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Technical and aesthetic excellence

Anandhi Gopinath
Anandhi Gopinath7/31/2017 9:39 PM GMT+08  • 8 min read
Technical and aesthetic excellence
Breguet pays homage to its founder’s broad range of competencies with timepieces that are beautiful both inside and out.
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Breguet pays homage to its founder’s broad range of competencies with timepieces that are beautiful both inside and out.

Throughout his career, Abraham-Louis Breguet demonstrated his exceptional mastery of time measurement. Renowned in Europe, he found a particularly avid admirer in Louis XVIII, king of France, and in 1814 was appointed as a member of the Bureau des Longitudes in Paris. This body, created in 1795 by the National Convention, was dedicated to the advancement of the various branches of astronomy and their applications to geography, navigation and geodesy (the measurement and understanding of Earth’s physical properties).

Abraham-Louis soon became a horological authority, notably for the calculation of longitudes at sea. Through an ordinance issued in 1815, Louis XVIII awarded Abraham-Louis the official title of chronometer maker to the French Royal Navy. This was the most prestigious title a horologist could hope to receive, given that the very concept of marine chronometry implied scientific knowledge. It also involved playing a crucial role for the country, as marine chronometers were of capital importance for fleets by making it possible to calculate the ships’ positions at sea.

It is this unique piece of history that inspired the new Marine Équation Marchante 5887, a Grande Complication that marks the start of a new era for Breguet’s contemporary Marine collection. The watch is anchored in the equation of time, one of the rarest and most fascinating horological complications. It serves to display the difference between mean solar time — corresponding to civil or standard hours and minutes — and true solar time, meaning the actual solar hours and minutes.

First, a little explanation. The visible motion of the sun — the true solar time indicated on sundials — is irregular. With the improvement of timekeeping precision, watches and clocks became the basis of time and true solar time was replaced by mean solar time, within which each day has the same duration of exactly 24 hours. Mean solar time may show a discrepancy with true solar time, give or take 14 to 16 minutes either way.

On just four days a year, the two times are exactly the same. Given that the sun’s various positions in the sky are reproduced in an identical manner on the same dates, watchmakers can “programme” them by means of a special cam. The latter is shaped like the figure 8 and mechanically reproduces the path of the sun’s successive positions, called an analemma curve. Requiring extremely accurate execution, the cam is coupled with a feeler-spindle that drives an equation lever serving to indicate the difference between civil time and solar time. This read-off is generally provided on a sector or subdial. It is then up to the user to mentally add or subtract the difference displayed in relation to mean time in order to calculate true solar time.

The new Marine Équation Marchante from Breguet supersedes this principle. It simultaneously indicates civil time and true time by means of two separate minute hands. The running solar hand, adorned with a facetted golden sun, provides a direct reading of solar time minutes that is both quicker and more user-friendly. This apparent simplicity conceals an arduous construction process that few watchmakers are capable of achieving. The solar minute hand has to meet two imperative demands: It must sweep in a conventional way around the dial, like the civil minute hand, while also daily moving away from the latter by a distance that varies in accordance with the analemma curve, in order to display the equation.

Breguet was able to accomplish this by equipping its running solar hand with a differential gear powered by two rotation sources operating entirely independently: The rotation of civil minutes, and that controlled by the lever in contact with the equation of time cam, which makes one full turn per year. Breguet has developed an extremely slim equation cam borne by a transparent sapphire disc, which also serves to correct the equation of time by month.

The complexity that the running equation of time brings to this model is naturally complemented on this Grande Complication by a perpetual calendar. Two apertures — one between 10 and 11 o’clock and the other between 1 and 2 o’clock — respectively display the days of the week as well as the months and the leap-year cycle. The date appears inside the chapter ring by means of a retrograde hand tipped with an anchor motif and sweeping across an arc running from 9 to 3 o’clock. The dial layout of the information has been carefully designed to ensure simple and intuitive linear reading, along with impeccable visual appeal.

Based on the self-winding calibre 581DR, the new Marine Équation Marchante also flaunts a third complication that is noteworthy in its own right: A 60-second tourbillon with a titanium carriage housing a Breguet balance with a silicon balance spring. This innovative characteristic enables the balance wheel to achieve a 4Hz frequency, while maintaining a particularly comfortable power reserve for a self-winding model. This 80-hour autonomy is displayed through an aperture between 7 and 9 o’clock.

The ingenuity of this spectacular model is accentuated by the expertise of the artisans at the House of Breguet. The front dial features two types of engine-turning, including a “wave” pattern specifically developed for this new creation. The inscription “Marine royale” is engraved on the tourbillon bar, whose execution naturally draws the gaze. Visible through a sapphire caseback, the bridges have been delicately cased to depict in meticulous detail the Royal Louis, a first rank vessel in the French Royal Navy. The barrel is adorned with a windrose motif, in reference to astronomical navigation. Thanks to the carefully chosen positioning of the oscillating weight on the rim of the calibre, the self-winding movement deploys the full splendour of its decoration.

A truly magnificent timepiece, the new Marine Équation Marchante by Breguet sets the tone. It features new aesthetic signature codes, giving it a modern and dynamic appearance: Central lugs combining polished and satin-brushed surfaces; more open fluting, with visible flanks; a crown topped with a polished “B” against a sandblasted background; as well as a crown adorned with a chamfered and satin- brushed wave motif. This Grande Complication comes with a 43.9mm diameter case in rose gold or platinum. The rose gold version frames a silvered dial and an anthracite movement, while the platinum interpretation has a blue dial and a rhodium-plated movement.

Pour femme

This year sees the arrival of a new addition to the Reine de Naples Mini line, now available in six additional variations. The famous mother-of-pearl dial and its off-centred 6 o’clock chapter ring remain the principal characteristics of this model, alongside its dainty

33mm x 24.95mm size. The chapter ring now has generously sized graphic Arabic numerals designed to match the unique case shape.

The six references unveiled this year pick up the aesthetic codes of the Reine de Naples collection, including the “ball-type” lug — in this instance paved with diamonds — as well as a winding crown topped with a briolette-cut diamond at 4 o’clock. The sense of opulent prestige continues on the bezel, flange and folding clasp in gold, finely set with brilliant-cut diamonds.

Continuing the tradition of equipping Breguet ladies’ watches with exclusively mechanical self-winding movements, the new Reine de Naples Mini houses Calibre 586/1 with a silicon balance spring. It has a 38-hour power reserve and beats at a frequency of 3Hz. This refined model is a true watchmaking gem available with a black satin strap or chain bracelet in rose or white gold. Those who prefer the white gold version can choose a dial with pink-rimmed numerals, complemented by a pink leather strap that matches the colourful details on the chapter ring.

Masculine elegance
The new Classique 7147 is an emblematic model imbued with a blend of classicism and tradition, something Breguet is exquisitely capable of producing. It is distinguished by all the refined details composing the identity of the manufacture since 1775.

The dial of this new creation is crafted from grand feu enamel, upon which are applied the famously slender, dainty yet legible Breguet numerals, embodying an inestimably precious horological heritage and reminiscent of the early watches and clocks from the maison. Hours and minutes are indicated by traditional blued steel Breguet hands with an offset open tip, complemented by the small seconds discreetly sweeping around a 5 o’clock subdial. This handsome and elegant watch is completed with an alligator leather strap.

The splendour of the Classique 7147 is also reflected in its movement, plainly visible through a sapphire crystal caseback and graced with Côtes de Genève and Clous de Paris hobnailing. Available in rose gold and white gold versions, this model houses calibre 502.3SD, which is equipped with a balance spring in silicon and an inverted in-line lever escapement with horns made of silicon — an extremely light material notably renowned for its non-magnetic properties. This endows the Classique 7147 with remarkable performance and reliability.

Anandhi Gopinath is assistant editor of the Options desk at The Edge Malaysia

This article appeared in Issue 789 (July 24) of The Edge Singapore.

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