Breguet honours its founder’s storied patrimony with the Tradition collection. Karishma Tulsidas discovers how its 2015 launches are imbued with Abraham-Louis Breguet’s spirit of innovation.
To call a collection Tradition—described as the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation—is risky business. Not only does it place great responsibility on the shoulders of said collection to live up to high expectations, but it can also imply that the timepieces are archaic relics of the past. For Breguet, however, the word Tradition is laden with meaning: it is a name steeped in the weighty legacy of its founder Abraham-Louis Breguet.
It would be impossible to list here all the traditions that A L Breguet has passed down: he pioneered countless technical breakthroughs, including the creation of the anti-shock pare-chute system that protects the movement from unexpected jolts; he invented the tourbillon as well as the Breguet overcoil on the mainspring. He introduced an elegant stylistic code to watchmaking and decoration, eschewing ornate carvings for a more refined aesthetic, marked by signature elements such as fluted case bands and engine-turned hobnail patterns on the dial.
But his most valued legacy lies in his innovative spirit, and that, we believe, is the tradition of Breguet: transmitting the value of horology and taking it into the future with an inventive approach. Today’s Breguet pays homage to the father of watchmaking, but it soldiers on with a spirit of originality, ingenuity and creativity. This is perhaps best demonstrated in its Tradition collection, which was launched in 2005. It turned heads at that time thanks to its unusual format, where movement components were placed above the mainplate, thus offering an unparalleled view of the ticking mechanism from the dial side.
Tradition bore the principles of the subscription and tact watches crafted by A L Breguet at the turn of the 18th century. Showcasing acute business smarts, he developed reliable, quality subscription pocket watches in 1976 at an affordable price. They had large dials and a single hour hand that cleverly also pointed to five-minute divisions between each hour marker, so the minutes could be estimated. The name “subscription”? Buyers registered to buy them by putting down a deposit, and paid the balance upon delivery.
These watches paved the way for tact watches unveiled in 1799, which had a single external hand that pointed to raised hour indicators around the watch case. The user would be able to feel out the time with his fingertips, without breaking etiquette by looking at his watch in the presence of company. Both watches used the same movement, and these mechanisms are the inspiration for the Tradition line.
While Tradition might have its roots in 18th-century horology with elements that hark back to pocket watches of that period, it is resolutely grounded in 21st-century zeitgeist. Its soul is modern. As 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the Tradition collection, Breguet has launched three new references that duly exhibit the brand’s respect for its founder and his ever-evolving spirit of innovation.
Breaking New Ground
The starting point of the collection is the Tradition Automatique Seconde Rétrograde 7097. Breguet released a similar model in 2006 within a 37mm case, but this one comes in slightly larger 40mm diameter. The timepiece has been rendered in grey and silver tones, with frost-finished anthracite-coated bridges and mainplate, and rhodium-plated components. It is a vision of contemporary panache when paired with a white gold case and a black alligator strap. It’s also available in rose gold.
The escapement and wheels of the movement can be seen in the lower half of the dial, while the upper half features an off-centred hobnail-patterned subdial denoting the hour and minute. Overlapping the subdial is the crescent-shaped retrograde seconds counter, where the hand snaps back to 0 every 60sec. Signature Breguet blue apple-tipped hands are further tributes to the founder, as is the appearance of the pare-chute anti-shock system at 4 o’clock. Yet, the automatic movement features modern elements that allow for greater rate stabilisation, including an inverted lever escapement with silicon pallets and a silicon Breguet overcoil balance spring.
A true reflection of Breguet’s mechanical know-how, the Tradition Chronographe Indépendant 7077 is a vision of technical brilliance: it reinvents the wheel, so to speak, of the ubiquitous chronograph function. It has adopted a system of two going trains, where one transmits power to run the hour and minute, and the other for the chronograph system. The two trains are completely independent of one another, and activating the chronograph does not affect the movement.
Therein lies another key innovation: typical timepieces with chronographs feature two barrels to provide torque to the two functions separately. The Tradition Chronographe Indépendant, however, features one barrel for the hour and minute. To power the chronograph, the watchmaker has devised a solution that nullifies the need for a second barrel that can add to the bulk of the timepiece: when the user activates the chronograph with the press of a pusher, a flexed blade spring transmits power to the function for 20min, allowing him to measure the elapsed time. It conveniently saves the user the trouble of winding a chronograph barrel spring, and releases a constant force of energy that ensures that the rate is even throughout the measurement of time.
The cherry on the Tradition cake this year is the Répétition Minutes Tourbillon 7087. Furthering A L Breguet’s commitment to constantly improve on the fundamentals of horology, the watchmaker has reworked the mechanisms of the minute repeater, a traditionally difficult complication to master. First, the sound: engineers listened to over a 100,000 synthesised sounds to shortlist the two most appropriate ones that were then reworked mechanically. The two gongs—which, incidentally, were yet another A L Breguet contrivance—have been reshaped and resized and are attached to the bezel. To further optimise the sound quality and volume, the hammers strike vertically towards the bezel thus transforming the mechanical vibrations into sound waves.
Moreover, materials have been carefully considered for the timepiece: the baseplate and bridges are in titanium, while the watch is available in either white or rose gold. Titanium produces a sharper tone, while dense gold produces a warm sound. The technical innovations to the timepiece, in particular the minute repeater function, are plentiful, but remain inherently tied to Breguet’s roots, especially with the addition of the tourbillon, another A L Breguet invention.
Breguet has yet another winning trio on its hands, proving that A L Breguet’s spirit lives on its horological endeavours that meld tradition and innovation at one go.