Les [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Cartier calls a collection of its frightfully expensive baubles. The idea is supposed to be that if you have social aspirations, you mustn't be caught without your must on, even if you aren't wearing another thing.

This may or may not explain why Rudolf Nureyev, as Rudolph Valentino is romping around with a lady on a tigerskin in the new film - Valentino" stark naked except for (1) his kefiah, the desert headdress and (2) his Cartier tank watch, which retails for $1.280.

In a poster advertising the film the great lover is shown eyeballing his prey at, according to his watch, the magic hour of just before midnight. (However, it is possible that it's noontime, and the couple is on their lunch break.)

This poster was in circulation until two months ago, when someone from United Artists, the film's distributor, spotted the watch. Since then, the great lover has had his entire wrist amputated in theposter, along with the watch and he holds his lady-love's head with a free-floating hand. The second poster is bein advertised as "a collector's item," available for $2.50 plus 75 cents handling charges but discriminating collectors might want to hold out for the earlier version.

The quick surgery job indicates that the film distributors regarded the presence of the watch as a whoops - hey, you forgot to take off your watch when you took off your pants, lover.

However, they are now stoutly maintaining that it is "not ananachronism." United Artists' director of publicity, Bill Werneth, calls the watch "historically accurate," forit is just possible that Rudolph Valentino may have worn a Cartier tank watch while at his labors.

The watch was designed by Louis Cartier in 1817 to honor the American Tank Corps of World War I. It was said Barbara Ajmone-Marsan of Cartier, one of the carliest wristwatches (the very carliest being Cartier's Santos watch in 1911) and therefore it would seem logical that a movie star of that time would wear one.

Even then, it was nothing to be thrown away on the kind of people who drive tanks. Made of 18 karat gold with a sapphire stem, it costs $980 with a plain lizards trap; but Cartier adds $300 for a deployant buckle (snaps shut and the $1.280 price is the one usually paid, she said.

For a while, Cartier did a cheaper version $225 in gold plate, but this is being "phased out," the current Cartier offering for cheapskates in a tank watch with a color-lacquer face - coral, ivory, onyx, tortoise or lapis - for $350.

As a matter of fact, you can find tank-type watches in practically any price range since there was a boom in their use as a status symbol about three cars ago.

Perhaps we can assume that a superstar has a solid gold, snap-shut version. This does not explainwhether Nureyev is wearing it because he is:

Status conscious.

Careful to be historically accurate.

Anxious tobe historically accurate.

Anxious to knock off work on time.