November 7, 2017
by David Bredan
The Breguet Classique 7787 is a watch not many other brands could get away with calling “classique.” It has a silicon escapement and balance spring and, more immediately apparent, a dial so all over the place, most traditional manufactures would throw the design and its designer out the moment the first sketches were presented. And yet, in a Breguet, it all just works, somehow.
I am an absolute fan of Breguet and, I’ll go so far as to say, I believe every watch enthusiast out there to be one too – just maybe not to the same extent. While I can rarely tolerate watch brands re-releasing their old stuff – frankly, I personally utterly loathe these Vacheron Historiques, for example – Breguet is among the very few whose past is vivid, fascinating, and quirky enough, that pretty much all they have to do is keep on paying an honest tribute to it. For a Breguet that by definition comes with tasteful, yet powerful innovation, just look at the double-balance chronograph 7077 for one of the finest modern Breguet watches that stand for everything a 21st century Breguet should.
But not all watches can (or should) have an open dial and multiple balance wheels – some have to be much more restrained and elegant, in the more traditional meaning of the latter. That’s where the Breguet Classique 7787 comes into the picture.
The Classique 7787’s design was inspired by an original Breguet pocket watch dubbed No. 5 from 1794 (tell me that isn’t a luxurious sounding product name that preceded its age by centuries) and it comes in four variations. The purist-seducing 39mm wide case of the 7787 is crafted exclusively from white or rose gold and either of these cases are made available with an off-white grand feu enamel dial, or one with some properly extensive guilloché work. The one we’re looking at today is the white gold version with the enamel dial, the exact reference being Breguet Classique 7787BB/29/9V6.
Like so many other Breguet watches, the 7787 balances its smaller diameter with some unnervingly straight lugs that are just the right length – the designer managed to not make the lugs a compensatory element, something that generally still happens too often on otherwise fine looking cases. As such, the 7787 is a relatively small watch by 21st century watch standards, but it still has enough presence to look elegant – and not apologetic. Most brands tend to struggle greatly either when it comes to making these designs look great stretched to above forty wide – that is just the nature of proportions – or with timid-looking, petite watches instead. This Breguet is neither stretched, nor timid. It’s just about right.
Breguet hands meet Breguet numerals on the dial and that by itself is a solid recipe for success. Just these two elements are like the signature or a fingerprint of a genius. It is something that was created hundreds of years ago and has been functioning in perfect harmony since. Kudos to Breguet for not butchering the hands but keeping them the proper length – public service announcement: hands must at all times reach their respective tracks, not point at them!
Things get messy when the other three indications enter the picture – these would be the seconds hand, the phase of the moon display, and the power reserve indication. Strangely, I don’t mind this unorthodox layout for a dress watch. Dress watches, and especially the ones that follow the dress watch code as strictly as this one attempts, are more often than not worn on dreary long days where everyone is wearing the same sort of clothes and shoes and watches and ties and speaking the same sort of speak to one another. I understand today somehow it’s hip to wear derby shoes with training shoe soles (a vomit-inducing disgrace, in my opinion), so if you’re to play by the “business attire” rule book, you might as well opt for something that stays classy but also puts a smile on your face every once in a while.
Feel free to disagree, but I find some playfulness in this 7787. Perhaps it is in how the circular ends of the main hands clash with the circular counterweight of the seconds, with legibility further hindered by the long “F U” power reserve hand that stretches far too long across the dial. The entire display is a playful “so what?!” type of thing to me – and before you were to smash your keyboard in disagreement, let me calm your nerves by saying: yes, Breguet does make an extensive range of boringly perfect variations in the Classique line that do away with all this clutter.
However, as this small watch would be peeking out from under a perfectly tailored cuff, after a few months of ownership I can imagine many will wish they had gone for the watch that had some fun element there on the dial, not just the white plain of enamel to keep everyone happy by seeing you’re part of the pack, wearing a boring watch.
The power reserve is doubly functional since, for some inexplicable reason, the Breguet Classique 7787 offers a measly 38 hours of power reserve. The Breguet 591 DRL caliber inside is a mere 11.5 lignes wide – that’s ancient watchmaker lingo for 25.9mm. At just 39mm wide, we’re looking at a relatively small watch with an even smaller movement inside and that, unfortunately, most of the time means a rather short power reserve. The duo of automatic winding and power reserve indication should help one keep his or her watch wound.
More from this century are the escapement and balance spring, both crafted from silicon. The hairspring is a flat one in silicon – for some reason I’d personally prefer the view of a Breguet overcoil, but that really is just personal preference. Nevertheless, the smaller movement does have one main remedying factor, and that’s the relatively slim case profile it allows for. At just 10.2mm thick, the Breguet Classique 7787 may be a dress watch with the sub-40mm diameter to match. At least it sits nice and low on the wrist, even with the automatic winding, power reserve, and phase of the moon indication packed between its sapphire front and back.
The Breguet Classique 7787 is a developed taste for sure but, then again, that’s just fine. Breguet makes a sufficiently wide range of traditional dress watches, but once you’ve owned those – or if you can imagine what it would be like to have a safe dress watch – you’ll probably begin to appreciate the quirky-cool versions a bit more. It is a watch that is far from perfect by traditional standards, but it doesn’t appear to have tried to be in the first place; and I sort of love it for that. Last, but not least, such quirky designs are in line with a lot of the great Abraham-Louis’ work too.
Price for the Breguet Classique 7787 in white gold with a beautiful grand feu enamel dial is $30,200. breguet.com