Breguet Marine Alarme Musicale 5547: Keeping Technological Traditions Alive
Technology is often the driver of progress. New technology shifts functions from object to object, causing our lives to slowly morph into something new and creating a world looking rather different than before, but one still operating in many of the same ways.
The differences between 1890 and 2018 come down to objects and methods we connect using very different means – and we are inundated with so much more information than ever before. What we use during our days is different, and objects that were once critical to daily life have been replaced by new, multi-function gadgets that have eliminated entire industries and product categories.
The best example is the smartphone: its numerous functions have entirely changed or at the very least significantly altered nearly every aspect of our lives.
Take the incredibly basic alarm app, which does something so necessary for societal life that it may be the most underrated application on a smartphone. The humble alarm has impacted life across the board and is an essential tool of a modern society.
The first “alarms” that humans used were animals, birds being the most prominent group as it becomes very vocal around sunrise.
Later, towns and cities had a central instrument such as a horn or bell that would signal to the population when it was time to start or stop the day, have lunch, or go to church.
Later, mechanical devices were invented to keep time automatically and ringing features were eventually added, allowing a device to signal times repeatedly and accurately. Centralized clock towers dominated much of Europe, and people routinely rose with the ringing bells.
Jumping forward to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, clocks and watches were created, later available at more reasonable prices allowing people to have a mechanical device that could be set to any time and provide a chiming alarm for whatever purpose.
Around this same time, cities with large industrial centers had factory whistles to inform the entire city that it was, indeed, time to get up and go to work.
Over the years time management was left more and more to individuals, and alarm clocks became standard objects in most homes. As technology progressed, mechanical alarm clocks made way for electric alarm clocks and eventually digital alarm clocks.
I have had at least five different alarm clocks through the years, beginning with a classic twin-bell mechanical alarm clock and progressing to more modern digital alarm clocks as each one broke or just became too dated.
I bought the last alarm clock I ever used around 2008, and after a couple years I finally gave in and started using my phone exclusively. Since I was a late entry into the smartphone market, my personal alarm clock evolution lasted a solid 20 years. And until something better comes along, it seems as if a smartphone may be my last alarm clock.
But still, I use an alarm every single day of my life, and people have been using alarms for thousands of years.
The need to be alerted at specific times will always be necessary, and the form of the alarm has changed so much throughout our history that it puts a distinct record of technological progress on display.
And yet, the mechanical alarm still has a place, indeed, should have a place in societies around the world, if not for the practical purpose of making sure you get to a meeting on time, then at least as a lesson in creativity, practical applications of science and engineering, and as a record of our journey from ancient water clocks to the iPhone.
This is why I have such a soft spot for alarm watches; they provide something so fundamentally necessary in a timepiece that I might call them the most useful and underrated complication in horology.
They are woefully underrepresented in brand collections as well, so when a new version is released I get rather excited. The latest entry to the miniscule field of alarm watches is the Breguet Marine Alarme Musicale 5547. Shown at Baselworld 2018, it stood out as a winner of the fair with very little competition in its category.
Design and mechanism meet functionality in the Breguet Marine Alarme Musicale
The Marine Alarme Musicale is part of the updated styling that the Marine line is seeing moving forward, and the result is definitely not the standard, classical Breguet.
A strong case shape and blocky numerals are the foundations for the line, which takes the already sporty marine-inspired design and turns it up a notch.
For some Breguet fans, anything straying too far from classic guilloche dials and Breguet-style hands is already pushing it, so the Marine Alarme Musicale can be described as a bold departure.
But this Breguet also features a strong combination of functions that makes it a serious contender for a fantastic all-around timepiece.
First off it has a second time zone, a favorite among collectors and watch lovers alike. And the 24-hour time zone subdial is nestled between the center pivot and the numeral at 9 o’clock. Instead of adding a second centered hour hand like a GMT, the smaller subdial helps keep the second time easily readable without any possible confusion.
And it also has a date, down at 6 o’clock, with a nicely color-matched date wheel.
But most importantly, it features a wonderful alarm mechanism (with alarm power reserve indicator) that is not only rather useful, it also sounds better than I would have guessed.
That is thanks to the actual chiming mechanism, which looks like a beefed-up repeater gong. The hammer is pretty standard but the chime is, well, an actual chime.
Instead of just hitting the inside of the case, the hammer strikes a gong that looks to be about 50 percent bigger and thicker than a standard gong, and also square. The gong is made from a Pfinodal alloy consisting of copper, nickel, and tin.
Acoustic nerd side note: organ pipes are routinely made from lead, tin, copper, or brass due to their unique resonant properties. In a way, this makes the gong in the Marine Alarme Musicale a bit of a distant cousin.
That shape and composition leads to a heavier tone that doesn’t reverberate nearly as much, perfect for an alarm function that is supposed to sound good while being repeatedly struck in a very short amount of time.
On the right side of the dial between the center pivot and the 3 o’clock numeral we find the alarm subdial. It has a dual-handed 12-hour dial for setting the alarm (less than 12 hours ahead), which helps balance out the dial visually without complicating legibility by adding yet another centrally pivoting indicator hand.
The power reserve indicator for the mechanism is just above the second time zone subdial. A simple hand points to a set of three lozenge-shaped markers. When the alarm power reserve is full, the hand points to the lozenge that is fully red or white (depending on the version) near 9 o’clock, then moves past the half-filled lozenge before coming to rest at the empty lozenge.
The alarm is driven by the mainspring, and the power reserve indicator shows when there isn’t enough power left to operate the alarm, even if there is still enough energy to power the going train.
Finally, the alarm indicator window is situated just beneath the Breguet name on the dial. When the alarm function is activated, a small bell appears in the window to let the wearer know the mechanism is ready.
The pusher on the left side of the case turns it on and off, and the crown at 4 o’clock allows you to set the time of the alarm. When the alarm finally goes off, the chiming can last up to 15 seconds when fully wound before fading out, at which point the alarm can be set again.
The result of all this is that the Marine Alarme Musicale is a truly useful watch, providing what the average person might need every day. Chronographs are nice, but you rarely need the capability, and knowing that you are two years away from a leap year thanks to the perpetual calendar is largely superfluous too.
But having the date, a second time zone (for the client three states away), and an alarm to either get you up in the morning or alert you to an important event later that day, would be very useful in most people’s lives.
The styling is a bit bold and may not be for everyone, but the functionality is hard to pass up. Not to mention that the sound of the alarm is lovely and does not leave you feeling disappointed like the lowest-end mechanical alarms on the market.
The base movement is the same as in the Le Réveil du Tsar 5707, though that piece uses an off-center second hand while the Marine Alarme Musicale is simplified with center seconds. This keeps the dial from looking like a smiling clown, and the variation between subdial diameters further differentiates the pieces from each other.
The Marine Alarme Musicale may be nautically inspired with a variety of related details, but it also is a solid everyday watch that serves many functions both mechanically and stylistically. It keeps the tradition of mechanical alarms alive and makes for a great entry into chiming watches.
As it turns out, it it might be one of the better buys on the market.
While you ponder that, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.44 Mechanical alarms will always capture my attention!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 94.4 » 925.747m/s2 This piece will keep you up all night from sheer awesomeness. But if you do fall asleep, don’t worry, it can wake you up later!
- M.G.R. * 64.4 The addition of a mechanical alarm makes for a fairly geeky (and uncommon) movement!
- Added-Functionitis * Severe Power reserve, date, second time zone, and all the alarm functions? Yeah, you’ll definitely need prescription strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the sonorous swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 9.4 Hitting your head on the bunk bed above you when you alarm goes off! This is a throwback to my early college days, but those dorm room bunk beds provided many an injury if you weren’t careful, and a loud alarm after a short night of sleep could definitely do some damage. But I’d do it all over again if it allowed me the opportunity to get a mechanical masterpiece like this on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Fifteen seconds! The time it takes for the alarm to run out of juice is all I need to be convinced that I better get in touch with a reverend!
- Awesome Total * 750 Multiply the water resistance in meters (50), by the power reserve in hours (45) and then divide by the number of case metal variations (3) and you end up with a seriously musical awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.breguet.com/en/timepieces/new-models-la-marine/5547.
Quick Facts Breguet Marine Alarme Musicale 5547
Case: 40 x 13.05 mm, titanium, pink gold, or white gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 519F/1
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; second time zone, date, alarm, alarm power reserve, alarm on/off indicator
Price: $40,900 in pink and white gold; $28,600 in titanium
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Also published on Medium.