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.
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.”