The Wonders Of Breguet’s Bare-Faced Tradition Collection
It used to be that if you were a watch enthusiast and wanted a peek at the engine of your mechanical timepiece, you’d have to bring it to a watchmaker who could competently pop the hood.
Then came sapphire casebacks, which made the effort a little less onerous.
THEN BREGUET CAME ALONG…
In 2005, Breguet’s Tradition 7027 went a step further by brazenly displaying its movement parts above the mainplate. It was one of the first contemporary timepieces to reveal this exhibitionist streak, and it meant that for the first time, watch buffs could gaze at their horologe’s mechanical innards from the dial side.
AND IT GETS BETTER
Today, the Tradition has evolved into a full-fledged collection with seven models encompassing such complications as a power reserve indicator (model 7057), second time zone function (model 7067), fusée and chain transmission (model 7047) and, of course, a tourbillon (also on the 7047).
Also, avant-garde materials such as silicon and titanium have found their way into the mix. This has become a signature of the line: a heady blend of cutting-edge watchmaking technology and Abraham-Louis Breguet’s emblematic inventions – his pare-chute shock resistant system, overcoil hairspring, pomme hands, engine-turned guilloche dial and coin-edge case.
THE NEW GUYS
At BaselWorld 2015, three new models joined the Tradition family, extending the kinfolk’s list of complications and world-firsts – the 7097 with a retrograde small seconds; the 7077 chronograph; and the 7087 minute repeater.
…FEATURING A HISTORIC NOD
First up, the 7097 (full name: Tradition Automatique Seconde Rétrograde 7097). This watch takes its cues from A.-L. Breguet’s ‘subscription’ watches of the late 18th century.
Those one-handed wonders were fitted with basic calibres and sold on a subscription basis, with buyers stumping up a 25 per cent down payment and the balance on delivery. (This system gave Breguet a needed influx of cash to fund his watchmaking endeavours.) The 7097 is significant as it’s the first Tradition watch with a small seconds indication. It’s housed in a 40mm white gold case.
…A SOUPED-UP CHRONO
The 7077, or Tradition Chronographe Indépendant, turned out to be one of the stars of BaselWorld 2015 for the unique operation of its chronograph, for which several patents have been filed.
It boasts two separate trains, one for the hours and minutes that’s regulated by a 3Hz balance, and the other for the chronograph, which has a 5Hz balance for more precise measurements.
The latter train has been shaped in such a way that it’s able to transmit constant torque to the chronograph. In most cases, a second train would imply a second barrel, but here, the energy required to fire up the chronograph comes from a flexed blade spring that’s armed whenever the wearer zeroes the mechanism. This leaves the barrel free to supply energy only to the timekeeping train.
Look closely and you’ll notice the absence of a column-wheel; the watch employs an updated version of Breguet’s chronograph control, first used in his Ref. 4009 double-second observation timer of 1825. The watch is cased in a 44mm white gold chassis.
…AND A CHIMING WONDER
If you thought the 7077 was technically impressive, the 7087 (Tradition Répétition Minutes Tourbillon) will take your breath away.
At first glance, you’ll notice the unusual geometry of the hammers and gongs. The hammers strike the gongs in a vertical position, while the gong springs (invented by Breguet himself in 1783) have been modified and attached to the bezel. Both are aimed at improving sound quality, as is the use of a membrane in the caseback, a technique first wielded in the Classique La Musicale 7800 watch.
Another technical highlight is the ‘magnetic governor’. A patented system consisting of silver weights passing beneath magnets and slowed down by magnetic fields, it helps to maintain the repeater strikes at a steady rhythm. Housed in a 44mm white or rose gold case, the watch is regulated by a tourbillon with a Breguet silicon spring, an invention increasingly being used across the brand’s portfolio.
TRADITION FOR INNOVATION
When the Tradition was launched in 2005, the debut model 7027 highlighted one of Breguet’s most important creations: the pare-chute, a device designed to shield the balance pivots from impacts and the forerunner of all modern shock absorbers, such as Incabloc.
In the decade since, the Tradition has made its own impact on contemporary horology, influencing other marques to lay bare their movement assemblies – and not just for aesthetic reasons, but also to lend legitimacy and transparency to their watchmaking enterprises. In opening up its watches, Breguet has also, perhaps unwittingly, opened up new avenues for contemporary horology.
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