For almost all of its watches, Breguet has a strong historical bias. Take for instance the recently introduced Classique 7337 Calendar & Moon and you’ll see that its display is a tribute to a glorious 19th-century pocket watch. Still, one of the brand’s collections is even more about history and commemoration of A.L. Breguet’s talent; the Tradition. This year, Breguet adds a new model, the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597. And you’ll see that adding the simplest of complications isn’t always that simple…
A tribute to souscription watches
Abraham-Louis Breguet was one of the most talented watchmakers of all time, often regarded as a genius of watchmaking. His name is behind multiple innovations that are still in use today (he invented, patented or perfected various mechanisms) such as the anti-shock system, the gongs for the minute repeaters, the Breguet overcoil, the perpetual calendar and, of course, the tourbillon. But while he has created some of the most complicated timepieces, A.L. Breguet was also a savvy businessman and was the first to bring the concept of “branding” to watchmaking – something we explained in this in-depth video.
After having spent two years in Switzerland at the height of the French Revolution, A.L. Breguet came back to Paris in the spring of 1795. In order to develop his business, mostly focused on highly complicated commissioned watches (not so trendy after the Revolution), he needed to attract some new clientele. He came up with the concept of subscription watches in 1796, an early version of mass-production sustained with crowdfunding. The idea was for potential customers to make an initial down payment, or a souscription, to finance the construction of a relatively simple pocket watch with a large diameter, a single hand, a simple movement and a very modest price. This, in turn, would ensure that Breguet could buy the parts and set up a production line to produce batches of the same watch – basically, an early concept of cash-flow management.
The beauty of the subscription watches was their simple movement construction, which Breguet would incorporate in his first tact watches from 1799. This movement is built around a central mainspring with a finger bridge with symmetrical architecture – the balance echoing the centre wheel of the gear train. When the brand introduced its Tradition collection in 2005, the idea was to showcase some of the original components of the movement underneath the dial of Breguet’s souscription watches. However, instead of exhibiting them on the caseback, the bridges, wheels, escapement and barrel were placed on top of the baseplate to be viewed from the dial.
The new Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde
This new model, the 7597, now integrates a quantième… a fancy French word to indicate the presence of a date complication. So, why all the noise for just a date display, you ask? Yes, but wait for it, as it is a bit more complex than adding a date window at 3 o’clock on an automatic ETA movement – thankfully, as we’re talking about Breguet.
The Breguet Tradition collection is home to five different models (and a sixth one in the past, now discontinued, the minute repeater: with the hand-wound; the GMT; the Automatic Retrograde Second; the Chronograph; and the Tourbillon Fusée-and-Chain. For the first time since 2005, Breguet is adding a calendar indication to the collection with this new reference 7597.
The new Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 is actually based on the Automatique Seconde Retrograde 7097, as it shares the same base movement with self-winding mechanism, yet without the retrograde seconds, which have been replaced by a new date function. As such, no major surprises concerning this new watch, which retains all the beloved elements of the past models, such as its beautifully executed and designed movement and that typical antique yet technical look.
The case of this new Tradition 7597 retains the classic proportions of the collection, with a reasonable diameter of 40mm for a height of 12.10mm. Being a Breguet, the caseband is finely fluted with a thin polished bezel that offers an uncluttered view on what really matters, the movement. The case also comprises individually welded lugs, straight and angular, and screw bars at their tips to secure the strap. The case is available either in 18k white gold or in 18k rose gold. With the exception of the colour of the strap and the case’s material (brown or black), both watches are identical.
As usual, the watch wears slightly larger than you’d expect from its 40mm diameter, mostly because of the elongated lugs and the large opening of the bezel. The watch has a certain presence and, despite the antique look of the movement, feels quite striking and technical – a quite fascinating combination of modernity and classicism.
The face of the watch is, like all Tradition watches, a 101 in watchmaking, with all the critical elements of the movement exposed. The time (hours and minutes) is indicated on an off-centred dial, which barely covers the movement. A classic for Breguet, it is made of solid gold with a hand-guilloché clou de Paris pattern. The surface of the dial is silvered and time is displayed thanks to classic Breguet hands in blued steel, with the signature eccentric “moon” tip, pointing to a chapter ring with Roman numerals.
The whole point of the Tradition watches, and this doesn’t change on this new Quantième Rétrograde 7597, is how the movement is built. There is no doubt about its lineage and how it pays tribute to the old souscription watches, with a central barrel flanked by the gear train on the left side and the regulating organ on the right side. Breguet even pushed the concept as far as reproducing the look of the old para-chute device – which in reality hides a modern anti-shock device.
The upper side of the movement features stepped triangular bridges, again an ode to antique calibres, and most surfaces are finished with a hammered decoration, contrasting with the polished edges, screws and countersinks. The plate and bridges are dark coated, while the pieces in motion are rhodium-plated, contributing to the technical look.
The main novelty in the Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 is the addition of a date, which is located between 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock on an arched track. Due to the architectural conception of this movement and its multiple parts, a retrograde date was the best option possible; the complication is unobtrusive and respects the symmetry of the movement. The date can be quickly corrected thanks to a screwed push-button at 10 o’clock. Also, the shape of the centrally mounted date hand, executed in blued steel, is superb. In order to pass over the balance and centre wheel, it has to be shaped by hand before being thermally blued.
The back of the watch reveals the same decoration as the dial side, as well as the central rotor. Its shape echoes the winding mass found on early Perpetuelle pocket watches, however, it now rotates classically on 360 degrees. It is made of solid gold with a bercé (concave) hand-polished surface. Despite being visually old-school, the calibre 505Q relies on modern solutions, such as a reverse in-line lever escapement with silicon horns, as well as a Breguet balance spring also in silicon – both anti-magnetic. Running at a 3Hz frequency, it can store up to 50 hours of power reserve.
Price and availability
The Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 will be available in the permanent collection. The white gold version will be priced at EUR 37,700 and the pink gold model at EUR 36,900.
More details at breguet.com.