Hands-On Breguet Classique 5157 Review — The One I Want
Sometime during the late 1990s, when I got into watches, Breguet was a brand that I positioned next to Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Söhne, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet. To me, it was clear this was a high-end brand. It seemed the pinnacle of watchmaking, with an amazing history. Today I share my experiences and thoughts on the Breguet Classique 5157.
Now, more than 20 years later, I still think of Breguet to be top-notch when it comes to watchmaking. I only pity that this manufacture has not been able to get the right amount of exposure like Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, and A. Lange & Söhne do. Is Breguet too humble perhaps?
Breguet Classique 5157 Extra-Thin
For a long time, my favorite Breguet watch was the Type XX chronograph model. But as I get older, I noticed I am slightly favoring the classically-styled watches a bit more. Enter the Breguet Classique. Ever since I tried it during our Breguet Manufacture visit, it has been difficult to get it out of my head.
Now, Breguet is well known for its horological inventions. The tourbillon is perhaps the best-known complication from the brand, patented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801. An overview of the brand’s inventions can be found here. But, in all honesty, I like my watches simple. And I don’t dare to call this Breguet Classique 5157 a simple watch, but I love the simplicity of just having two hands (although this one is nice too), and more importantly, no date.
This watch is far from being simple. Take the dial, for example. When I visited Breguet last year, they showed me the workshop where the dials are being worked on. We covered it here in our Breguet manufacture visit report. The room is filled with historical looking equipment, that is used to do the engine turning on Breguet dials. I gave it a try myself, but it requires a lot of training and proper eye-hand coordination. Breguet has been mastering this art of engine-turned guilloché dials since 1786, and it can be found on the Breguet Classique 5157 I have here. A beautiful hobnail pattern for the larger surface of the dial, and a brushed finished chapter ring with Roman numerals.
Breguet uses gold dials that are “silvered” after the guillochage. As you can see in the 2nd picture above, the brushed chapter ring has Breguet engraved twice (above the Breguet logo on the plaque just below the “XII”). These two Breguet engravings are hardly visible when the watch is worn on the wrist. The pictures clearly show it here, because I used a flashlight when doing the shoot. In the past, it was an attempt to fight counterfeits, using a pantograph to have this engraving on the chapter ring.
What I also find interesting is that Breguet indicates the serial number of the watch on the dial. Just above the “VI” on the chapter ring, there’s a separate plaque indicating the unique serial number of the watch. This number can also be found on the case back of the watch.
It is very interesting to see that Breguet uses an hour hand almost as long as the minute hand. The hour hand touches the chapter ring and the minute hand goes all the way to the minute track. Breguet has been using their eccentric “moon” tip hands for more than 200 years (since 1783 to be precise) and has come to know as “Breguet hands”. Amazing how so many of Breguet’s inventions made it to the vocabulary of the watch industry. These blued hands give a great contrast on the silvered gold dial, there can be no misreading of time. Simplicity often appears so easy to achieve, but when you add up all these details of this Breguet Classique 5157, you know it is rather the opposite.
Breguet Caliber 502.3
The beauty of this dress watch does not stop with the dial, hands, and coin case. No, there’s also the extra-thin self-winding movement that makes it possible for the Breguet Classique 5157 to measure only 5.4mm in height. The self-winding caliber 502.3 is a feast for the eyes, with a 22-karat gold off-center rotor. This movement offers a 45-hour power reserve, an operating frequency of 21,600vph, and a flat silicon balance spring.
As you can see, the Breguet caliber 502.3 is beautifully decorated. There’s the guilloche decoration on the rotor, and Côtes de Genève on the bridges, balance cock, and main plate. The movement consists of 140 components in total, including 35 jewels. Obviously, the crown on this watch has only two positions. One is for winding the watch and the second position is for setting and correcting the time.
Strap and buckle
The Breguet Classique 5157 comes on a supple brown alligator leather strap with a rose gold buckle. An unsigned buckle, but with a distinctive design nonetheless. Any 20mm strap will fit this watch, but I have to say that an alligator strap does the job best, in my opinion. If you’re a regular on Fratello and read some of my previous reviews, you know I am not to keen on folding clasps. Meaning I am happy that this watch has an ardillon buckle (in rose gold).
Breguet Classique 5157 on the wrist
The Classique collection contains many models, with and without complications. This reference 5157, introduced in 2005 as a successor to the smaller reference 5130, is the watch with no complications at all. It even lacks a second hand (that would be a reference 5177). You can say it is the most basic version, but it doesn’t feel and sound right to talk about basic versions when it is about Breguet. This reference is not new, but I requested this Breguet Classique 5157 for review because it is on my own radar. I absolutely love the idea of just having two hands, no date, and still being absolutely mesmerized by the watch. Less is more is often used, but if you go in that direction, you really need to make sure that what you deliver is just top-notch.
Small and thin
What I like about this Breguet watch, is that is super comfortable to wear on the wrist. Only 38mm in diameter (lug-to-lug is 44mm) and just 5.4mm in height. I was a bit afraid the watch would be a no go with polos or t-shirts, as it is of course a dress watch. But even when I did wear it without long sleeves, it didn’t bother me at all.
Did this Breguet Classique 5157 live up to my expectations?
At some point, I do need a proper dress watch. In gold, of course. I have a few watches in gold, of which my Omega Globemaster is probably the one that comes closest to being a “dress watch”. But it is relatively thick, and not a dress watch in the purest sense. This Breguet Classique reference 5157 ticks all boxes, as it seems to have everything right — a beautiful (hand)finished dial, a gold case, thin, only two hands, a leather strap with tang-type buckle, and last but not least, a beautiful automatic movement.
One thing I feel less comfortable with is that I think the two-year warranty is a bit low on watches in this price range (€18,400) and from brands of this statue. Where other brands offer 5 years, some as much as 10 years, and some very rare examples, even more, 2 years is the bare minimum anyway according to EU law. This doesn’t only apply to Breguet, but to many more brands in the watch industry.
Sophisticated looking dress watch
For a long time, I felt too young to be owning a Breguet Classique. That was mainly because of the guilloche dials and the coin-edge cases. But after my visit to Breguet, seeing with my own eyes how much the team does in-house and that there’s still so much craftsmanship involved, I really warmed up to the brand’s watches. Being able to try different watches on from their collection, experiencing this extra-thin ref. 5157, I am confident I can pull this off. While Patek Philippe might be the watch with the most recognition at auctions and among “watch investors”, with Vacheron scoring highly for its contemporary designs, and A. Lange & Söhne for its exquisite movement architecture, Breguet is my pick for a very slim and sophisticated looking dress watch.
The only criticism I have is towards the brand Breguet, not this watch. I feel that it should be more out there. The brand should show the world what its got, how good these watches actually are, and why Breguet is such an important name in the watchmaking world. It has been too silent, for too long. More on Breguet Classique watches can be read here and here on Fratello. Specifications of this watch can be found in the chart below.