The minute repeater is often seen as one of watchmaking’s most sophisticated complications. The histories of the minute repeater and Breguet have been entwined for nearly 250 years. While Abraham-Louis Breguet, the brand’s founder, did not invent the minute repeater, he was deeply involved in improving it. As early as 1783, he created the first repeating watches striking a spring blade instead of the bell-type gong used until then. This innovation eventually led to the gongs that we have today in modern watchmaking. Interestingly, there aren’t many minute repeater watches in the current catalogue of Breguet, at least when compared to other manufactures of equal calibre. There’s only the Classique 5447, a perpetual calendar minute repeater, and the Classique 7639, a minute repeater encrusted in diamonds – that is, until this year.
Breguet Classique 7637 Répétition Minutes
When Breguet introduces a new minute repeater to its collection, the world stops and listen, because it’s a rare phenomenon. This time, the crown jewel of the Swatch group opts for the clean and classic approach to its musical novelty. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the new Breguet Classique 7637 Répétition Minutes in pink gold with black enamel dial.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the new Classique 7637 Répétition Minutes is rendered in pink gold and it measures 42 mm in diameter and 12.25 mm in thickness. While the ratio between the diameter and thickness is beautifully proportionate, it is a rather sizeable watch within the context of a traditional wristwatch. Moreover, the Classique 7637 wears larger than the dimensions would suggest thanks to the signature straight lugs of the Classique case. A stark contrast is struck between the contemporary sizing of the watch and its otherwise classical aesthetics.
Perhaps the most elegant element of the Classique 7637 is its enamel dial. Crafted using the grand feu technique, silica and ground oxides are carefully fired in a kiln at over 800 degrees Celsius. It is a challenging, laborious process with a high rejection rate, but the desired end product speaks for itself: a deep black enamel dial that is pristine and luscious, free of any blemish. It is only fitting that the prints on the dial – the Breguet numerals, Breguet logo, and minute track – are executed with something as radiant as powdered silver. The cherry on the cake, especially for Breguet connoisseurs, is of course the secret ‘Breguet’ signature that can be found just above 6 o’clock. Completing the impeccable look of the Classique 7637 are two pink gold open-tipped hands, displaying the hours and the minutes centrally.
Driving the Classique 7637 is the 31-jewel, 358-part Calibre 567.2, originating from a Lemania base but heavily evolved as you’d expect. The movement has a power reserve of 40 hours and operates at a stately 2.5 Hz frequency. It looks traditional through and through what with the finger bridges, but there is a slice of ingenuity and novelty found in the gongs. Instead of being fixed to the plate like in a typical minute repeater, here, they are attached to the case middle. According to Breguet, this allows the gong to vibrate and transmit sound more effectively. While the hammers are made of the classic material of steel, in the Calibre 567.2, the gongs are crafted from gold. It is claimed that a more harmonious sound can be produced this way. And since the case is also made of gold, the two components share the same acoustic impedance, thus providing improved sound transmission – a feature that has been patented by Breguet. Indeed, when we went hands-on with the Classique 7637, we noticed that its biggest strength was volume. However, we also found that musicality could perhaps be better. The sound produced had great attack but excessively fast decay – there was a lack of reverberation. The whirring of the regulator was also fairly audible. This isn’t to say that the chimes weren’t pleasing to the ear, but that it could’ve been so much more.
While the musicality of the Calibre 567.2 may divide opinions, there is no question on the meticulousness of the finissage that goes onto the movement. It is a work of art, featuring plenty of sharp inward and outward angles, mirror polished components (like the hammers and screws), as well as intricate hand-engraving on the surfaces of bridges and plates. If there was ever a time to be ornate and ‘extra’, this is it, on a watch like the Classique 7637. The contrast between the clean dial and the heavily adorned movement is striking in a poetic manner.
The Competitive Landscape
The minute repeater is one of horology’s most beloved complications, revered for its complexity and the sonic pleasure it brings. The complication truly transcends when it is fitted within a movement and watch that is as finely crafted as it is. Such is the beauty of the Breguet Classique 7637 Répétition Minutes, that only a handful can match it. The watch, available in pink or white gold, is part of Breguet’s permanent collection. It is priced at EUR264,700, or around the SGD360,000 mark.
When it comes to classic minute repeaters, no conversation is ever complete without mentioning Vacheron Constantin. Of course, the brand’s repeaters are more than just pretty faces – they are also some of the best sounding on the planet. The one minute repeater from Vacheron Constantin that is most comparable to the Breguet Classique 7637 also happens to be the only one of its model; we’re talking about the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Ultra-Thin ‘Romantic Note’. Like the Classique 7637, the Romantic Note features a clean dial that is made of enamel. Vacheron Constantin does take it a step further, though, by having all the Breguet numerals, the minute track, and the brand name rendered in black enamel instead of print. The finishing of the Calibre 1731 that drives the watch is less ornate than that of the Breguet’s movement but is at least as immaculate. The price of the Romantic Note is not made public but expect it to be close to half a million Swiss Francs.
For something a little more youthful yet elegant, look no further than the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie. While its visage is busier-looking than that of the Vacheron Constantin and Breguet, its enamel dial is no less impressive. Its smoked blue colour is the most complicated to achieve of the lot. The ‘AUDEMARS PIGUET’ logo on the dial is also enamel, in white. The inner bezel, meanwhile, isn’t enamel but coated with black lacquer to achieve a similar lusciousness. As impressive as the dial is, it is the Supersonnerie tech within that truly makes the watch. The Code 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie chimes with superior clarity, volume and musicality, comfortably placing it (and other repeaters with the same tech) among the best minute repeater wristwatches in the world. First released in 2019, the watch was priced at CHF295,000, making it moderately pricier than the Classique 7637.
The Breguet Classique 7637 Répétition Minutes is both an ode to the past and a nod to the present. Despite its pocket watch-inspired design, it does not look anachronistic thanks to its black dial and 42 mm case size. The Calibre 567.2 within may be derived from an older movement but it too has been thoroughly modernised and fitted with current upgrades. All in all, the watch is a crowd pleaser; it will appeal to both the traditionalist and modernist, but perhaps not completely satisfy either. Both sides will agree, however, that the watch is impeccably crafted, in accordance to the exacting standards of the manufacture.