At the Heart of Tra­di­tion

At Basel World, Breguet of­fi­cially unveils the Tra­di­tion Sec­onde Rétro­grade 7097, the lat­est time Au­toma­tique piece from its em­blem­atic Tra­di­tion col­lec­tion, which cel­e­brates its 10th an­niver­sary in 2015.

Plaza Watch International - - The Brand Ambassador - WORDS Y-JEAN MUN-DEL­SALLE

When Breguet launched its Tra­di­tion col­lec­tion in 2005 with the 7027 model – the first con­tem­po­rary time­piece to re­veal the move­ment or­gans on top of the main­plate – it was des­tined to en­ter into the an­nals of watch­mak­ing his­tory. Through the ad­di­tion of sub­se­quent mod­els over the years it was el­e­vated to the sta­tus of watch­mak­ing icon that today holds a unique place in the world of haute hor­logerie. The watch’s un­usual ar­chi­tec­ture of­fers wear­ers the op­por­tu­nity to mar­vel at the main move­ment com­po­nents dial-side, and their sym­met­ri­cal lay­out gives the piece a dis­tinct vis­ual iden­tity. Most mod­els in the se­ries show­case a bar­rel placed at the cen­tre, a dial at 12 o’clock with hands di­rectly pow­ered by the bar­rel, a bal­ance wheel and in­ter­me­di­ate wheels form­ing an arc from four to eight o’clock. An­other in­stantly-recog­nis­able fea­ture on many of the Tra­di­tion cre­ations is the pro­tec­tive pare-chute shock-ab­sorb­ing sys­tem in­vented by Abra­ham-Louis Breguet, which firmly po­si­tions the col­lec­tion within the his­tory that in­spired it. The se­ries un­de­ni­ably sym­bol­ises both a re­turn to roots and a for­ward-look­ing brand vi­sion.

De­signed and de­vel­oped in-house, the Tra­di­tion line takes its de­sign cues from the “sub­scrip­tion” watch – fea­tur­ing a rel­a­tively large di­am­e­ter, a sin­gle hand, an enamel dial and a straight­for­ward move­ment that could be pro­duced in large quan­ti­ties – that A.-L. Breguet had pre­sented in 1796 and which he de­scribed in his trea­tise on horology as fol­lows: “The ar­range­ment of the move­ment is such that a devo­tee of me­chan­ics can fol­low all its ef­fects through the open side (…).” Ex­tremely de­sign-for­ward with a highly leg­i­ble dial and a move­ment with the bar­rel in the mid­dle, the think­ing was aes­thetic, func­tional and min­i­mal. A.-L. Breguet had a mar­ket­ing rev­o­lu­tion on his hands with the size­able yet sim­ple sub­scrip­tion watch, the only time­piece that he made in se­ries pro­duc­tion. It was sold on a sub­scrip­tion ba­sis, with a down-pay­ment of a quar­ter of the price when the or­der was placed and the bal­ance paid upon de­liv­ery. Re­li­able and af­ford­able, it proved to be a great suc­cess, at­tract­ing a sig­nif­i­cant new clien­tele. Thanks to this scheme, his work­shops were kept work­ing full-time. Around 700 pieces were pro­duced in to­tal, with gold or sil­ver cases.

A.-L. Breguet then used the cal­i­bre from his sub­scrip­tion watches to make his first tact watches three years later. Known as "the watch for the blind", as it en­abled the wearer to read the time by touch alone, it placed an ar­row­shaped pointer on the out­side of the case to re­pro­duce the po­si­tion of the hour hand and twelve raised marker studs run­ning around the edge of the case. In some in­stances, the time­pieces’ smaller di­als were off­set, which is echoed on the con­tem­po­rary Tra­di­tion mod­els. “Breguet’s watches have al­ways been at

the fore­front of in­no­va­tion and in­ge­nu­ity,” notes a Breguet rep­re­sen­ta­tive. “The brand rep­re­sents a great his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural her­itage, as well as avant­garde tech­nol­ogy. This spe­cial place in Euro­pean cul­tural his­tory is owed to A.-L. Breguet, a prodi­giously in­ven­tive man. Today, we try to pay trib­ute to the brand’s founder and pre­serve this price­less as­set by mak­ing watches that bear Breguet’s DNA.”

Since its in­tro­duc­tion, the Tra­di­tion line has pro­gres­sively grown with the launch of com­pli­ca­tions such as a power-re­serve in­di­ca­tor in the de­but Tra­di­tion 7027 from a decade ago and the Tra­di­tion 7057 in 2010; a tour­bil­lon and fusée and chain trans­mis­sion in the Tra­di­tion Tour­bil­lon Fusée 7047 in 2007; a se­cond time zone func­tion in the Tra­di­tion GMT 7067 in 2012; and now a ret­ro­grade small sec­onds dis­play this year in the fifth piece of the se­ries, along­side the use of ad­vanced ma­te­ri­als such as sil­i­con and ti­ta­nium. From the his­tor­i­cal early 19th-cen­tury No. 960, 1009 and 1576 sub­scrip­tion and tact watches, today we have the lat­est Breguet cre­ation: the Tra­di­tion Au­toma­tique Sec­onde Rétro­grade 7097.

“The idea be­hind the Tra­di­tion 7097 was the same as be­hind all other pieces from the Tra­di­tion col­lec­tion: cre­at­ing a pure Breguet time­piece, with a pure Breguet style,” says a Breguet rep­re­sen­ta­tive. “In de­sign­ing the Tra­di­tion col­lec­tion, the brand’s crafts­men took their in­spi­ra­tion from A.-L. Breguet’s sub­scrip­tion and tact watches. They mod­ernised their ex­tra­or­di­nary ar­chi­tec­ture and in­cluded it for the first time in a con­tem­po­rary time­piece, en­abling watch lovers to ad­mire the com­po­nents of the move­ment above the main­plate. The Tra­di­tion 7097 is a log­i­cal ex­ten­sion of the line and gives an al­ter­na­tive to the man­ual-wind­ing Tra­di­tion time­pieces. The cir­cu­lar-brushed semi-cir­cle in­di­cat­ing the ret­ro­grade sec­onds adds an orig­i­nal and cre­ative touch to the watch.”

The Tra­di­Tion 7097 pays trib­ute to the mech­a­nisms of sub­scrip­tion and tact watches by re­veal­ing the bridges, wheels, es­cape­ment, bar­rel and other parts of the move­ment, which are typ­i­cally hid­den be­neath the base­plate. In full view, the bridges and base­plate are peened by a rare and de­mand­ing dec­o­ra­tive tech­nique to achieve a reg­u­lar and uni­form fin­ish. The time­piece is named af­ter the ret­ro­grade small sec­onds at 10 o’clock, high­lighted by a semi-cir­cle that also makes the other in­di­ca­tions easy to read, which com­ple­ments the hours and min­utes dis­played by Breguet-style open-tipped hands in blued steel on an off­set dial in sil­vered gold at 12 o’clock, em­bel­lished by a hand-worked en­gine-turned hob­nail pat­tern. The fore­run­ner of today’s shock-pro­tec­tion de­vices, in­clud­ing the In­ca­bloc sys­tem, the cel­e­brated pare-chute is lo­cated at four o’clock to main­tain the dial’s sym­me­try.

The Tra­di­tion 7097 is a per­fect ex­am­ple of the tech­ni­cal and aes­thetic ex­cel­lence that Breguet un­com­pro­mis­ingly strives for in the mod­erni­sa­tion of its his­tor­i­cal de­vices. Show­ing off the brand’s lat­est tech­nol­ogy, the self-wind­ing in-house Cal­i­bre 505SR1 with 50-hour power re­serve and 30-me­tre wa­ter-resistance in a 40-mm white gold or rose gold case with fluted case­band houses an in­verted in-line lever es­cape­ment with sil­i­con pal­lets and a Breguet sil­i­con over­coil bal­ance spring guar­an­tee­ing high sta­bil­ity of rate. Its gold wind­ing ro­tor shows clear in­flu­ence from the move­ments of the pe­riod.

Ac­cord­ing to Breguet, “One of the main dif­fi­cul­ties in cre­at­ing a Breguet time­piece is to find the best bal­ance be­tween the brand’s ori­gins and its vi­sion of the fu­ture. When the con­cept of the watch is de­fined, its pro­duc­tion con­sists of hun­dreds of op­er­a­tions to achieve the high­est stan­dard of work­man­ship.” The man­u­fac­ture's ex­per­tise in dif­fer­ent crafts, in­clud­ing guil­lochage, en­grav­ing and bev­el­ling, are in full view in the Tra­di­tion 7097. The move­ment proper has an ad­di­tional finely-grained sur­face treat­ment called “grenail­lage”, fin­ish­ing based on a tech­nique that was used 200 years ago and is re­served for Breguet’s Tra­di­tion col­lec­tion. Of course, today Breguet has de­vel­oped meth­ods for pro­duc­ing grenail­lage that do not rely on mer­cury evap­o­ra­tion.

A Breguet rep­re­sen­ta­tive de­tails the most chal­leng­ing part about cre­at­ing the time­piece: “Breguet’s ap­proach to watch­mak­ing pre­serves the in­di­vid­u­al­ity of each watch in a world of stan­dard­ised prod­ucts. In that sense, the big chal­lenge while cre­at­ing the Tra­di­tion Au­toma­tique Sec­onde Rétro­grade 7097 was to give it a soul, to make it spe­cial and trans­form it into a real ob­ject of de­sire for the per­son who ac­quires it. The ref­er­ence 7097 is a com­pletely uni­sex time­piece. It tar­gets peo­ple look­ing for a watch that is ul­tra-mod­ern and to­tally dif­fer­ent from what we can see today on the mar­ket. It rep­re­sents what Breguet is nowa­days: an amaz­ing com­bi­na­tion of cen­tury-old knowhow and in­no­va­tion.”

“The idea be­hind the Tra­di­tion 7097 was the same as be­hind all other pieces from the Tra­di­tion col­lec­tion: cre­at­ing a pure Breguet time­piece, with a pure Breguet style.”

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