Who says you can’t go home again? Breguet, the haute horlogerie timepiece manufacturer founded by the visionary 18th-century watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, has built much of its modern collection upon its namesake’s historical invention, the tourbillon. The newest of these timekeepers pays the most direct tribute yet to the founder and to the Parisian atelier where he created his early masterpieces — as well as displaying the 21st-Century technical and decorative mastery for which the manufacture has become renowned.
The Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345 Quai de l’Horloge is unlike any other Breguet tourbillon watch that preceded it and yet in some sense a culmination of all of them. Its two-tourbillon movement, connected by a differential device and in spectacular full view behind a sapphire dial, rotates the entire plate in sequence with the passing hours, and its hand-finished array of components — 738 in all, including no fewer than 81 jewels — include mainplates and bridges in solid gold, a Breguet first. On the rear side of the manually wound Caliber 588N is the painstakingly applied micro-artistry that lends the model its name: a rendering of the “House on the Quai,” — the workshop on Paris’s Ile de la Cité where Abraham-Louis Breguet plied his trade back in the days when he was providing timepieces to clients like Napoleon Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette — engraved across four golden bridges.
The watch’s round, 46-mm case is made of platinum, with the manufacture’s signature fluting on the sides, and topped with a box-type sapphire crystal. Underneath the glass is the main horological event: the entirely exposed mechanism of the sculpturally crafted movement, pivoting around its axis at the rate of one full turn every 12 hours. Driving this motion are two independent tourbillons, each completing a full rotation per minute. Interconnected by the differential, these regulating organs perform a double revolution, driving the tourbillon bar that serves as the hours hand — crafted in the classical style of blued Breguet hands. Both tourbillons beat independently from one another, each driven by its own barrel, but are coupled with a second pair of wheels that revolves in the central differential. This “double-entry mechanism” determines the average rate of the tourbillons, allowing for the rotating mainplate (made of gold) to orbit the dial twice a day, creating the illusion that the stationary “hour hand” is moving along with the traditional, centered minutes hand, telling the time on the classical blue Roman numerals around the dial’s periphery.
To create this mechanism, one of the most complex ever used in a Breguet watch, its engineers had to update the manual winding mechanism with the addition of independent wheel trains and to equip one of the two barrels with a friction bridle, similar to those used in self-winding calibers, which allows the spring to disengage once coiled until the second barrel is fully wound (for a power reserve of 50 hours). The torque-limited crown is designed to prevent excessive winding of the springs. In addition to the meticulous hand-guilloché on the back of the gold bridges, depicting the facade of 39 Quai de l’Horloge in Paris, the front view of the movement offers its own signature flourish: both barrel bridges are rounded and shaped into the hallmark Breguet “B.” All the parts are straight-grained, chamfered, and satin-brushed by hand, and the gold-etched building facade includes among its artisanal details a window through which the caliber’s wheels can be glimpsed. (Notably, the movement’s essential escapement parts are made from steel in this watch, as per historical tradition, rather than silicon, which is found in most modern Breguet watches.)
The Classique Double Tourbillon Quai de l’Horloge is mounted on a strap that is also a bit off the beaten path for über-traditional Breguet: a “stone”-colored natural slate strap with a rubber base, which fastens the timepiece to the wrist via a triple-folding clasp made of the same platinum as the case. Very limited in production, though not limited to a set number of pieces, the watch will retail for $631,000.