What to love in the finally simple Breguet Classique 7147 (hands-on with specs, availability & price)
Until Baselworld 2016, one of Breguet’s entry-level watches in the Classique collection (which sets apart the Type XX, a pilot-oriented chronograph, somehow very different from the rest of the catalogue) was the reference 5140, a nice automatic watch with superb guilloche dial and several details that made it sufficiently original. This year, the well-established manufacture introduces a new version, under the name Breguet Classique 7147. At first, this new iteration seemed extremely similar to the one it replaces. But don’t be fooled by appearances, there’s a lot to love in this 7147 and more improvements than what you’d expect. Let’s look at it in details.
The Breguet Classique 5140 that is replaced
Entering the world of Breguet (and thus having a part of one of the historically most important brands / manufactures ever) meant for a long period two watches: the ref. 5157 (which is still in the catalogue), an automatic 38mm gold watch with simple hours and minutes display. Very, very classical watch… maybe too classical, if you ask me but also ultra-thin, with a 5.4mm case. For those wanting something a bit more original and more lively, there was the option of the 5140, sharing the same base movement but with the addition of a small second and a different guilloche motif on the dial. Main issue, this watch was larger (40mm) and mainly, it was much thicker (over 10mm). What was enjoyable however was the elegant twist on the dial, with the off-centered small second sub-dial – something that was also the case for the rotor on the movement. Overall, the 5140 was a great watch with one main draw… but this is about to change.
The Breguet Classique 7147, a soft visual evolution
It has to be said, the evolution between the old 5140 and the new Breguet Classique 7147 is minimal, if not close to be inexistent. You have to look at it in the details to spot what has evolved. However, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The 5140 was a very pleasant watch in the end. In the details, the case is roughly the same. The crown is a bit larger, but then again, we’re talking slight evolutions. The hands are identical (of course… you don’t want to get rid of these iconic blued hands), to the exception of the small second hand, with now has a different counterweight. The layout of the dial remains identical, with a central part in “clou de Paris”, a small second a 5h30 and two tracks on the periphery, one for the hours and one for the minutes. Note that the Roman numerals are now a bit slimmer and that the minute track has applied indexes every 5 minutes, in gold (not painted in black anymore). The main difference comes from the central part of the small second counter, as the guillochage has turned 45 degrees. Overall, we’re not going to claim revolution… but it doesn’t matter.
The Breguet Classique 7147, finally Ultra-Thin
One thing was debatable with the old ref. 5140: its thickness. This was was supposed to be a dress watch and having a case measuring 10.80mm was clearly not thin. This was even more blatant when this watch was compared to its time-only sibling, the 5157, which shares the same base automatic movement but with a case measuring only 5.4mm. You can easily argue that a small-second adds some thickness both to the movement (well, this is not completely true) and to the dial, considering that you have to recess the sub-dial (so the dial is thicker) and the minute and hour hands have to go over the second hand, meaning that their axis is placed higher on the dial. But clearly, this means maximum 1mm difference, and not 5.4mm difference (yes the 5140 was the double of the 5157). There was really something not understandable here.
It seems that Breguet heard our thoughts, as the main change from the 5140 to the new Classique 7147 concerns the thickness. And we mean, they made a dramatic change. Not half of a millimeter or even 1 millimeter. No, Breguet removed 5.7mm (!!!) to the case of the older version, to make the 7147 only 6.1mm thin. That’s really a drastic evolution. If Ferrari was removing 300kg from their smallest Berlinetta without changing the engine, imagine the effects on handling and performances. That’s the same here, because Breguet keeps the exact same movement as the 5140, meaning the calibre 502.3 SD. Visually, the watch now has the proportions that its super slim movement required. The consequences on the wrist are of course massive, the Breguet Classique 7147 being now a watch that can easily fit under a shirt’s cuff and gaining a lot in elegance. Of course, some (including me) will argue about a diameter that is a bit too large. 40mm, for such a watch, isn’t small – and add to that the long horns of Breguet.
inside the ultra-thin case of the Classique 7147, the movement now feels right in place. It was a shame to use a 2.4mm thick movement and not to benefit from these proportions… It is now solved. This movement, Calibre 502.3 SD, is in fact based on a 46 years old engine, created by Frederic Piguet in 1970, under the name Calibre 70. First, even if not especially new (to say the least) it still retain all its shine. Such a thickness is still today pretty impressive for an automatic movement. Remember that the thinnest automatic movement to date is 2.35mm (Piaget Calibre 1208P). This old movement, without “cheating” with a micro rotor, is still quite up-to-date, don’t you think? Of course, the movement has been updated since its inception in 1970. First, it has a much nicer finish than before (guilloche rotor, Geneva stripes, polished bevelled angles on the bridges, chamfered wheels’ spokes…) but it also has modern technical solutions, like a free-sprung balance and an antimagnetic silicon spiral – two features that will considerably help timekeeping and reliability. Finally, this movement retains its specific look, with the off-centered 3/4 rotor and the open barrel.
All the DNA of a Breguet in a single watch
This new Breguet Classique 7147 is one of the brand’s entry-level watch, together with the 5157 (no small second version). However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy all the typical features of a Breguet – which certainly are the main reason why you desire such a watch. Of course the new slim case makes it even nicer but the true beauty is in the details:
- the fluted case, in gold. All Breguet watches share fine grooves enhanced with double beading on the case band. The fluted pattern is cold-rolled into the case band then finished by hand on a mechanical workpiece-holder. On this slim watch, this pattern is rather discreet and adds a great elegance to the case
- the typical straight lugs. Screw-pins, rather than the more usual sprung bars, hold the strap between the horns. Lugs are not machined but welded to the case, a more difficult operation.
- the secret signature. On each side of the 12 numeral are two engraved Breguet signatures, only visible when in oblique light (and certainly more difficult to see in real life than on our photos here)
- the Breguet hands. These blued hands with eccentric “moon” tip are now a classic in watchmaking but their invention must be credited to Abraham Louis Breguet (same for the Breguet numerals…). The Breguet Classique 7147 of course features this set of hands
- the engine-turned dial. Solid gold, silver plated dials with several patterns are a hallmark of Breguet and this Classique 7147 of course feature one. It shows 4 different motifs: clou de Paris in the center, stripped squares in the small second, circular graining for the tracks, which are separated by a fourth stippling pattern. These dials are made by hand, and are only achieved by trained craftsmen.
Conclusion about the Breguet Classique 7147
Overall, this watch has to be seen as something else than just an entry-level. Of course, at 21,000 Euros it isn’t cheap but do keep in mind several things. First, it has a great movement, one of the slimmest automatic ones on the market. Then, it is a Breguet and a gold watch, meaning that is has all the typical (and not cheap to produce) features of the brand. Finally, it is now ultra-thin. This watch now has the case that it deserves, with its 6.1mm thickness. As being a Breguet, it has an undoubtable charm, tinted with a sort of outdated look and old-money elegance. This Breguet Classique 7147 doesn’t break the codes but it is clearly a welcomed evolution. Available in 18k pink gold and 18k white gold. In stores in July 2016.
Specifications of the Breguet Classique 7147
- Case: 40mm diameter x 6.1mm height – 18k pink gold or 18k white gold – sapphire crystal on front and back – 30m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre 502.3 SD – automatic – 45h power reserve – 21,600 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, small seconds
- Strap: alligator leather strap with 18k gold pin buckle
- Ref. 7147BR (rose gold) and 7147BB (white gold)
I am very sceptical about those lugs.