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Treat Yourself: Did You Know You Can Buy Vintage Cartier Watches Online for Under $3,000?

If you’ve ever wanted to own say, a Cartier watch, but its price was too daunting, look for a vintage Cartier watch. They’re every bit as sexy and well made as a new Cartier, but believe it or not, they are affordable. Yes, there are vintage Cartier watches in every price range. However, if you’re determined to snatch a Cartier watch at a wallet-friendly price, now is the time to do it. As Saori Omura, Senior Buyer — Vintage at Hodinkee noted, “We have more people inquiring about vintage Cartier pieces, not just the modern pieces, which I’m excited about.” Omura has been immersed in the world of watches for over ten years and was a director of Antiquorum New York, a luxury watch auction house. For this article, we had her weigh in on the whys and hows of vintage Cartier watches.

Why are vintage watches so popular?

Watches are endlessly fascinating. There’s constant innovation in the design of the basic wristwatch that elevates it to high art. Horologists and watch companies are always looking for ways to elevate style, workmanship, and accuracy of their wares. And yet, there’s a romance and uniqueness to vintage watches. Pocket watches, once a must-have item for every gentleman, are now experiencing a resurgence. Mr Porter created a space where one could buy vintage watches online. Vintage watch styles are being copied for new watches. Here at SPY, we’ve noticed how guys have become just as excited about acquiring a vintage watch as they are about purchasing a brand-new one. The idea of owning a piece of history that can strap onto your wrist is alluring. Couple that with the fact that vintage watches are finite in number; scoring a vintage Cartier watch is an exceptionally cool acquisition. 

How do you learn about vintage Cartier watches?

If you’re intrigued by the idea of owning a vintage Cartier watch but don’t know much about them, Omura suggested picking up a copy of the book Cartier: The Tank Watch Timeless Style by Franco Cologni. This book contains rare photographs and deeply delves into Cartier’s famous watch.  Foundation Haute Horlogerie is a nonprofit organization devoted to expanding knowledge and expertise to both watch buyers and makers. Their site is worth a visit or two to understand the watch world. They also have a complete timeline of Cartier’s watch history. More information can be had by reading and participating in two Reddit subreddits: r/Cartier and r/Watches. Both communities are a mix of noobs and experts, and information flows freely.

cover of the cartier tank watch book by franco cologni
Courtesy of Bigger Books


There are also digital and print publications that specialize in watch collecting; many of them have articles on Cartier’s watch heritage and the brand’s various styles. You can also check out your local museums and auction houses, as they often have watch and clock collections. Reputable watch sellers will sometimes offer free seminars where you can learn more about vintage Cartier watches. Lastly, if there’s a local horological society in your city or town, do check them out for online and in-person classes on watches and watch buying.

When is a Cartier watch considered to be a vintage watch?

Cartier has been creating watches since the early 1900s.  The classic unisex Tank watch was created in 1917. We asked Omura what the rule was for Cartier watches. She stated, “there isn’t an exact cut-off date for a watch to be considered as a vintage, but for a Cartier, watches produced up until the 1980s would be considered as a vintage piece. The pieces from the 1990s and 2000s would be commonly considered ‘neo-vintage.’ ”

Are vintage Cartier watches a good investment?

Some watch collectors purchase items solely for the investment angle, as they’re much less volatile than picking stocks. Others for the thrill of acquisition or their beauty. With a vintage Cartier watch, you have all that going for you. As Omura explained, “vintage Cartier watches have been growing in popularity, and the values have been slowly going up.” Omura continued, “the advantage of investing in a nice vintage Cartier is that the designs have stayed more or less unchanged over the years. So many collectors have enjoyed the longevity of the piece.”

How much is a vintage Cartier watch worth?

Vintage Cartier watches range in price from under a thousand dollars to well over a million dollars. Pricing will depend on rarity, popularity, and desirability. Of course, some models will be higher priced than others. For example, you can find a vintage Le Must de Cartier Tank watch with a leather strap for less than a thousand, to rare models like the circa 1967 Cartier London Crash that recently sold at auction for 1.5 million dollars.

Courtesy of Hodinkee

What vintage Cartier watches are available for purchase?

Out of all the vintage Cartier watches that are available for sale, the most plentiful vintage Cartier watch on the market is the Must de Cartier line of watches. Debuting in the late ‘70s, this is Cartier’s version of an affordable luxury watch. Facing competition from other luxury watch companies creating bridge lines, Cartier tweaked their popular models like the Ronde and Tank. Instead of making a watch with gold or platinum, they used gold vermeil plated over sterling silver. For the watch’s movements, instead of going in-house, they used quartz movements. The original price tag for a Must de Cartier watch was $500; in today’s dollars, that would mean these watches would cost $2616.90 new. Pre-owned Must de Cartier watches range in price anywhere from $500 to over $3000.00. They do get snapped up quickly because, as Omura noted, “many of (these) classic designs are more readily available (than other vintage Cartier watches) and are easier on the wallet.”

This is a new Must de Cartier Tank Watch Courtesy of Cartier

However, you’re not limited to just the Must de Cartier line of vintage watches. Omura stated, “generally speaking, the classic designs tend to hold the most value. For example, the Tank watch has existed for over one hundred years.” She explained,” The designs range from the classic 18k gold Tank to an elongated rectangular design like the Cintrée and a more squarish design like the Chinoise. “Other variations include the Tank Française (squarish face with bold bracelet links, debuted 1996), Tank Américaine (curved water-resistant case, released in 1989), Louis Cartier Tank (hit the market first in 1925, slightly square case, roman numerals), and the Tank Asymétrique also known as the Losange (angled rectangular case, available starting in 1938). “

Another vintage Cartier watch to look out for is the Cartier Santos which is also known as the Santos de Cartier. This first pilot watch, designed in 1904, was named after its owner, Alberto Santos Dumont. It has a square case and comes with either a leather or link bracelet strap.

The Cartier Pasha showed up in the market in 1985. Designed by Gerald Genta, a heavyweight watch designer, this is a bold, sporty watch. It has a distinctive large round case that’s accompanied by an equally bold bracelet. The watch was relaunched in 2020, so there are 35 years of vintage Cartier Pasha watches on the market.

The Ronde or Ronde Louis Cartier watch was born in 1937. As with every Cartier watch, the style is updated to match the tastes of each decade. In the 1980s, the Ronde had a slim 34mm case and was a mechanical hand-wound watch.

How to tell if a vintage Cartier watch is real?

The best way to determine that a vintage Cartier watch is a true Cartier watch is to buy from a trusted seller. Do some research to find a reputable vintage specialist, authorized dealer, or reseller in your neighborhood. Do read any reviews that have been published, and check with any local vintage watch groups in your area. You can always post a question regarding a seller’s veracity in Reddit’s watch subreddit.

According to Omura, a quick way to determine if a Cartier watch is a newish model is if the reference number starts with a letter or letters. Another way to determine whether that watch you’re looking at is authentic is that it should have the phrase “Swiss Made” under the 6, close to the bezel. The case should have screws that work, not an imprint of a screw, but actual screws. The word “Cartier” written only in their immediately identifiable font should be either at the 7 or 10. The case back should have the following written on it: Cartier, SWISS MADE, water resistant, a four-digit model number, and a serial number. If it’s an automatic watch or made from stainless steel, those words should also be engraved on the case back. Cartier watches have some heft to them; if the watch feels light, chances are you’re holding a replica.

How to shop for a vintage Cartier watch

If you’re buying a vintage Cartier watch online from Etsy or eBay, review the seller’s longevity, feedback, and policies. If purchasing a vintage watch from an online reseller or store, read through their purchasing agreements. See if they offer any warranties or guarantees and if they have a replica policy. Cross-check that information with any local watch authorities you may personally know and follow through with questions about them on watch forums.

Understand that some vintage Cartier watches may have leather straps replaced. They can get worn out through use and age. Omura advised that “it’s more desirable for the watch to have retained its original buckle and deployant clasp.” When asked how important it is to have the original interior mechanisms, Omura replied, “for the most part, having all the original parts, the better. However, just like the strap, it’s understood that certain parts of a watch wear over time; so it depends on which parts have been replaced.” And remember, the top three things a shopper should be aware of when purchasing a vintage Cartier watch is “originality, condition, and price.”

You can find reasonably priced vintage Cartier watches on Cartier’s own site, 1st Dibs, Tourneau, eBay, Chrono24,, TheRealReal, and other e-sellers. You can also bid on vintage Cartier watch auctions run by Sotheby’s, Phillip’s, and Christie’s auction houses. The main caveat is that they get snapped up quickly. To stay abreast of watches for sale in your price range, you may want to create alerts (when allowed) on e-commerce sites. At the time of this writing, the below vintage Cartier watches were available for purchase.

burgundy round must de cartier watch and matching leather strap
Courtesy of 1st Dibs


This burgundy Must de Cartier watch was made between 1980-1989. It has a round gold-plated 925 silver case with a burgundy dial and a Bordeaux leather strap. It has quartz movement. The watch shows oxidation, missing plating, and scratches. The case measures 24mm and has a cabochon-cut sapphire on the winding mechanism. It’s numbered 18089292. The listing states that the movement isn’t guaranteed to work.

vintage must de cartier tank watch with original red colored shopping bag, red box and paperwork
Courtesyof Chrono24


This classic Cartier le Must De Cartier Tank Watch dates to 1985. It is pre-owned and in good condition. The case is in good condition. Aside from the strap, all parts are original Cartier. This men’s tank watch has light signs of wear and/or scratches.  It has a quartz movement, and the case is 18K yellow gold electroplated over .925 sterling silver. It comes with its original box, papers, and boutique bag. According to the original paperwork, the watch was purchased on June 15, 1986, in Monte Carlo. There’s a small note that the price is negotiable.

Courtesy of 1st Dibs


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This circa 1980s Cartier tank watch has original everything. The case measures 30 x 23mm. It’s a gold plate on a sterling silver case. It has a quartz movement, a sapphire crown, and a gold satin dial. It comes in a Cartier suede travel pouch. The listing states that the watch is in excellent condition and has to wear consistent with “age and use.” There’s some light scuffing on the back, and the strap does show usage.

Courtesy of Vestaire Collective

$1295.91 $1354.82 4% off

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Circa 1980s, this dress watch is gold vermeil over a silver case. The case measures 30mm and has a champagne-colored dial. The black crocodile-embossed strap is original to the watch. According to the owner, the watch is running, in good condition except for minor scratches, and has a new battery. The folding clasp is partly oxidized.

Courtesy of Etsy


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Made circa 1986, this Cartier Must de Cartier tank watch has 24k gold vermeil over a silver case and a black dial. The strap and clasp have been replaced. It is a working watch. Sold by PacificJewelryCo on Etsy, they have over 800 sales and a five-star rating.

Courtesy of Watchfinder


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This Cartier Tank Francaise watch is semi-vintage, as it was made in 1997. This unisex watch has a stainless steel case and bracelet. It uses quartz movement. Watchfinder offers a 24-month unlimited warranty.

Courtesy of Etsy


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Made in the 1990s, this Must de Cartier watch has 14k gold vermeil over a silver case. It’s using the original quartz movement. The case measures 30mm and has a Dior buckle. Sold by VintagesWatchesEG on Etsy, this watch seller has 135 sales and a five-star rating.


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This vintage Cartier watch is automatic. Made in 1984, it comes with its original box and papers. Watch Rapport offers a money back guarantee and gives buyers 30 days to return watches.

Courtesy of Etsy


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From the 1990s. According to the seller BovidaPR, this vintage Cartier watch has normal wear and tear. Date window at the six. No original box or papers. Etsy provides buyer protection.  BovedaPR has seven sales and a 5-star rating.

Courtesy of Watchfinder


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Has a rare gray dial with gold baton hands. 18K yellow gold octagonal bezel and the bracelet has the double C deployant clasp. Circa 1990s, this automatic watch has a 27mm case and is self-winding. Recently serviced by one of Wanna Buy A Watch’s watchmakers, and a one-year warranty of accurate timekeeping and operation is offered by the company.

Courtesy of Etsy


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While the watch’s age isn’t listed, it looks like the late 1970s to early 1980’s vintage Must de Cartier watch. This seller states that it’s in good working order. It does have minimal wear and dings. This Etsy store has over 728 sales and a five-star rating.

Courtesy of 1st Dibs


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This black-on-black Must de Cartier tank watch dates back to the 1980s. It is in good condition and working. This is a hand-wound, mechanical watch.