Cartier, always a collector’s darling, has mastered the recipe for reinventing its classics while infusing them with just enough edge to maintain relevance within the vide du jour—but that’s still not enough to explain the massive surge in demand for its watches. The past couple of years have proved that the house is competing for wrist real estate with industry heavyweights such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Rolex. According to last year’s annual watch report by Morgan Stanley, Cartier is now the second-largest watch brand globally, based on revenue, behind Rolex. Meanwhile, at auction, prices soared into the seven figures for the Crash and the Cheich (the Tank in a Touareg headscarf), while celebrities from Tyler, the Creator, to Henry Golding to Jeff Goldblum are regularly photographed wearing unusual models.
These kinds of headlines certainly amplify the hyper and mirror the excitement around new releases that are, in fact, rereleases. “The ‘resurgence’ has definitely been led by the spotlight which has recently been shining on the 1960s London watch production, especially the Crash—surely one of the 20th century’s most iconic watches,” says London-based vintage-Cartier dealer Harry Fane. “This spotlight has illuminated just how innovative Cartier always has been as a watchmaker, and this coupled with Cartier reissuing its classic models, has led to renewed interest in the historic watches.” Case in point: the new Tank Normale released earlier this year, which at first appears to be a fairly faithful ode to the 1917 original—except for the versions in platinum (pictured) and 18-karat yellow gold that, for the first time in the Cartier Prive collection, come on matching bracelets. There are also three skeletonized iterations featuring a 24-hour complication, in platinum, 18-karat yellow gold, and platinum and diamonds. All are limited—in editions of 100, 50, or 20, depending on the style—and range in price from $30,150 to $107,000.
Needless to say, if you aren’t already on Cartier’s extra-VIP list, you won’t get one. Even non-limited-production pieces such as the Cartier Baignoire bracelets (an update to the iconic bathtub-shaped models that now come on a bangle instead of a strap) were rumored to have waiting lists ahead of their official drop in June. Looking for an affordable, bargain Normale on the secondary market? You’ve probably also missed the boat.
“Normales out of the 1970s and in good condition are trading anywhere between $18,000 to $20,000,” says Cameron Barr, a Los Angeles-based dealer and founder of Craft & Tailored. “Three or four years ago they were probably $3,000 to $4,000.”