The Tradition occupies a special place in Breguet’s catalogue. The line has been around since 2005, but its legacy dates back much further than that — all the way to the life of Abraham-Louis Breguet himself, and a watch that dates back to 1795: the souscription watch.
The souscription (or subscription) watch is exceptionally simple, and also offered a new business model for Breguet. The name comes from the fact that customers could reserve the production of their watch with the downpayment of a quarter of its price. They were uncomplicated, affordable and serviceable by any watchmaker, a far cry from the tourbillons and great complications that earned Breguet the title of France’s finest watchmaker.
The reason for this pivot comes down to timing. France in 1795 was tumultuous. The Revolution and the Terror were fresh in people’s minds, and Breguet, fresh from a two-year self-imposed exile, in the comparative safety of Switzerland, was back and needed to build up a new, less conspicuously aristocratic client base.
The souscription watch met this need and was phenomenally popular. Mr Emmanuel Breguet, a seventh-generation direct descendent of Abraham-Louis Breguet and Vice President, Head of Patrimony and Marketing for the watchmaker, suggests that around 700 souscription and Tact watches (the first of which used the same caliber) were produced. Even more impressive is that (somewhat staggeringly), he believes 60 to 70 per cent of them are still out and about in private collections.
It was the distinctive, elegant architecture of the sousciption watches that served as an inspiration for the Tradition line, and it’s a testament to the integrity of the design that the 200-year-old layout looks remarkably current in the third millennium.
From that time, it’s become a Breguet staple, with a range of variants on offer, from comparatively simple hand-wound watches to the 7077 Independent Chronograph and the 7047 tourbillon with fusée and chain. The latest model, the Tradition Quantième Retrograde 7597, sits in the middle of the pack, adding a brand-new complication to the assortment, a retrograde date.
Before we get to the date, let’s start with the case. Offered in white or rose gold, in a 40mm case, straight welded lugs with screw bars and the familiar fluted case middle. The dial, which dominates the top of the watch is, as you might expect hand engine-turned, individually numbered in glorious guilloché.
And as for the date. Well, it’s displayed in a near 180-degree arced sector at the bottom of the dial, in gold with printed numerals or applied gold dots to mark the day. The date indicator itself is a long central hand, blued and curved in a fantastically intricate manner to work around the not insubstantial architectural challenges the movement provides.
The automatic caliber 505Q uses a new retrograde date complication with a series of racks that move the date hand; regulated by a cam and new flexible date finger that prevents the possibility of damage when setting the watch. And of course, if you need to set the date in a hurry, there’s a quick date, adjust pusher at the 10 o’clock position.
With its modern styling and dark, anthracite movement finishing, it’s easy to forget that the Tradition line is just that — traditional.
Caliber 505Q, mechanical self-winding movement with 50-hour power reserve, retrograde date; reverse in-line lever escapement with silicon horns; Breguet balance spring in silicon
Case and dial
18-carat white or rose gold, 40mm with finely fluted caseband, welded lugs with screw bars, water-resistant to 30m; dial is engine-turned by hand, 18-carat silvered fold, individually numbered and signed; open-tipped Breguet hands in blued steel
Alligator leather with a pin buckle