Two New Breguet La Tradition Models For 2020 (+ Live Photos): No Battle Of The Sexes Necessary Here
Breguet is much more than a historical name in the landscape of Swiss horology. Abraham-Louis Breguet was a genius, a horological artist who influenced a great deal more than just his immediate environment.
A.-L. Breguet’s most important inventions, created between around 1780 and 1805, numbered in the twenties and included the constant-force escapement, the pare-chute shock protection system, the upward terminal curve of the balance spring now known as the Breguet overcoil, jump seconds and jump hours, the perpetual calendar, the idea of twin spring barrels, a lubrication-free escapement, and perhaps the most well-known: the tourbillon.
Although Breguet was a technical wizard, his talents did not stop there. The look and feel of his watches established a style that has spanned the centuries and are still very much appreciated today: finely guilloche dials, smooth Roman numerals, and of course the Breguet losange hands, which are still preferred by many companies basing their models’ appearance on traditional style – a style largely coined by Abraham-Louis Breguet.
Breguet La Tradition: what is it?
Breguet’s La Tradition was introduced at Baselworld 2005. It did nothing more than tell the time (hours and minutes) on a small subdial, despite looking both very unusual and quite complex for its time.
The drama of La Tradition lay – and continues to lie – in its stylistically vintage appearance coupled with a movement finished using historical techniques and the extreme visibility of the mechanical components from the dial side.
This was parent company Swatch Group’s way “to travel across time . . . beyond time” as its marketing department phrased it in 2005. The press materials went on to say, “It symbolizes both a return to roots and the vision of a brand facing the future.”
That sentence wasn’t just the usual marketing speak. During a private interview with Nicolas G. Hayek at the 2005 fair, the now-deceased Swatch Group chairman confirmed that La Tradition represented a new direction for his group’s crown jewel brand.
“Breguet, as a company, was probably the most prolific creator, inventor, researcher, and marketing operator in watchmaking, but also in the pure art of design and aesthetics,” he explained. “La Tradition is the modern expression of Breguet’s tradition. In the future, we will develop an entire family of products based on La Tradition.”
Hayek was as good as his word, and indeed there is a full family of La Tradition timepieces to admire now.
Breguet La Tradition: inspiration
La Tradition was inspired by an Abraham-Louis Breguet subscription watch from 1796. The famous watchmaker was a shrewd businessman, and to fulfill orders from his wealthy clientele without going broke by having to pay in advance for precious materials and labor, he employed the idea of the subscription, which today might be considered something like a deposit for a commission.
Clients paid a part of the total price agreed upon in advance with the balance payable on delivery. This allowed Breguet to buy the materials and begin work without having to pre-finance the watches himself. Customers often had to wait several years before they ever saw their timepieces, but it was always worth the wait.
This particular subscription watch also comes with a history, but what doesn’t in the world of Breguet?
After two years back in his birthplace, Switzerland, due to the dark, persecution-filled days of the French Revolution, the watchmaker to the previous French royalty returned to Paris to find his workshops on Quai de l’Horloge needing to be rebuilt.
Breguet’s reputation for complex timepieces was known far and wide, but this time he decided to create something relatively simple for his first subscription watch to keep the price down.
With a pared-back dial aesthetic featuring just a single hand to indicate both the hours and minutes and a beautiful but robust movement inside the pocket watch case, the movement features certain interesting characteristics like a central spring barrel and symmetrical placement of the balance wheel opposite the off-center hour wheel, which have identical diameters.
Breguet obviously found enjoyment with this new pared-back look as he continued the style in subtly evolved variations in later creations, notably his montre à tact watches.
Centuries later, the modern Breguet brand revived the idea.
Breguet La Tradition: technology
La Tradition contains one of Breguet’s ingenious inventions from 1790, the forerunner of Kif and Incabloc: the pare-chute shock protection.
Back in 2005, Hayek assured me that the shock protection technology in La Tradition was “absolutely not vintage” and that it “is as stable as any other known mechanism.” It protects the balance staff against shocks as effectively as any modern shock protection system.
La Tradition was fitted with a then (2005) brand-new movement that had been four years in development. Hand-wound Caliber 507DR featured 50 hours of power reserve indicated by a small blued hand in the upper left-hand corner of the dial.
But the real treat was – and remains – movement architecture that revealed components on the front of the watch that are usually hidden behind a dial.
The petite hand-guilloche dial for the hours and minutes was purposely kept small to allow the appearance of the movement center stage. This movement was finished using a vintage type of sandblasting, a rare skill leaving no room for error. No perlage or côtes de Genève to be found here, but an abundance of contrasting blued screws.
It is the art of guilloche that has without a doubt coined the appearance of A.-L. Breguet’s timepieces, and he was the first to use this engraving technique to adorn his pocket watches.
In the modern era the Breguet brand has become a serious proponent of guilloche, employing the hand-applied art form on the brand’s timepieces that are not enameled.
Breguet La Tradition Automatique Seconde Rétrograde Ref. 7097
For 2020, Breguet introduces two brand-new La Tradition models: one smaller model designed for a woman’s wrist and a larger 40 mm diameter model featuring automatic winding and retrograde seconds.
The La Tradition Automatique Seconde Rétrograde Reference 7097 is easily distinguishable by its very cool color scheme, which is dominated by a blue-colored gold guilloche dial and decorated, finely frosted movement parts – including bridges, wheel, escapement, and spring barrel – plated to match the color of the white gold case.
The only spots of color in the movement are the bright red of the ruby bearing jewels, gold regulation screws in the balance wheel, and the blued second hand at 10 o’clock displaying the passing seconds and making eye-catching jumps back to zero in retrograde style every 60 seconds. Even the highly visible silicon balance spring with Breguet overcoil at 4 o’clock retains an interesting monochromatic look.
The visible movement parts display the same symmetry offered by Breguet’s original subscription watch with the balance, including the pare-chute within the regulator on the right and a large gear wheel on the left, both the same size.
The asymmetry offered by the retrograde seconds with its “flying” scale provides an exciting point of visual interest.
Turning the watch over, the monochromatic movement look continues, but what seriously grabs attention is the stunning white gold rotor borrowing its unusual shape from historical Breguet movements.
Breguet La Tradition Reference 7038
Breguet’s second La Tradition delicacy for 2020 is a new version of its Reference 7038 for ladies adorned with iridescent Tahitian mother-of-pearl and a fresh orange leather strap.
Typical for the Tradition line is the concentration on the essential combined with plenty of love for the mechanical details to create a paradigmatic example of stunning design.
The “dial” is the small time-telling subdial in Tahitian mother-of-pearl – how delicate the guilloche work in the center is! – at 12 o’clock, while the rest remains openworked to showcase the beauty of the perfectly decorated dark brown galvanized movement with its regulator, bridges, gear train, spring barrel, and signature pare-chute shock-protection system all clearly visible.
The plate and bridges are made perfect with a delicate sandblasted finish. To pull the spring barrel in the center further into the spotlight, the barrel lid is beautifully engraved with a guilloche rosette pattern that is repeated on the oscillating weight seen through the transparent case back.
A small gold hand at 10 o’clock discretely indicates the retrograde seconds, barely discernible as the scale is etched into the plate. You are only likely to notice it when the watch is running and the little hand does its lightning flip back to zero every 60 seconds.
The highly feminine creation comes in an 18-karat pink gold case set with 68 white brilliant-cut diamonds around the bezel and a cabochon-cut ruby in the crown. The case band is delicately fluted, as Breguet cases often are, a beautiful detail. The prong buckle is delicately set with 25 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 0.13 ct).
There is one more ultra-cool detail, too: La Tradition Reference 7038 comes in unique packaging comprising an elegant calfskin clutch purse in the same orange tone as the strap. Made in Italy, its clasp features the same guilloche rosette pattern as the watch’s spring barrel lid and rotor.
These two new watches are available only in Breguet boutiques. For more information please visit www.breguet.com/en/timepieces/tradition.
Quick Facts Breguet La Tradition Automatique Seconde Rétrograde Reference 7097
Case: 40 mm, white gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 505SR1, 50-hour power reserve; lever escapement with silicon pallet fork and balance spring, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, retrograde seconds
Availability: only at Breguet boutiques
Quick Facts Breguet La Tradition Reference 7038
Case: 37 x 11.85 mm, pink gold set with 68 brilliant-cut diamonds (0.895 ct) and ruby in crown (0.16 ct)
Movement: automatic Caliber 505SR, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, power reserve of 50 hours, lever escapement with silicon pallet fork and balance spring
Functions: hours, minutes, retrograde seconds
Availability: only at Breguet boutiques
Remark: comes in an Italian calfskin clutch bag of same color as the strap