The Breguet Tradition wristwatches are an especially challenging base on which to build complications. The collection is based on Abraham Louis Breguet’s famous souscription watches, which were designed to be relatively affordable but very high quality timepieces, which reduced the master’s watchmaking philosophy to its essentials. Today’s Tradition timepieces use the architecture of the souscription watches as the basis for their design, but what was hidden behind the caseback in the originals is moved to the dial side of the watch and made visible in the modern watches.
Due to the fact that the dial of even a basic Breguet Tradition 7597 watch already has a great many visual and mechanical elements, complications added to the basic design have to be implemented with great care, both in order to ensure they are visually harmonious and, more practically, to simply make sure that none of the mechanisms interfere with each other. Retrograde displays are especially suitable for the Tradition family, as they employ curved sectors rather than sub-dials, which allows them to visually stand out from the various circular elements on the dial of a Tradition watch. Breguet has just announced a new, retrograde complication in the Tradition Collection – the reference 7597 Quantième Rétrograde, which has a very large, generously proportioned retrograde date complication. Retrograde displays can be found in Abraham Louis Breguet’s own watches, of course – perhaps no more notably than in no. 160, the (in)famous “Marie Antoinette” Grand Complication.
This is, I believe, the first date complication of any kind in the Tradition family, which currently also includes a double retrograde chronograph complication, a tourbillon (which is technically not a complication, but a regulating device), a two-time-zone complication, and a simple power reserve model. The essentials of the mechanism are derived, as we’ve mentioned, from the souscription pocket watches. The movement of the souscription watches is simple in design and layout, and extremely visually attractive.
The mainspring barrel is located at the center of the movement, and at the other end of the going train is a ruby cylinder escapement (Breguet’s ruby cylinder escapements are the exception to the rule that the cylinder escapement is inferior to the lever – they run with much less friction than conventional cylinder escapements and can keep time to within less than a minute’s error a day, “without attention, for many years,” according to the late George Daniels). There is a single very large central hour hand and no minute hand, but the dial is so large that reading the time to within five minutes can easily be done, and the watches also incorporated temperature compensation, and Breguet’s signature pare-chute anti-shock system.
The similarity in architecture between the Breguet Tradition 7597 and the souscription watches is immediately apparent; there is the same large, centrally located mainspring barrel as well as a nearly identical going train, with the same two large stepped cocks for the first train wheel and balance, and smaller cocks for the intermediate wheels. Breguet has opted, of course, for a modern lever escapement (there is a part of me that wishes they would do a small series of these with a cylinder escapement – probably a terrible idea, but when you write about the same thing for long enough, your tastes tend to become a little perverse, or at least, mine have). Breguet uses a silicon balance spring with a Breguet overcoil in the Tradition watches – this, to me, is quite an interesting thing to do, if not, hah, slightly perverse, as you don’t need an actual overcoil in a silicon balance spring to have the centering benefits of one. You can do things with the geometry of a flat silicon balance spring you cannot do with one made of a Nivarox-type alloy, but in this instance, it’s a nod to the Master and a very nice touch, if you ask me. Breguet Tradition 7597 has even included a modernized version of the pare-chute anti-shock system.