rolex produced its one-millionth watch sometime around 1960 after being founded in 1905; best estimates put Patek production at around 500,000 over the same period.

So vintage cheap UK Cartier replica watches are rare. Really rare. I bring this up because during this spring auction season, we mentioned that it was a bit of an off-season for Cartier, without many of its vintage watches for sale. There was one notable exception: this 1920s platinum high quality super clone Cartier Tank Cintrée watches. In our auction preview, I wrote that this Cintrée just didn’t do it for me in person. As proof that the market very much doesn’t care what I think, the watch ended up selling for CHF 302,400 at Christie’s (about $350,000) off a high estimate of CHF 40,000. Since then, one of the world’s biggest dealers posted the watch, calling it his “best trophy of the auction season.”

Since the significant result seems to suggest my take was so clearly incorrect – which I have no problem admitting, by the way – I thought it was worth exploring this Swiss made Cartier Tank Cintrée fake watches a bit more, and what it means for rarity and restoration in watch collecting today.

As we explained before the auction, the dial of this Cintrée was restored in 1999 by Cartier. When I saw its thumbnail image in the auction catalog, I even thought it was a modern Cartier at first. The dial is a vertically brushed silver, a very modern aesthetic – this isn’t what vintage, ’20s Cartier dials usually looked like. The typical dial of that era was an off-white, which often ages to a beautiful parchment color (mimicked in the 100th anniversary Tank Cintrée). On top of that, the case on this platinum Cintrée was entirely brushed. On most vintage Cintrées, you’ll notice that the elongated brancards are polished, a finish replicated in the modern limited-edition Cintrées. All this made for a Cintrée that, while from 1926, looked like a watch from 1999, when it was taken in for restoration by Cartier.

But, from 1920 through 1960, Cartier made less than 2,000 Tanks. And of those, the Tank Cintrée is the most desirable, with its large, thin, and elongated profile still fitting the taste of modern collectors. Since these were dress Cartier super clone watches for sale and not exactly water-resistant, most dials have been badly damaged or lost to time. In addition to its rarity, this particular example came from the family of the original owner, originally given by the consignor’s uncle in 1926 (in that year, Cartier made just 135 Tanks in all). As I’ve discussed before, collectors nowadays value “fresh-to-market” as much as any attribute. That’s why, despite what I or others might’ve thought of the modern-ish looking restoration, it sold for $350,000.

Because sure, condition might be of utmost importance when you’re evaluating a vintage Rolex or Omega or even Patek Philippe, but remember that those watches numbered in the hundreds of thousands. And Cartier produced just a couple hundred wristwatches a year until the ’60s. This means that any top Cartier copy watches is rare. Condition doesn’t matter as much; whether a restoration is faithful doesn’t matter as much. It’s all about the rarity.

A Few Words On ‘Faithful Restoration’

A few weeks ago, Hodinkee hosted a dinner with Cartier. In attendance was the luxury super clone Cartier Tank Cintrée watches given by actor Fred Astaire to his friend Felix Leach Jr. At some point over the past few decades, Cartier acquired, and eventually, restored this watch. We know this because it first appears in auction catalogs from the ’80s with a damaged dial. But, the restoration of Leach Jr.’s Cintrée stays faithful to the original: the white dial, signature exploded numerals, and polished case flanks are all maintained.

A very similar Tank Cintrée, but in white gold, appeared at Phillips in November 2021, where it sold for about $290,000. Before appearing at auction, it underwent a two-year restoration with Cartier, when it was similarly restored in a way faithful to the original watch. That watch came from a prominent Japanese collector of Cartier, who reached out to me at the time and showed me some before-and-after photos of the restoration, which showed a dial that had been worn with 100 years of weather, water ingress, and everything else. These two vintage Tank Cintrées seem to have undergone a restoration that was more faithful to the original aesthetic of the China Cartier replica watches than the platinum example that sold at Christie’s.

Like many people who love vintage watches, I’ve been taught to value condition and originality. This is why vintage watches have charm, and restoring vintage watches can (supposedly) strip them of this beauty. But as we’ve been rudely reminded recently, restoration is a fact of watch collecting today. The Tank Cintrées we’re talking about here are closing in on their 100th birthday. We can’t rationally expect pristine condition and total originality, especially for these vintage Cartier super clone watches site that are already so rare, and having such expectations can create perverse incentives for dealers and auction houses.

For vintage Rolex, where watches were produced in the hundreds of thousands (and with water resistance actually in mind), top condition is what sets apart a collectible Rolex from the dozens of run-of-the-mill examples you come across every day. With vintage Cartier, this just isn’t the case.

On one hand, it feels weird to me that recently restored watches like this are reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction. There might also be unintended consequences (could this incentivize the purchase of vintage watches in any condition, in hopes of sending it back to the manufacturer for a “faithful restoration?”). It can almost feel similar to best quality Cartier fake watches’ NSO (new special order) program where clients work to customize a new watch. Here, the “customization” is just based on the original watch. The good news for would-be collectors is that this type of manufacturer restoration is easily apparent, unlike the restoration that can occur with condition-focused collecting in the worlds of Rolex, Patek, etc. where a restored watch might simply be held out as “untouched.”

On the other hand, rare is rare, and it doesn’t get much rarer than a ’20s Tank Cintrée. If these Cartier super clone watches paypal are going to continue to exist for another 100 years, most of them need to be restored. My opinion is just that we should recognize the value of a faithful restoration that, literally, restores the beauty of the original watch, and shy away from a restoration that instead takes liberties to match some modern aesthetic or trend. As these old watches age past the status of vintage and into antique, perhaps this is the only way to maintain their original charm.

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