Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon Ref. 7047
Wristwatches are gradually becoming an anachronism in the digital age. This notion is amplified in the Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon, a timepiece with an outright mechanical appearance. In fact, it looks more like a contraption from an alternate steampunk reality than a fine wristwatch from the Vallée de Joux. The Tradition Fusée Tourbillon celebrates some of the most fascinating inventions from classical watchmaking, some of which were contributed by the brand’s founder Abraham-Louis Breguet himself. Here, we bring you the nitty-gritty details and our thoughts on the Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon Ref. 7047.
The case, dial and hands
The Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon has a case measuring 41 mm in diameter and 15.95 mm in thickness. While the watch has a manageable diameter, there is no chance of it sliding under any dress cuff or long sleeve, given its thickness. The good news is, a watch of the Tradition Fusée Tourbillon’s stature need not be hidden under clothing. Quite the contrary, it deserves only to be exhibited in full view for all to marvel. Beginning with the case, one can tell that this timepiece is Breguet through and through. Rendered in rose gold, it features Breguet’s signature coin-edge case middle, thin bezel and straight lugs – these are all tell-tale signs of a Breguet timepiece. But what’s truly special about the case is its massive box form sapphire crystal; what looks like an upside down aquarium turns the case into the most panoramic of showcases. It gives the Tradition Fusée Tourbillon its unmistakable old-world charm and we would even go as far as to say that the watch would only look half as impressive without it.
The most prominent feature of the dial is the lack of it. The whole point of the Tradition Fusée Tourbillon is to showcase the tourbillon and the fusée and chain mechanism in the most glorious manner possible. Doing without a dial proper is one way to do it. Instead, the time is displayed on a small, solid gold dial (almost sub-dial) that is black-coated and hand-guilloched with the brand’s favourite clous de Paris motif. The signature Breguet open-tipped hands used to indicated the hours and the minutes are crafted in steel for maximum contrast and legibility. Overall, the execution of the case, dial and hands is excellent and full of synergy. They set the stage for the main act: the movement.
Powering the Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon is the incredible Calibre 569, with 43 jewels and a whopping 542 parts. The hand-wound movement has a 50 hour power reserve (impressive, given how power-hungry the technical complications are) while operating at a hypnotic 2.5 Hz beat rate. What makes the Calibre 569 truly amazing are the two mechanisms within it that were once indispensable for keeping the precision of clocks and pocket watches. The first of these is the fusée and chain, which was mainly used in marine chronometers. The mechanism was first miniaturised and introduced into mechanical wristwatches by A. Lange & Söhne over two decades ago.
It is well-known that the power generated by the mainspring is high when it is fully tensioned and significantly weaker as it nears the fully unwound state. This can cause rate accuracy fluctuations. The fusée and chain transmission works like an infinitely variable gearbox. It equalises the waning force of the mainspring and makes sure that the movement always receives a constant amount of energy. This keeps the watch running at an exact rate. The fusée can be clearly seen to the right of the dial. When the watch is fully wound, the chain is completely wrapped around the fusée. As the spring relaxes, the entire barrel rotates and winds up the chain. In doing so, it turns the fusée, which transfers the torque to the going train via a drive wheel. While the importance of its role in watches and clocks of yesteryear is undeniable, it is questionable at best in modern timepieces. With vastly improved materials and manufacturing today, the benefit brought by the fusée and chain mechanism is significantly reduced. Nevertheless, it remains a testament to ingenious engineering and a symbol of a brand’s watchmaking prowess.
The next great spectacle of the Tradition Fusée Tourbillon and perhaps the first to draw attention is the large, rugged tourbillon at 1 o’clock. The original purpose of the tourbillon was to mitigate the effect of gravity on the escapement of a pocket watch which was almost exclusively held upright. In wristwatches, its role is downsized mostly because wristwatches encounter multiple positions throughout the day; the wristwatch therefore self-mitigates the negative effects of gravity. Also, as with the case of the fusée and chain mechanism, modern materials and manufacturing ensures that mechanical timepieces are as reliable as ever even without a tourbillon. Today, the tourbillon serves a more aesthetic purpose in a timepiece as its dance never fails to captivate an audience. In the Tradition Fusée Tourbillon, a 17 mm titanium tourbillon cage carries a 13 mm titanium balance wheel, all of which are supported by a titanium bridge. To further add to the list of modern materials, the balance spring is made of silicon which is amagnetic and highly temperature-resistant.
The overall finishing of the Calibre 569 deviates a fair bit from the traditional Genevan fare but is nothing short of spectacular. The bridges and plates are rose gold-coated and treated to a sandblasted finish, with the exception of the tourbillon bridge which is brushed (on the top surface) and uncoated. Meanwhile, the edges of the bridges are all expertly bevelled and polished to a luminous sheen. These polished chamfers provide a stunning contrast to the industrial appearance of the sandblasted/brushed surfaces, almost as if to highlight the individual bridges.
The competitive landscape
Even after so many years, the Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon remains one of the brand’s most awe-inspiring wristwatches. It pays tribute to some of the greatest inventions in watchmaking and does so in the most spectacular way. While its price tag of SGD252,300 (rose gold variant) may cause some to flinch, we feel that it is fairly priced. Make no mistake, it is still a princely sum to part with for what is an “obsolete time-telling device”, but the fact remains that it is a time-telling device of transcendent craftsmanship, a work of art if you will. Excruciatingly few timepieces in the market are comparable to the Tradition Fusée Tourbillon, but they do exist:
Not only is the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” a mouthful to say like the Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon, it is also a time-only watch with a tourbillon and a fusée and chain mechanism. The regulator-style dial display (inspired by the No. 93 pocket watch by Dresden watchmaker Johann Seyffert) also confers an air of science fiction to the timepiece. That said, the Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” remains noticeably more traditional than the Tradition Fusée Tourbillon, mainly in terms of design, materials and finishing.
The most obvious difference between the two is that in the Breguet, the dial-side is mostly exposed, displaying the tourbillon and fusée and chain in full glory, while in the Lange, the dial is mostly intact, exposing only the tourbillon while the fusée and chain can only be viewed from the case back. First introduced in pink gold and platinum in 2011, other versions of the Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” have since been introduced – the white gold version shown in the photograph below is priced at SGD279,000. With similar price tags, the choice between the two largely comes down to personal preferences: the Breguet’s breathtaking design or the Lange’s superlative movement finissage?
Another noteworthy rival to the Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon is the Chronomètre FB 1 by new kids on the block Ferdinand Berthoud. Ferdinand Berthoud is a brand that was resurrected by Chopard back in 2015. A new brand it may be but it is backed by the same people responsible for Chopard’s haut de gamme L.U.C movements. Because of this, Ferdinand Berthoud was able to hit the ground running… or rather, sprinting… like Usain Bolt. In spite of being the brand’s maiden timepiece, the Chronomètre FB 1 won the coveted Aiguille d’
Instead of displaying the tourbillon and fusée and chain in front, the Chronomètre FB 1 keeps the dial relatively intact and displays them behind via a sapphire crystal case back. The inclusion of the fusée and chain mechanism in a marine chronometre-inspired watch such as the Chronomètre FB 1 is fitting, given that the mechanism was widely used in marine chronometres in the past. The tourbillon on the other hand isn’t from the world of marine chronometres. Nevertheless, it proves to be an imposing sight on the Chronomètre FB 1 (in a good way). The cage design is surprisingly evocative and its finishing is appealing. Overall, Ferdinand Berthoud’s first watch ticks all the right boxes (we recommend reading our in-depth review of it here); it should therefore not be a surprise that it was the belle of the ball at 2016’s GPHG. The watch, in either white or rose gold, is priced at CHF220,000, or SGD302,430 based on the exchange rate at the time of writing.
The Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon is a technical masterpiece with exhibitionist tendencies. Even if you aren’t a fan of its exposed design, you’ll find it hard to look away and not be in awe. Call it a modern vintage or a classic contemporary, the Tradition Fusée Tourbillon is about taking two complex precision-enhancing devices and making them as sexy as possible. Few other timepieces in the Breguet collection express the brand’s heritage and capabilities this purely – donning the Tradition Fusée Tourbillon on your wrist is wearing on your wrist the spirit of Breguet.