Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette 5395: Reinterpretation Done Right
Live-action remakes of favorite childhood animated classics can be a mixed bag. They are often proposed from a place of passion and nostalgia with a sense of excitement provided by modern film-making techniques.
Remember watching Transformers in the mid-1980s? It was a distant dream that one day we would see “real” Transformers battling it out on the big screen, so when the first live-action movie was released in 2007 it was a dream come true to see such an incredible spectacle come to life (the sequels, not so much).
But not all remakes live up to expectations, however innocently conceived, leaving fans wishing it would have been done differently or not at all. There have been dozens of cartoons turned into live-action films as well as comic book and graphic novel adaptations. But many are forgotten or infamously remembered as terrible decisions from ill-advised producers and executives.
Ever hear someone mention the live-action Popeye movie starring Robin Williams released in 1980? I didn’t think so.
But even if a large portion of live-action remakes are forgettable, there are still gems that succeed because the people behind the properties understood what made the original material great and were able to translate it to the new format. That is the secret to a great remake: a fundamental understanding of retaining the essence of the successful qualities of the original film.
When it comes to watchmaking, I think everybody that pays attention to new releases will understand that some brands are great with this concept, while others seem to miss the goalposts by miles. It often requires a brand to fully understand why it does what it does and then to aesthetically or mechanically play around the edges.
Breguet is one brand that does this beautifully, and the recent release of the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette 5395 is clear evidence. The watch is incredible while feeling entirely classic and well within the boundaries of what is considered typical for Breguet. And yet it also feels like a departure into something a bit new that makes you take another look at the brand.
The Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat reinterpreted
The 5395 is clearly a geometrically inclined skeletonized watch maintaining a lot of what the original Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat had when it comes to mechanics, proportion, and overall aesthetic details. And it does this while also deleting the dial in favor of a sapphire crystal chapter ring and a prodigiously sculpted set of bridges, plates, and wheels.
Further, those sculpted components are very round or squared off and linear. Or at the very least geometrically simple. But the movement still drives hour and minute hands without any extra complications, and the tourbillon still whirls away at 5 o’clock (though it is very technically advanced compared to the first tourbillons two centuries ago).
The hour and minute hands are still slightly offset left of center, and the indications follow suit. The case is largely the same (a bit smaller in diameter and a little thicker, though), and the overall package hasn’t strayed too far from the original.
But the huge departure of the skeletonized movement is meant to be the focus for the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette, and it heartily delivers on that front. The components have been carefully and dutifully shaped to remove all excess material from the plates, bridges, and wheels, leaving an extremely minimal movement architecture. The shapes are also focused on following the required geometry instead of creating a pattern or design.
This might seem like the biggest departure for Breguet, but it isn’t without precedent as seeds for the aesthetic direction had been sewn into the Tradition, Classique, Complications, and even the Marine lines in little ways before the launch of the 5395. Still, the aesthetics of the piece may seem inconsistent with the collections until you realize that Breguet really doesn’t do inconsistent.
Aesthetic consistency from a new perspective
The aesthetic direction at Breguet is probably one of the most consistent across the industry, perhaps topped only by Rolex or Patek Philippe with their quasi-exhausting dedication to consistency.
A Breguet will, almost without fail, always look like a Breguet watch, and often it will look like something that Abraham-Louis Breguet could have made himself. There are still exceptions, the biggest being the Type XX collection, but in most cases the style is consciously consistent and related. This is a great thing for continued patronage, but it does end up limiting creativity a bit when doing something new.
The 5395 clearly did not have this problem (or maybe it did and the hard-fought design victories are only evident to those who curated its style), and with the atypical take on skeletonization it takes what is a very classic style with lots of historical pedigree, giving it a shot in the arm to help drum up more excitement than usual.
The 5395 is a continuation of the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat concept that was allowed to go a little wild. This isn’t crazy, but given that most skeletonizing at Breguet historically looks like something straight out of an artistically flourished nineteenth-century pocket watch or even an early eighteenth-century square-bridged simple movement, the 5395 is decidedly different. It all comes down to geometry and the lack of what one might call “organic” shapes.
The style that an engraver undertaking skeletonization uses depends on the client, the style of the watch, and the goal of the piece. Yet for some reason, it is very common for skeletonization to take the appearance of floral shapes, a variety of curves flowing together, or a combination of the two.
Square, straight, or strictly geometric styling doesn’t find its way into many pieces unless the brand in question is rather avant-garde. And avant-guarde is not the first word usually springing to mind when describing Breguet’s style.
So to see something that isn’t based closely on an historical precedent might be surprising for the typical Breguet aficionado. However, looking closely one sees cues from a plethora of Breguet timepieces dating back to the beginning, accomplished in a way that makes it feel new. But mostly, the aesthetic is one of functional purpose, used to accomplish the goal of making a very, very thin skeletonized tourbillon movement.
Consistently well done
The most fitting description of the relation that the 5395 has to the entirety of the Breguet aesthetic is a clearly defined goal of making a very well-done watch. The design might be a bit of a visual shift, but the engineering, fabrication, and finishing is still the same that goes into every Breguet watch.
The finishing and detail work on the hand-shaped bridges is impeccable as evidenced by the dozens (and dozens) of internal corners and the care required to remove so much material while maintaining the structural integrity clearly demonstrates the patience and skill of the artisans in the employ of Breguet.
When it comes to the engineering of the movement to achieve such a thing sturdy enough to withstand wear, Caliber 581SQ is no slouch. To keep things thin, both the mainspring barrel and the peripheral winding rotor rotate on thin ball bearings, eliminating the need for a supporting bridge or central pivot.
The bridges and plates are slightly thicker to make up for the reduced cross section, though this only adds up to 0.7 mm overall. To increase accuracy and reduce friction, the escape wheel and lever are made of silicon, as is the balance spring to improve consistency.
The movement is certainly engineered to be as high functioning as it can and not just full of fancy decoration, but it also still is a Breguet. The bridges all feature some sculpting, beveling, and/or engraving, and many a diamond guilloche pattern across the top.
All components are fully finished and create an image of a glorious machine. That machine does look a little different than other models, perhaps a bit more adventurous, but still a Breguet through and through.
The reason is that Breguet understands what makes a watch a true Breguet and is able to play around with visual ideas without harming the brand or collections. Being able to maintain consistency across product lines is surely important.
Knowing what can break a design or an entire watch’s purpose is crucial to developing a solid timepiece – one that stays within what is consistent yet ventures beyond what is typical is how a brand grows and designers stretch their legs.
The Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette 5395 is something of a remake of earlier models, but also of early Breguet pieces in general. The team behind it did what the teams behind successful live-action remakes do when developing a new project: understand and assess what makes up the essence and maintain that as the core before making any changes.
And thus we end up with what is arguably one of the best automatic skeleton tourbillon watches ever made.
Some may call it a departure from tradition into avant-garde territory, but it seems clear to me that the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette 5395 is as traditional as it gets for Breguet – and it probably would be what Abraham-Louis Breguet would make himself if he were around today.
What do you think: is the 5395 already a Breguet classic? Sound off below in the comments!
In the meantime let’s take this skeleton and break it down even further!
- Wowza Factor * 9.1 Skeletonized watches always get people looking, but when you take the modern style of this movement and factor in that it came from a brand like Breguet, that definitely leads to a wow!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 91.0» 892.405m/s2 If the history behind the 5395 doesn’t keep you up lusting for this watch, then the intense hand work on the movement will!
- M.G.R. * 64.5 While the movement is fairly straightforward in theory, it definitely is a fantastic example of what Breguet can do with a time-only architecture!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A Another watch, another time-only piece. No real surprise with that outcome. So while it still rocks, you can skip the Gotta-HAVE-That cream!
- Ouch Outline * 10.2 Double pinched nerve in your neck! Seriously, having the correct pillow to sleep on combined with a proper sleeping position is crucial. If you don’t have it right, you can wake up with a pinched nerve in your neck. And if it’s way off, you can wake up with one on each side! Still, if I could have this watch on my wrist when I woke up I may not mind all that much.
- Mermaid Moment * All those internal angles! Sometimes it takes a few moments to really peer deep into an object’s soul and understand its secrets, but once you do and see everything it has to offer, the aisle is just a formality!
- Awesome Total * 955 First take the power reserve in hours (80) and multiply by the size of the movement in lignes (16), and then subtract the number of components in the movement (325) refreshingly awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.breguet.com/en/timepieces/new-models-classique-complications/5395.
Quick Facts Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette 5395
Case: 41 x 7.7 mm, pink gold or platinum
Movement: automatic skeletonized Caliber 581SQ with one-minute tourbillon, 4 Hz/28,000 vph frequency, 80-hour power reserve, peripheral winding rotor, silicon balance spring, escape wheel and lever
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: CHF 220,000 in pink gold, CHF 235,000 in platinum