Breguet’s new Classique 7147 with enamel dial wouldn’t look out of place in an exhibit at a watchmaking museum. Place it among Abraham-Louis Breguet’s (1747-1823) masterpieces from the 18th and 19th centuries and the only thing that would possibly give it away would be the shininess of its scratch-free new gold case.

Everything about the watch celebrates its founder’s craft, from the exquisite handmade grand feu enamel dial to the refined case and the intricate movement. Perfectly illustrating Breguet’s passion for bringing the past into the present, the Classique 7147 couldn’t be more timeless.

Dialling Back To The Past

The enamel-dialled watch honours Breguet’s work in every way. The first thing that catches the eye in this new timepiece is the pure white dial that has been produced using the ancestral art of grand feu enamel.

Enamel is a type of glass that is applied onto a metal support and heated until the two fuse together. Its properties include a mixture of silica, a sand-like material, and a variety of other substances such as soda, potassium carbonate and borax that are prepared following ancient recipes.

The process of enamelling watch dials has hardly changed since it was first used on pocket watches in the 1600s. It all starts with the preparation of the enamel powder that is meticulously washed and cleaned to remove any impurities that could otherwise ruin the dial.

The kiln is where the magic happens and only an experienced eye knows when to put the dials in and take them out. In the past, kilns were often placed in a dark room to help the enameller gauge the temperature by looking at the colour inside of the kiln. Nowadays the kilns are fitted with temperature gauges to help the enamellist, but a trained eye and experience are still critical.

Once the enamel has fused perfectly with the dial, it is taken out of the kiln and left to cool. This process is then repeated several times until a pure and luminous white coating is fixed onto the brass base that also has a ceramic insert. This perfect white is thus fixed in time and will never tarnish, as centuries of enamel objects have proven.

The Devil In The Detail

The next step is printing the famous Breguet numerals onto the dial. This unique calligraphy was designed by A-L Breguet to decorate his timepieces over two centuries ago and is recognised by its highly legible Arabic font. Known in French as the Chiffres Breguet, these elegant numerals continue to be used today, especially on the brand’s enamel dials, as is the case with the new Classique 7147.

The Breguet numerals are painted onto the dial with a paintbrush made out of the fur of a zibeline, a small carnivorous mammal that inhabits forest environments, primarily in Russia. The paintbrushes made from this luxurious fur often only have one hair.

In the 1700s, watch hands had a tendency to be short, broad and heavily decorated, making it difficult to read the time with any great precision. From his earliest days as a watchmaker, Breguet set out to improve every element of his watches, from the internal workings of their movements to the external design elements on the dial. As watch hands are an essential part of a watch, both in terms of their functionality and their aesthetics, it is hardly surprising that this was another area in which Breguet left his indelible mark. In 1783 he invented a new design of hands that was to change watch hand design forever. These new hands featured hollow shapes, much like an apple or a crescent moon, near the tip and were so successful that they are still in use today.

Another fine trait of Breguet design can be seen on this Classique’s gold case. The casebands of each Classique Collection timepiece are decorated with fluting (fine grooves enhanced with double beading) running vertically between the bezel and the caseback. This caseband fluting is achieved by cold-rolling, a process whereby the metal is pressed and then reworked entirely by hand using a workpiece holder. The refinement and sober nature of this “Breguet style” was used in numerous historic creations and finds itself on many of the brand’s timepieces today, again attesting to the magic of its founder’s creations.

The white- or rose-gold case of the Classique 7147 dial measures 40mm in diameter, but seems larger thanks to its relatively thin bezel and straight lugs which extend beyond the case on the wrist. The timepiece is also thin in height despite the thickness of the hand-crafted enamel dial, keeping in line with the codes of a traditional and formal men’s dress watch. Other details include a practical small sub-dial at 5 o’clock that discreetly ticks away the seconds.

Under The Dial

The Classique 7147 is powered by Breguet’s Calibre 502.3SD beating at a rate of 3Hz. The movement can be admired through a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback. This automatic movement features a ¾ size rotor (between a full-sized rotor and a micro rotor), has a power reserve of 45 hours and includes an inverted in-line lever escapement and silicon balance spring and pallets, bringing the best of modern technology into the classic world. The movement has been decorated following all the codes of traditional Breguet watchmaking with Côtes de Genève and Clous de Paris decorative motifs.

As one of the few watch companies with such an illustrious history, Breguet continues to be inspired by the countless treasures to be found in its archives, but also by the ingenuity of its watchmakers who are constantly inspired by the past. These watchmakers and constructors, driven by the same enthusiasm that A-L Breguet brought to his art, continue to work according to the same philosophy, constantly searching for new ways to perfect their timepieces. Every year sees the arrival of new patents pertaining to the intricate workings of Breguet’s movements, establishing Breguet as a benchmark in contemporary fine watchmaking.

The Classique 7147 with enamel dial celebrates this continuing history that started over 250 years ago. With its traditional grand feu enamel dial and advanced mechanical horology, it represents the essence of Breguet’s mission to stay ahead of its time with a flow of inventions and improvements, while never forgetting what makes a timepiece truly beautiful.

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