In 2018, Breguet decided to focus almost entirely on building out its Marine collection, which also included the support of an initiative for the preservation of the ocean worldwide. We had the opportunity to briefly set sail with the new collection.
Horloger de la Marine
Instruments for sea exploration have been an important part of Breguet’s history, especially since the watchmaker was appointed the official chronometer-maker to the French Royal Navy in 1815 (shortly after having been appointed a member of the Bureau des Longitudes in Paris), undoubtedly the most prestigious title to which a French horologist could aspire to at that time.
The Bureau des Longitudes in Paris was created in 1795 by the National Convention and dedicated to the advancement of the various branches of astronomy and their applications to geography, navigation and geodesy (the measurement and understanding of Earth’s physical properties). Its tasks included the annual publication of reference documents such as astronomical ephemerides. The Bureau des Longitudes was a prestigious organization whose few members included geometers, astronomers, seafarers and associate artists. The only representative of his profession that was eminently useful to physicists and navigators, Breguet became the horological authority, notably for the calculation of longitudes at sea.
Marine chronometers were essential to determine the precise position of ships at sea (similar to today’s GPS) and were typically mounted on special boxes made of mahogany or walnut. A gimbal suspension system counterbalances the ship’s movement and keeps the instrument level. Today, traces of the distinctive look of the watchmaker’s maritime instruments can still be found in Breguet’s appropriately named Marine collection, which also is one of the brand’s collections with a comparatively sportier touch, with prices starting at $18,500 for the new automatic model in titanium, a first for this collection. Thierry Esslinger, Breguet’s CEO, said, “Titanium is interesting due to its high resistance to corrosion, especially in salt-water. We must also consider markets in Southeast Asia where the humidity is generally very high. So titanium is very well suited for the Marine collection. And the use of titanium at Breguet is still rather more the exception [than the rule].”
On the other end of the scale, in 2017, Breguet presented one of the collection’s technically more ambitious novelties: the Marine Équation Marchante 5887. The watch displays the running equation of time at a glance using a “running” (marchante in French) central hand on the dial. It also displays the cam that controls the equation-of-time function – alongside a tourbillon and a perpetual calendar. Breguet introduced two references, one in 18k rose gold, priced at $215,000, and the other in platinum, priced at $230,400. The cases are 43.9-mm wide and water resistant to 100 meters. Equally important, the 5887 represented the most significant visual refurbishment done on the collection since 2005 and laid the ground for the range expansion shown at Baselworld 2018.
The Race for Water
At the same time, Breguet announced a partnership with a charity dedicated to the preservation of water and the ocean, the Race for Water Foundation. Marc A. Hayek, President of Montres Breguet, commented, “In the early 19th century, timekeeping played a pivotal role in maritime navigation. We are continuing that tradition by supporting an odyssey of vital importance for our common future.” The Race for Water foundation recently launched a second oceanic tour in order to provide concrete, technology-based solutions for the preservation of the ocean. “With the 2017-2021 Odyssey, and its integrated mixed solar-hydrogen-kite-powered vessel, we want to demonstrate that sustainable solutions for ocean conservation can be realized thanks to innovative technologies,” explained Marco Simeoni, President of the Race for Water Foundation. The Odyssey will make around 35 stopovers all around the world and provide an opportunity for scientists and decision makers to gather and share their expertise on the need to preserve water, humanity’s most precious resource. Breguet will support this expedition through its completion in 2021 and also provide watches: a special edition of the Marine 5517 with a 40-mm titanium case and a blue dial that features the Race for Water vessel in a clous de Paris motif. It is powered by Breguet’s automatic Caliber 777A and currently only available to the ship’s crew. Breguet is, of course, also offering several unlimited variations for its Marine 5517 – in white gold, rose gold and titanium.
Breguet’s New Single-Masted Sailing Boat
Inside the collection’s new base model is the mechanical self-winding Caliber 777A with a 55-hour power reserve, inverted in-line lever escapement with silicon horns, and silicon balance spring. The 40-mm case comes with the brand’s signature fluted caseband, a sapphire crystal caseback and is water resistant to 10 bar (100 meters). Breguet is offering several variations for its Marine 5517 – in white gold, rose gold and titanium. The dials of the white-gold and rose-gold models both bear an engine-turned “wave” motif: the oscillating weight features a design inspired by a ship’s rudder. The titanium version comes with a sunburst slate-gray dial in gold as well as faceted Breguet hands in gold.
Breguet offers various strap options: a brown or blue leather strap, and a much less water-shy rubber version is also available. The titanium model is priced at $18,500 and the rose- and white-gold versions are priced at $28,700.
The Frigate: Marine Chronographe 5527
A.-L. Breguet not only produced watches with a seconds hand that could be activated and stopped on demand before 1810, he also worked on a predecessor of today’s split-second chronograph, a complication that will soon be celebrating two centuries of existence. The new Marine Chronographe 5527 continues this tradition with a chronograph with three subdials. The minutes counter is at 3 o’clock, the hours counter at 6 o’clock and the small seconds subdial can be found at 9 o’clock. The date window is between 4 and 5 o’clock. The 42.3-mm model is also individually numbered and water resistant to 100 meters.
Identical to its smaller, automatic sister model, all three versions come with either a rubber or leather strap. Inside the watch is the self-winding Caliber 582QA with 48-hour power reserve and an inverted in-line lever escapement with silicon horns. It also features a silicon balance spring. The titanium model is priced at $22,600 and the rose and white gold are both priced at $28,700.
The Ship Horn: Marine Alarme Musicale 5547
Breguet fortunately decided that it was time to further increase the number of mechanical watches with alarms and presented a new watch with three horological complications. In addition to an alarm, the Marine Alarme Musicale 5547 displays a second time zone as well as the date, making it an ideal companion for seafarers and business travelers alike.
When the alarm’s striking mechanism is triggered, a ship’s bell appears through an opening at 12 o’clock. The alarm and second time-zone indications appear in two separate subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock. The striking mechanism power reserve is visible between 9 and 12 o’clock. When the model is fully wound, the arrow points to the all-red indication at 9 o’clock. The Marine Alarme Musicale 5547 also features a date display at 6 o’clock.
Inside the 40-mm watch is the self-winding Caliber 519F/1 with a 45-hour power reserve, inverted in-lever escapement in silicon and silicon balance spring. Unlike its two predecessors, the Alarme Musicale 5547 is water resistant to 5 bar (50 meters). All three models come with either a rubber or leather strap. The titanium model is priced at $28,600 and the rose- and white-gold versions are priced at $40,900.
A New Sea Route
Breguet’s revamped Marine collection came as a bit of a surprise. For a brand with more than 240 years of history and a reputation for classic watches, the new Marine brings a surprisingly modern and contemporary look, especially the titanium versions with a sunburst slate gray dial. And with prices starting at $18,500, the collection may very well attract a new type of seafarers looking for a versatile watch from a premium brand like Breguet. We particularly liked the 5547 with mechanical alarm and second time-zone indications. It is one of the watches one can easily connect with emotionally and offers a highly practical combination of mechanical complications. On the other hand, the Marine Équation Marchante 5887 from 2017 remains, of course, the collection’s horological masterpiece.
This article originally appeared in the November-December 2018 issue of WatchTime.