We often think that having a long history and a rich heritage guarantees success in the modern world of wristwatches. But as powerful a position as such attributes may provide, there is still work to be done. If Spiderman taught us one thing, it’s that with great power comes great responsibility. And being the custodian of a history as peerless as Breguet’s is surely a huge responsibility. I caught up with Team Breguet to find out how the new Breguet Tradition 7597 is keeping things fresh for a modern audience interested in the brand’s past.

The new Tradition collection was launched in 2005. The models that populate this collection are heavily inspired by the watches made by Breguet towards the end of the 18th century. This aesthetic has been central to the range ever since it debuted. But the question that must surely be asked is how is that history still relevant today? What do watches from more than 200 years ago have that a modern audience might desire? As it turns out, the answer is, “quite a bit.”

Breguet’s eyes were turned outward on the societal mood of the day.

I learned something on this call. I hadn’t realized how Breguet, a man I regarded as having dealings with the upper classes and upper classes alone, was so in touch with the mood of his time. It was easy for me to imagine him, the grandfather of watchmaking, working away in solitude, creating products that only kings, queens, and their most affluent courtiers would wear. But it seems Breguet’s eyes were turned outward on the societal mood of the day. The desire to create something that appealed to a broader demographic gave rise to the models that have since inspired the Tradition collection.


A revolution

Following the French Revolution, Breguet became concerned that he wasn’t producing the right kind of watches for a new and rapidly changing market. His work had been typified by opulence and extravagance. Complications that wow us today must have seemed downright otherworldly in those times. And yet he wanted to reach out to humbler (albeit still moneyed) group with his new output.

…the key tenets of Breguet’s revised outlook.

He thought that placing practicality front and center would appeal to this new and burgeoning demographic. Robust, reliable, and relatable — those were the key tenets of Breguet’s revised outlook. The watches upon which the Tradition collection is based were, for him at least, “simple”. These products emphasized the execution rather than embellishment. It was a strategy he hoped would seduce a new clientele following the French revolution.


How do we know this? Thanks to the meticulous record-keeping undertaking by Emmanuel Breguet — the seventh generation descendant of the man himself — we can browse the brand’s history at our leisure. Emmanuel is the creator and curator of the Breguet museum in Paris. Located on the famous Place Vendôme. The frankly stunning archive is situated on the first floor of the building. Meanwhile, the ground floor plays host to the Breguet boutique.


Secret signature

Around the time of the Revolution, the name of Breguet was established. In fact, it was so popular, so too was counterfeiting. It was said in those days that, “It is astonishing to see the quantity of watches circulating under Breguet name, yet barely one in a thousand is actually made by him.” Consequently, Breguet developed a “secret signature”. He applied this signature to his watches to prove their genuineness. This feature is retained on many of Breguet’s modern pieces and, in the case of the Tradition 7597, can be seen clearly (and not so secretly) on the solid 18-Karat white gold rotor weight, visible through the sapphire display back of the piece.


Moving with the times

When you look at the modern-day Breguet Manufacture in Vallée de Joux it would be easy to assume it is populated by robots and sterile production lines. But that is far from the truth. The modern exterior shields the painstaking preservation of old school hand skills from prying eyes. Engraving, anglage, black polishing, blueing, and countless other skills are taught and practiced within its walls. There is even a whole room dedicated to the engine turning that frequently decorates Breguet’s dials.

…for something as complex as the Tradition collection, it was not so simple.

Key to the Tradition collection is its constant evolution, and how it manages to stay true to the past with an eye on the future. Previously, there was no date complication available. Such a complication may be simple enough to integrate on entry-level models, but for something as complex as the Tradition collection, it was not so simple. Especially not with this open-worked dial-side layout.

The Breguet Tradition 7597 sees a date complication enter the Tradition collection for the first time. The key feature of this retrograde masterpiece? A complicated blued steel hand that is bent in several places so it is able to swoop over the visible mechanics.


Luxury through and through

No expense has been spared in the design and realization of this complication. The fact it is a retrograde (as in it snaps back from 31 to 1 rather than completing a full rotation of the dial) should have been enough. But thanks to the three-dimensional display of the Tradition collection, such a “simple” solution was not possible. In order for the blued date hand to miss the mechanics, it needs to be bent in several places using a special machine. Additionally, it must be fitted perfectly flat. It is so long that even the slightest error during hand fitting could cause it to collide with the proud components and interrupt operation.

The date-sector that runs around the lower half of the dial is made from gold, with every even-numbered date represented by a polished gold stud. While the case of the Breguet Tradition 7597 is available in both white and rose gold, the date-sector remains the same.


Belle vue

Looking through the case back we can see the electro-plated anthracite bridges. The oscillating weight is engraved with perhaps the least “secret” of Breguet’s secret signature. But it looks fantastic regardless. Its unusual shape is inspired by the rudimentary oscillating weights found in some very exclusive pocket watches of Breguet’s time.

The movement comprises 269 components, 45 of which are jewels. With so many lusciously created components to choose from you might be surprised to learn that my favorite was the humble date finger responsible for kicking-over the date hand from one day to the next.

Shocks or counterclockwise setting place no stress on the components.

What is interesting about this finger is that it is “flexible”. A boot-shaped tip is connected to a perfectly tensioned spring. This spring is designed to slip back over the date-change pinion leaves so you can turn the hands back past 12 to reload the date mechanism without damaging the leaves. Shocks or counterclockwise setting place no stress on the components. However, the quick-set date (operated by the screw-down pusher at 10 o’clock) should not be used between the hours of 9 pm and 2 am.


How does it work?

A 12-hour wheel rotates the 24 hr wheel underneath which a flexible date finger made of steel, engages with the date-change pinion, and advances the cam wheel (which is responsible for the retrograde function when it comes to the end of the month).

…throwing the retrograde cam into the mix does complicate matters …

I was impressed with yet another novel take on solving some of the date change “issues” many lower-end calibers run into (as I always am when we see brands undertaking this task). We’ve seen smaller brands like NOMOS Glashütte tackle the problem in recent years with its DUW 6101 caliber. But throwing the retrograde cam into the mix does complicate matters further in the case of the Breguet Tradition 7597.


A thoroughly modern movement

I’m always interested in how long this kind of development takes. As such, I asked Claudio Cavaliere head of the Breguet Product Management team to shed some light on it.

“To develop a new complication like this you start with an existing movement. That way, you can make changes to an established system that works to see what makes sense and what doesn’t. In terms of the idea and its realization, it took about two years. It isn’t so much constant effort — more of an organic development process. We come up with an idea and we work on it now and then when new solutions arise.”

There is something else I find interesting about the Tradition collection. The brand is willing to integrate new, more avant-garde technologies with such a classical aesthetic. For example, the balance wheel and pallet fork (although not the whole pallet frame) are made from silicon. It’s a heady mix of old and new wrapped up in a very attractive aesthetic package.


Something special

The pricing of the new Breguet Tradition 7597 sits between the 7097 retrograde seconds model and the more expensive GMT. You’ll need to find CHF 36,900 for the rose gold model. The white gold model (my preference in this case) comes in at CHF 37,700. That requires a pretty big piggy bank if you want to make one yours. If you’re able or willing to travel, get one of these pieces in hand so you can see the quality for yourself. It really is worthwhile. Still, it will not be a piece for everyone. For the seasoned Breguet collector, however, it offers a very nice change of pace. I also think it is a charming continuation of the classic styles for which the brand is known and respected. Learn more about the brand and this new entry by visiting the brand’s official site here.