Every watch collector or connoisseur usually has one: a grail replica watch.
This deeply horological term comes from the Holy Grail, the vessel from which Jesus drank at the last supper, which was later used to catch his blood when he was crucified. This, the most sought-after Christian relic, is prominent in pop culture, with both Indiana Jones and Monthy Python standing as good examples having fictitiously chased it.
Watch collectors often share the same determination to get their grail luxury replica watches as these fictional characters did onscreen. In general, grail watches have at least one of these two things in common.
They are hard, sometimes even impossible, to find.
They demand a significant financial investment, usually more than you are comfortable spending.
A grail watch can be pretty much anything. But one thing a grail watch always is is personal. Very personal.
Some might dream of a white-dialed Rolex GMT-Master Reference 6542, while others wake up in sweat at the thought of an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Grande Complication. Some may want a current generation Grand Seiko, while others can’t shake the thought of a Svend Andersen made especially for them.
Finding your grail
I was introduced to my personal grail watch by a close friend of mine who had recently treated himself to a new watch.
At the time I had no idea that this would become my grail watch, but when he placed his timepiece in my hands, I felt like time stood still. A warm glow fell over me: I knew I held in my hands true horological perfection!
The watch in question was a luxury copy Louis Cartier Tank. When the generic “Tank watch” is mentioned, this is usually is the version most people think of.
It wasn’t Cartier’s first Tank watch; that honor belongs to the Tank Normale introduced in 1917.
Louis Cartier was so inspired by the non-round concept that he created the Tank bearing his name two years later in 1919. During Cartier’s lifetime many other Tank models followed, each reaching legendary status, yet still never quite as legendary as the original Louis Cartier Tank replica with blue hands.
Rudolph Valentino refused to take off his Tank in 1926 while filming The Sheik, despite the fact that at the time the movie was set, wristwatches didn’t even exist.
Andy Warhol was even so fond of the Louis Cartier Tank that he owned several of them.
Despite the fame of this particular model, Cartier has always been quite conservative with the versions in which the high quality copy Louis Cartier Tank was available: it has only been available as a manual wind in either yellow gold or platinum, one size fits all, for decades.
With the introduction of quartz movements, Cartier also allowed one in the Louis Cartier Tank and even went so far as to add a date.
It was only in 2005 that Cartier introduced the larger Louis Cartier Tank XL, now also available in pink gold, but even in that watch the original “DNA” was closely guarded.
Not all Tanks are created equal
But all those models didn’t matter to me because the moment I had my friend’s Louis Cartier Tank copy for sale in my hand it became my grail watch.
The problem was that this wasn’t just any Louis Cartier Tank, it was a platinum pre-CPCP Louis Cartier Tank.
“CPCP” stands for “Collection Privée Cartier Paris,” a line of high-end watches that was available from 1998 until 2008 containing masterpieces from Cartier’s history like the Santos Dumont, Tortue, Tank Obus, and many more.
Some were released as a limited edition, others in small quantities, and among them was the Louis Cartier Tank in both platinum and yellow gold.
The Louis Cartier Tank I desired so much predated the CPCP collection. To most people, these two would look like one and the same watch; yet to me, they are almost completely different animals.
A pre-CPCP Tank has a cleaner dial as it lacks the word “Paris” written under Cartier. The guilloche pattern on the dial of the pre-CPCP Tank is finer, and the case features marginally thinner brancards (vertical sidebars).
Also, the sapphire cabochon in the crown –Cartier’s emblematic horological element – is pointier.
These may be minor details, yet when it comes to grail watches, especially when it comes to grail watches, minor details make all the difference. Interestingly, although the pre-CPCP Louis Cartier Tank was never a limited edition, the production for the platinum case model was so limited that they are extremely difficult to come by.
That platinum case itself was a problem, too. While a yellow gold Louis Cartier Tank was already really, really stretching my budget, the platinum model was even more expensive – even though it significantly contributed to the understatement of the watch. However, yellow gold simply would not do it for me.
Years passed with this grail watch being exactly what many grail watches are: the stuff of dreams and nothing more.
I didn’t come across another pre-CPCP Louis Cartier Tank replica online in platinum during all that time. Which wouldn’t exactly have made a difference because I wouldn’t have had the funds to buy it anyway.
Then, one day my friend suddenly announced that he would sell his Tank.
After the initial shock, I also saw an opportunity. This was the time for me to make this grail watch mine!
Funds were still an issue, but to overcome this I decided to part with a portion of my existing watch collection. Although painful at the time, it helped me close the gap, and I was able to obtain a watch I thought I would never wear.