If Breguet is renowned for its Classique collection and its pilot’s watch range (Type XX and others), the catalogue also comprises another important collection named La Marine. Not only does it represents the sport(ier) side of the brand – don’t expect bold “Hublotesque” touches, we’re at Breguet – but it is also a link to a lesser-known aspect of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s history, when he was the ‘Horloger de la Marine’, the official supplier of chronometers to France’s Navy. As the new collection is now available, we look back at this third generation, with the rather original Breguet La Marine Alarme Musicale 5547.
Horloger de la Marine
Breguet and marine chronometry are a long story. As early as 1812, Abraham-Louis Breguet sold two marine chronometers to the observatory of Florence. In 1814, he was appointed to the Board of Longitude. During the French Restauration, following the fall of Napoleon, Breguet was appointed as the official watchmaker of the French Royal Navy in 1815 by Louis XVIII, thus becoming the sole supplier of marine Chronometers for France’s navigation at sea. To appreciate the prestige of the title and the importance of the responsibility, one has to keep in mind the vital role that timekeeping played in navigation, and in the development of European powers in this ‘age of discoveries’. Precise chronometers were crucial as they allowed to determine longitude at sea.
In 1840, after Abraham-Louis Breguet’s death, the chronometer 4367 was the first time-measuring instrument to reach the Antartic with the Dumont d’Urville expedition. Up to the mid-20th century, several hundreds of marine chronometers were delivered.
Fast forward to the 1990s when the first modern Marine collection was presented. It was followed by a second generation in 2005. In 2018, Breguet pays tribute to this long lineage and celebrates this legacy with a third generation Marine collection endowing it with a dynamic and contemporary spirit. In fact, the timepieces of this collection follow much of the design of the Marine 5587 Equation Marchante that was introduced in 2017. Three models were presented in 2018: a three-hander, a chronograph, and the ‘Alarme Musicale’ we are reviewing here.
The third generation of the Marine collection: dynamic heritage
With the third generation of the Marine collection, several traditional Breguet elements are combined or reinterpreted with the aim to anchor this heritage and legacy in the present. For instance, the dial is fashioned out of gold and features a new guilloché pattern. Reproducing waves, it is engraved on a rose engine lathe. The applied Roman numerals feature luminescent material. The hands are solid gold. These are inspired by the traditional Breguet hands but have been modernized. The counterweight of the seconds hand is inspired by naval signal flags.
So far, all watches are proposed in three different case materials: pink gold, white gold or titanium. Among other reasons, titanium was chosen by Breguet because of its resistance to corrosion. The case features a central lug. A Breguet signature, the case band is fluted which adds to the richness of the watch. Wave-shaped guards frame the crown emblazoned with the Breguet initial. Last, the security folding clasp is inspired by a ship’s wheel.
The 2 o’clock crown has four positions. It allows winding the watch (the time and chiming mechanism), to set the date and the time. The second crown sets the second time zone and the alarm time. The push button at 7 o’clock activates or deactivates the alarm. A small bell appears in the 12 o’clock window when it is activated. The alarm rings every 12 hours if it is not deactivated.
A practical feature is that the alarm can be stopped and restarted when it is ringing thanks to a smart mechanism driven by a column-wheel.
The Calibre 519/F1
The watch is fitted with the calibre 519/F1. This movement is a joint development (2004) by the two high-end movement manufactures of the Swatch group in the Vallée de Joux: Lemania (now absorbed by Breguet) and Fredéric Piguet (now absorbed by Blancpain).
Operating at 4Hz, the calibre 519/F1 is an alarm movement featuring two barrels, both wound simultaneously via the crown or the unidirectional automatic mechanism. The first barrel powers the time indication and offers a 50-hour power reserve. The other powers the alarm mechanism. As you would expect from Breguet, the finishing is top-notch. The oscillating weight design is inspired by a ship’s wheel and offers an almost unobstructed view of the movement. The bridges are decorated with Geneva stripes. An unusual but superb technique, these are underlined by hand-guilloché lines. Perlage, anglage made by hand or snailing are also applied.
The alarm mechanism
Although quite rare, alarm wristwatches are highly useful. The first alarm wristwatches were crafted by Eterna at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the commercial success for this useful complication really came in the 1940s and 1950s with the Vulcain Cricket and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox.
Despite the name ‘Alarme Musicale’, it does not play a tune like Ref. 7800 La Musicale – instead, a traditional hammer strikes a gong and not directly on the case. But it does sound really nice, specifically in comparison to the rough chime of most mechanical alarm wristwatches.
As mentioned earlier, the energy for the alarm mechanism is stored in a second barrel. It is triggered by the alarm wheel that falls on the hour wheel at the predefined time. The alarm wheel features three holes pierced on different diameters, while the hour wheel features three notches. As the barrel unwinds, it drives the hammer to hit the gong and plate. The column wheel activated by the pusher at 7 o’clock locks or releases the alarm mechanism, and to stop and restart the chime with a simple press.
The Breguet La Marine Alarme Musicale 5547 is completed with either a rubber or an alligator strap secured with a folding buckle. It retails for CHF 27,900 in titanium and CHF 38,900 in gold. For more information, please visit www.breguet.com.