Vintage-inspired watches are part of the industry, and highly coveted for about a decade. But when it comes to evoking the past, you can hardly do better and more historical than the Breguet Tradition. A tribute to Souscription watches of the late 18th century, the Tradition is all about the exposed architecture of its movement. Released in several mechanical variations, the latest model in line was the 2020 Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597, and today the brand releases it in a new colour combination, with a white gold case and a surprisingly bold and modern (at least according to the brand’s standards) blue dial.
While Breguet often takes inspiration from antique pocket watches to create highly recognizable displays for its modern wristwatches, the Tradition collection goes deeper, or at least it goes in a different direction. The Tradition watches, a range born in 2005, are a nod to A.L. Breguet’s souscription pocket watches. Following the French revolution, he needed to create a new business model, with more accessible watches, but also to reinforce the company’s cash flow (not really sexy, but that was the reality behind the concept). He came up with the concept of subscription watches in 1796, an early version of mass-production sustained with crowdfunding. The idea was for potential customers to make an initial down payment, or a souscription, to finance the construction of a relatively simple pocket watch with a large diameter, a single hand, a simple movement and a very modest price. This, in turn, would ensure that Breguet could buy the parts and set up a production line to produce batches of the same watch.
The beauty of the subscription watches was their simple movement construction, which Breguet would incorporate in his first tact watches from 1799. This movement is built around a central mainspring with a finger bridge with symmetrical architecture – the balance echoing the centre wheel of the gear train. When the brand introduced its Tradition collection in 2005, the idea was to showcase some of the original components of the movement underneath the dial of Breguet’s souscription watches. However, instead of exhibiting them on the caseback, the bridges, wheels, escapement and barrel were placed on top of the baseplate to be viewed from the dial.
Following several different watches, such as the hand-wound; the GMT; the Automatic Retrograde Second; the Chronograph; and the Tourbillon Fusée-and-Chain, Breguet released a new model in 2020, equipped with a so-called Quantième… a fancy French word to indicate the presence of a date complication. But Breguet being Breguet, it’s not just about a simple date window. Based on the Automatique Seconde Retrograde 7097, it shares the same base movement with self-winding mechanism, yet without the retrograde seconds, which has been replaced by a new date function, positioned on an arch from 4 to 7 o’clock. What’s new this year is the addition of a blue edition of the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597, which echoes the Seconde Rétrograde 7097 Blue ‘Boutique Edition’ we presented here.
The basics remain the same. An 18k white gold case of 40mm with a height of 12.10mm, shaped in the typical Breguet style, with a polished, thin bezel, finely fluted baseband and individually welded lugs with screw bars at their tips to secure the strap. The watch has sapphire crystals on both ends and is water-resistant to 30 metres (who would like to see this watch underwater anyway…) For the occasion, the watch is worn on a dark blue alligator strap, closed by a pin buckle matching the case.
What changes this year are the colours. The movement retains its anthracite-coated hammered plates and bridges, with contrasting polished bevels, and all wheels and mobile elements are rhodium-plated for a nice contrast. The off-centred guilloche dial, made of solid gold and hand finished on an engine-turning machine, is here presented in blue with silver transfers for the Roman numerals and logos. The open-tipped Breguet hands are also silver-toned. The beautiful date track is also blue, with numerals that alternate between silver-toned powdered transfers and gold cabochons.
While simple at first – a date mechanism is often considered the simplest of complications – the Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 has some mechanical refinement. Due to the architectural conception of this movement and its multiple parts, a retrograde date was the best option possible; the complication is unobtrusive and respects the symmetry of the movement. The date can be quickly corrected thanks to a screwed push-button at 10 o’clock. Also, the shape of the centrally mounted date hand, executed in blued steel, is unique. In order to pass over the balance and centre wheel, it has to be shaped by hand before being thermally blued.
The back reveals the automatic in-house calibre 505Q, with a solid gold rotor that echoes the winding mass found on early Perpetuelle pocket watches, however, it now rotates classically at 360 degrees. The movement is modern, and despite its looks, it features a reverse in-line lever escapement with silicon horns, as well as a Breguet balance spring also in silicon – both anti-magnetic. Running at a 3Hz frequency, it can store up to 50 hours of power reserve.
The Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 Blue Dial (ref. 7597BB/GY/9WU) will be part of the permanent collection and priced at EUR 39,500. For more details, please visit breguet.com.