Breguet Marine Équation Marchante 5887
Amidst the cacophony of aesthetic changes and vintage reissues that defined Baselworld 2017, Breguet was one of few exhibitors that unveiled a truly novel watch – and a highly complicated one at that. This year, a beast of a timepiece joins the ranks of the brand’s Marine collection, and that timepiece is the Marine Équation Marchante 5887. The Marine Équation Marchante 5887 is essentially an equation time of time watch (hint: it’s in the name) with perks in the form of a perpetual calendar and a tourbillon. Unlike other multi-complication watches with the equation of time though, this one lets the astronomical complication take centre stage – and it does so splendidly. Here, we bring you details of the new Breguet Marine Équation Marchante 5887 and our thoughts on how it fares against its equivalents from rival brands.
The case, dial and hands
The case of the new Marine Équation Marchante 5887 measures 43.9 mm in diameter – appropriate, given that the watch is very complicated and intended to be sporty. The design of the case takes cues from other Marine references: central lugs combining polished and satin-brushed surfaces; open fluting, with visible flanks; a crown topped with a polished “B” against a sandblasted background; as well as a crown adorned with a chamfered and satin-brushed wave motif. The Marine Équation Marchante 5887 comes in either a rose gold case, matched with a silvered dial, or a platinum case, matched with a blue dial.
In either version, the dial showcases two styles of engine-turning, both aptly depicting waves of the sea. At first glance, the dial appears confusing with its many hands and displays. Thankfully, it should be quite straightforward once you are aware of the watch’s various functions. The equation of time function is displayed by means of an additional minute hand adorned with a faceted golden sun. Today, there are different ways to show the equation of time on a wristwatch. Most watches utilise a hand sweeping a subsidiary dial or arc, graduated from -16 to +14 minutes. This requires a little mental arithmetic by the wearer, adding or subtracting to calculate true time from mean time. The new Marine Équation Marchante supersedes this with what’s called the “running equation” (équation marchante). It simultaneously indicates civil time and true time by means of two separate minutes hands. The running solar hand provides a direct reading of solar time minutes that is both quicker and more user-friendly. This display method may not be novel, but it is superior. Another nice design element that Breguet has incorporated to celebrate the astronomical complication is the kidney-shaped equation cam that is visible through a rotating sapphire disc at 5 o’clock. This special cam is borne by the aforementioned disc and is critical for the equation of time function – more on that later.
Also visible through that sapphire disc is the tourbillon, the most famous of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s many horological inventions. It is regrettable however that the view of the tourbillon is partially obstructed by the cam above it. Nevertheless, it still does provide the necessary theatrics to liven a dial that otherwise consists of only slow moving displays. To match the complexity of the tourbillon and the running equation of time, the Marine Équation Marchante 5887 is also equipped with an equally sophisticated perpetual calendar. Two apertures, one between 10 and 11 o’clock and the other between 1 and 2 o’clock, respectively display the days of the week as well as the months and the leap-year cycle. Said month display is functionally redundant as the rotating sapphire disc that bears the equation cam also indicates the months. We figure that it is there mainly for design and legibility purposes. The date is displayed in an arc and indicated by means of a retrograde hand tipped with an anchor motif. The more humble but useful power reserve indicator is displayed through an aperture spanning between 7 and 8 o’clock.
The Marine Équation Marchante 5887 is powered by the Cal. 581DPE which has a tourbillon regulator, a perpetual calendar mechanism and most importantly, the running equation of time. The equation of time remains one of the rarest and most poetic of complications today. The basis for the equation of time is that there is a discrepancy between mean solar time (the time we use) and true solar time on most days of the year, ranging from -16 to +14 min. This is largely due to the Earth’s axial tilt and orbital eccentricity. In fact, the two times are synchronous on just four days a year. Given that the sun’s various positions in the sky are reproduced in an identical manner on the same dates, watchmakers can “program” them by means of a special cam. This is the kidney-shaped equation cam seen on top of the tourbillon. It mechanically reproduces the path of the sun’s successive positions, called an analemma curve. The cam is coupled with a feeler-spindle that drives an equation lever serving to indicate the difference between civil time, which corresponds to mean solar time, and true solar time. For the Marine Équation Marchante 5887 to provide a direct reading of the solar time minutes, watchmakers equip the running solar hand with a differential gear powered by two rotation sources operating entirely independently: the rotation of civil minutes, and that controlled by the lever in contact with the equation of time cam, which makes one full turn per year. The rotating sapphire disc that bears the slim equation cam also serves to correct the equation of time by month.
The self-winding Cal. 581DPE has a commendable power reserve of 80 hours while operating at a modern 4 Hz beat rate. As should be expected of a brand of Breguet’s stature, the Marine Équation Marchante is beautifully decorated not just in front, but also at the back. The bridges have been delicately chased to depict in meticulous detail the Royal Louis, a first rank vessel in the French Royal Navy. The barrel is adorned with a windrose motif, in reference to astronomical navigation. Thanks to the use of a peripheral winding rotor, the Cal. 581DPE is able to deploy the full splendour of its decoration. Those fortunate enough to own the watch will also have the option of admiring the case back underwater as the watch has a water resistance of up to 100 m. All in all, the Cal. 581DPE is as beautiful as it is sophisticated and will surely be the object of lust for anyone concerned with high horology.
The competitive landscape
The Breguet Marine Équation Marchante 5887 is available in rose gold and platinum, priced at USD215,000 and USD230,400, respectively. This unquestionably sounds like a lot of money, but does the watch offer bang for buck? We present two equivalent examples from competing brands to allow you to judge for yourself. The first contender we have is the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Calibre 2253. The Traditionelle Calibre 2253 has all the complications of the Marine Équation Marchante 5887 plus additional sunrise and sunset indicators. It also displays the equation of time function using a -16/+14 min arc instead of a running solar hand. In general, the Traditionelle is more reserved in design and decoration. The dial layout is very orderly and symmetrical. By comparison, the Marine is a lot sportier and the layout of dial is sort of ‘all over the place’. In a battle of tourbillons, the Traditionelle wins hands down; the Maltese cross tourbillon cage and rounded bridge are the most gorgeous in the industry and are a nightmare to finish. This is not to say that the cage and bridge in the Marine is poorly finished – not at all – but they do look very industrial and most definitely required less effort to finish. With a more cohesive dial design and a more impressive tourbillon, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Calibre 2253 should come out on top of this shootout… that is until you take a look at its price tag. At around USD489,000 the Traditionelle is more than double the price of the equivalent platinum Marine. To answer the question that we posed earlier: yes, the Breguet Marine Équation Marchante 5887 does offer bang for buck (upon comparison to the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Calibre 2253). The way we see it, it comes down to this: if money is no object, the Traditionelle should be the way to go. However, if one seeks a superbly finished sports watch, a timepiece where the equation of time takes centre stage, and value for money, the Marine Équation Marchante 5887 will more than satisfy your requirements.
Providing stern competition also is a watch that was first launched in 2004: the venerable Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon 1. In an era where tourbillons were not ubiquitous and multi-axis tourbillons were as rare as unicorns, the first arrival of the Gyrotourbillon 1 was earth-shattering. The Gyrotourbillon elevated the Le Sentier brand to greater heights and remains its most important ‘complication’ to date. In our opinion, the Gyrotourbillon 1 deserves a spot in the horological hall of fame for its historical importance, iconicity and technical qualities. The watch has everything that the Breguet Marine’s got, including a running solar hand for the equation of time function. Of course, the Gyrotourbillon 1, which has a multi-axis tourbillon, has again got the Breguet Marine beat in the tourbillon segment. We also feel that the Gyrotourbillon 1, like the Traditionelle, has a more harmonious dial design compared to the Marine. If you can get your hands on one, the price of the Gyrotourbillon 1 in gold is likely to be over USD300,000. Again, if you are looking for a sports watch that shines the limelight on the equation of time complication and gives you great value for money, the Breguet Marine Équation Marchante 5887 is the way to go. But if you were fortunate enough to be offered the revered horological icon that is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon 1 for a premium of USD100,000, you’d be hard pressed not to take it over the Breguet Marine. Some would even call this choice a no-brainer given that the extra amount you pay includes an upgrade to a multi-axis tourbillon.
The Breguet Marine Marine Équation Marchante 5887 is a timepiece that showcases the full might of Breguet’s watchmaking prowess and artistic capabilities. While its equivalents are perhaps better designed and more iconic, the Breguet Marine will attract its fans with its competitive pricing. The equation of time is rare enough as it is, and it is even rarer to see it celebrated to such an extent on a mainstream timepiece. The Marine Équation Marchante 5887 isn’t just for the hopeless romantic or the astronomy buff, but also for those with a penchant for sophisticated movement mechanics. With this new complicated piece, Breguet has reissued a serious statement of intent and continues to quietly wow the watch world and its denizens, as it always does.