Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597
To most, the Tradition watch appears to be Breguet’s outlet for being modern and edgy – something different to the brand’s, well, classical Classique line. If you think this, then you’re half-correct. From a design perspective, the watch is anything but dressy or traditional. But the indisputable fact is, Breguet’s Tradition collection is inspired from one of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s most understated creations: the souscription watch. Historically, the souscription watches were sold on a subscription basis, and required a down payment of a quarter of the price upon order placement. They were designed to be reliable and affordable; it was no surprise that the introduction of the watch attracted a large, new clientele to Breguet back in the 1800s. The Tradition watch today borrows heavily from the architecture of the movement of the souscription watch. The key difference is that instead of hiding it in the case back like in the original, the Tradition displays the now-iconic design prominently as its visage, on the dial-side.
The Tradition collection of watches has played host to numerous technical complications over the years including the chronograph, the second timezone, the fusée and chain, and of course, the tourbillon. But never before has it seen the most pragmatic of all complciations: the date. That is, until this year. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The new Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 is currently available in rose or white gold. Its case measures 40 mm x 12.1 mm, which feels like the sweet spot – enough presence to entice the modernists, but not too big to put off traditionalists. The design of the case will be familiar to most of the watch community, as it is distinctively Breguet. We’re talking about a fluted case band, straight lugs, and the use of screw-pins instead of the usual sprung bars to hold the strap. There is a crown at the 3 o’clock position for winding and time-setting, while the pusher at 10 o’clock – which can be screwed down to prevent accidental actuation – is for date adjustments.
Much like the rest of the Tradition collection, the dial of the new Quantième Rétrograde 7597 is openworked. All that can truly be considered “dial proper” is the hour and minute sub-dial, and the novel date track spanning along the circumference from 9 to 3 o’clock (well, almost). The former, located at the 12 o’clock position, is a design element seen in almost every Tradition model. The sub-dial, made of 18k gold, is adorned with a clous de Paris, or hobnail, pattern – this pattern is engine turned by hand, not stamped, as one might be tempted to assume. Marking the hours on the sub-dial are black Roman numerals, and securing said sub-dial are a pair of heat-blued screws outboard of the hour track. To indicate the time, the watch utilises open-tipped “Breguet” hands, both of which are also heat-blued for contrast against the silver dial.
South of the time-telling sub-dial is the bit that puts the “Quantième Rétrograde” into Breguet’s latest timepiece. The retrograde date display is in the shape of an arc, tracing the inner perimeter of the case. On the track are odd-numbered dates punctuated by applied dots. And indicating the date is a rather specially designed hand, something you’d rarely – if ever – see. The hand, also in blue steel and lume-tipped, appears from under the time sub-dial, bends upwards perpendicularly to rise above all the movement components before bending perpendicularly yet again towards the date track. This interesting design, coupled with the length of the hand results in a dramatic spectacle when the retrograde mechanism kicks in at the end of the month and brings the hand sweeping back to the other end of the arc.
Driving the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 is the 234-part, 45-jewel Calibre 505Q. The automatic winding movement has a power reserve of 50 hours and operates at a stately 3 Hz frequency. Architecturally, the Calibre 505Q (along with other Tradition calibres) shares many similarities with the movements of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s souscription watches, the most obvious of which are the two cocks that are (almost) a mirror image of one another. These cocks secure the first wheel and balance wheel, respectively. The other similarity is the centrally positioned mainspring barrel; in the Tradition, it is partially obscured by the sub-dial.
The style of finishing that is applied onto Tradition watch movements is a mix of modern and traditional. At first glance, the Calibre 505Q may appear thoroughly modern-industrial, with anthracite gray plates and bridges, and a frosted finish on the majority of surfaces. Upon closer inspection, one will find that there are actually numerous old-school finishing techniques employed as well, from the polishing of screws and chamfers, to the circular graining of wheels and mainspring barrel cap. The winding mass, visible through the case back, is somewhat of an oddball. It is in fact inspired from yet another of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s creations: the Perpétuelle watch, first sold in 1780 as one of the earliest self-winding watches ever to exist. Unorthodox in shape compared to most modern iterations, the winding mass of the Calibre 505Q is immaculately mirror-polished and engraved with the manufacturer’s marque.
The Competitive Landscape
How do you jazz up a pragmatic but plain complication like the date (or any complication, really)? Add a retrograde mechanism. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book and it works. The retrograde mechanism is not exactly the most technically difficult feature to implement but it pays off handsomely with its visual theatrics. The Tradition collection has long been missing a simple time-and-date only timepiece and this year it is finally getting what it needs. The Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 features an aptly executed retrograde date functionality that is in line with the spirit of the Tradition watch. The watch is priced at USD37,800 for the pink gold version, and USD38,600 for the white gold version.
For a more elegant timepiece with the retrograde date function, look no further than the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Moon Phase Retrograde Date. Much like the Breguet, the Vacheron Constantin has a retrograde date display spanning along the perimeter of the dial from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock. The difference, though, is that in the Patrimony Moon Phase Retrograde Date, the display runs along the top half of the dial instead of the bottom half. The Patrimony Moon Phase Retrograde Date also utilises a blued steel hand to indicate the date (though without the funky bends). In addition to the date function, the watch has a moon phase display at 6 o’clock that not only looks great, but also balances out the dial. The Patrimony Moon Phase Retrograde Date (in white or rose gold) is priced at USD40,100 – virtually the same as the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 plus a bit of premium for the moon phase function.
The next contender probably sits at the midpoint between the the Patrimony and the Tradition in terms of dressiness. Parmigiani Fleurier’s Toric Hemisphères Rétrograde won best ‘Travel Watch’ in 2017’s GPHG and it did so deservingly. Of course, being mentioned here, it too has a retrograde date display. Stretching from 2 to 10 o’clock, the date track on the Toric is more akin to a horseshoe than a semi-circle. Out of the three timepieces, this is certainly the one to go for if value for money is what you’re looking for. At CHF32,000, it is the least expensive of the lot and offers the most functionality. It may not have an equivalent level of finishing but it’s not far off either.
Unless you have an aversion for industrial design aesthetics, there really is no reason not to admire the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597. A time/date watch had always been the missing link in the collection and now the void has been filled. It would have been sufficient for Breguet to slap on a straightforward date display, but Breguet opted for a retrograde implementation with a uniquely shaped hand that is anything but ‘straightforward’ to indicate the date. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 were to go on to become one of the manufacturer’s hottest selling Tradition timepiece. The combination of a practical and well-executed date function, a relatively accessible price, and gorgeous design/aesthetics will prove difficult to resist.