The Breguet Marine 5517 has an updated look for 2018. It’s still the water-resistant sport luxury watch that gives Breguet a chance to break out from the conservative rigidity of its more sober guilloché-dialed, pocket-watch-influenced beauties. But now the Marine is now also being offered in a titanium version that collectors will probably be more comfortable treating like a sports watch. This is the second year in a row that Breguet has a made the Marine a focus. You may remember that last year’s collection was headlined by a highly complicated model with an unusual equation-of-time display. This year, in keeping with a trend seen at both Baselworld and SIHH, the emphasis is on strong commercial pieces.
There are three versions of the Breguet Marine Reference 5517. White and red gold options are both represented, in addition to the third, sportier version in titanium. The gold versions come with beautiful blue dials featuring a hand-guilloché wave motif. The titanium execution instead comes with sunburst grey dial. Inside of each is the in-house 777A automatic movement, which can be viewed through the watches’ see-through casebacks.
Having a great history in maritime timekeeping – A.L. Breguet’s was the official watchmaker to the French Royal Navy during his lifetime – it makes sense that the company that bears his name should pursue a watch line referencing this heritage. But to my mind, the Marine has never quite commanded the same air of tradition and respect for heritage as, say, the great pocket-watch inspired dress pieces with hand-guilloche dials – or the Type XX, as great pilot’s chronograph as there is. Having said that, I like where the design of the Marine has gone in the last two years. And the fact that titanium is an option in this year’s releases is a welcome olive branch to collectors. Even the highest echelon of luxury watch marques is actively seeking out new collectors by producing watches that more people can afford, and I think that’s a good thing for watches overall.
Of the new crop of Breguet Marine watches, this simple three-hand Marine 5517 in titanium is my favorite option (here as the ref. 5517TI/G2/TZ0 with the matching bracelet). aBlogtoWatch first covered the debut of the Breguet Marine 5517 watch here, and today I go hands-on with this interesting and high-end casual Swiss watch that has a lot of details to discuss.
Breguet recently re-introduced its important Marine collection. The high-end to daily-casual Marine collection was always about marrying Breguet’s rich history of fine watchmaking with the trendiness of a marine-world themed causal sport watch. Between the Marine and the Type XX collection, Breguet has always had the potential to create very good sport watches — when they put their mind to it. The good news is that, moving forward, we have been told that Breguet will still, indeed, focus on sport watches in a bigger way.
Last year, Breguet debuted the refreshed Marine watch collection with the Marine 5527 Chronograph on a strap (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here). That model is related to this Marine 5517, as it has the same color dial and is part of the same family, but I happen to like the three-hand model more, if only because the dial is more symmetrical in design (the chronograph is “lop-sided,” thanks to one larger subdial).
Breguet’s challenge with the Marine is significant. As the timepiece collector world continues its fascination with other high-end marine-theme watches, such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus, Vacheron Constantin Overseas, and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Breguet Marine isn’t typically part of the same conversation. From a quality and heritage level, it should be. So what is holding the Breguet Marine back? In my opinion, it is partly due to deficient marketing — but more immediately, because the Marine watch isn’t distinctive enough, per se. What do I mean by this? Well, if you see a Royal Oak across the room, you know what it is. Even a semi-trained eye can pick out a Royal Oak in a crowd because of the distinctive shape of the case. Breguet’s problem is that, right now, the Marine doesn’t have that awareness power.
The easiest way to solve that problem is by making the Marine look very visually distinctive. A more long-term way to handle that challenge is to remind consumers, through an ongoing marketing campaign, what qualities the Breguet Marine has and why it should be regarded any time someone wants a daily-wear luxury lifestyle watch.
In execution, the Breguet Marine 5517 is mostly a wonderful watch. A trained eye will immediately notice a host of fine details the moment the watch is put on the wrist. First and foremost is the incredible light weight of the grade 5 titanium case and bracelet. Breguet machines the titanium so well, and its slightly gray color matches the dial very nicely. At 40mm-wide, the case wears very comfortably, even if it is a bit thicker than the competition at 11.5mm-thick. Case water resistance is good at 100 meters. Little touches such as the gently articulating lugs (for wearing comfort) really do help separate the Marine in a class of its own when it comes to overall engineering effort for all the watch’s parts.
The bracelet itself has a simple three-link design but is fully of welcome details. Look at the side of the bracelet to notice how most links don’t have screw holes. Rather, Breguet developed a system with a securing mechanism for the links using a screw located on the inside of the bracelet. Also note the fold-over deployant clasp. It might look standard, but Breguet developed an entirely new deployant with elegant pushers that looks and feels very good to operate. All that is missing in the bracelet in my opinion is a micro-adjust system (though I am not sure it would be necessary).
When I first discussed the Marine 5527 Chronograph, I expressed a bit of confusion as to what Breguet was trying to do with the hour markers. They are Roman numerals with filled-in luminant, which makes them a bit difficult to spot for what they are. On the chronograph, they looked a bit more out of place than on the three-hand 5517 version of the Marine. With this cleaner dial, I can, first and foremost, appreciate the lovely hands (even though they still remind me of Baume & Mercier), and finally the hour markers feel a bit more appropriate on the overall design. The dial detailing itself is immaculate, including the beautifully sculpted date window, nicely polished hands, and the sunburst finishing on the anthracite-colored dial which emanates not from the dial center, but from the position of the logo under 12 o’clock.
One of my favorite case design details is the “wavy” crown guard. The other, of course, is the movement. Hand-finishing on the automatic rotor is a nice hint as to the level of craft Breguet dedicates to its watches. If you put everything on paper, the price of the Breguet Marine makes sense, even if it is certainly premium in its positioning. The movement is the in-house-made Breguet caliber 777A, and it operates at 4Hz (28,800 bp) with 55 hours of power reserve. It features silicon parts for the regulation system, including the balance spring, as well as the escapement. The 179 part movement is wonderfully well-polished and, as I said above, the 18k gold rotor design is just the icing on the cake. Functions for the automatic movement are the time with the date.
For now, if you want a Breguet Marine 5517 watch on a bracelet, the titanium models will be the only ones available. This includes this three-hand Breguet Marine 5517, but also the Marine Chronograph and the Marine Alarm. Each come with the same color gray dial and a matching titanium case and bracelet combination. Handsome and comfortable, the Breguet Marine 5517 is a solid daily wear for someone who likes the emotion that donning a Breguet gives them. From an engineering an execution perspective, the newest Marine is a very good product. Breguet will need to invest in the marketing the collection for a while. I hope that they appreciate that it took brands like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe decades to popularize their competitor watches, and they have the benefit of being able to ride on the Gerald Genta name.
To Breguet’s credit, it is probably the most “legitimate” brand when it comes to producing traditional timepieces, and the Marine 5517 is certainly in its own category when it comes to luxury titanium sport watch quality and poise. By further playing with the dial, and perhaps finding ways for the bracelet to look a bit more distinctive, Breguet can easily gain market share where it deserves to in the high-end lifestyle sport watch space