Breguet is a name that has existed in the watch industry for over 200 years, and it seems like it will remain around indefinitely. This sense of eternal existence was fortified during the acquisition of Breguet by horological giant Swatch Group in 1999. Being a brand rich in history, it might seem like its path was predetermined — to continue creating classical masterpieces in precious metals and neutral versatile tones — until the lightbulb went off. The world is changing, and segments of the watch industry are quickly falling behind. Breguet saw the writing on the wall and is making a decided effort not to be left in the dust.
In comes the Frieze Global Art Fair, an international sensation for art enthusiasts, scholars, and the general public. Frieze exhibits dozens of art galleries from well-known artists, as well as up-and-coming talent. Breguet’s long-term connection to the arts made the decision to partake in the fair a relatively easy one. However, the brand needed an artist to collaborate with since watches on display would be more of a sales platform than an art display, in some eyes. Searching high and low for the right fit, Breguet seemed to be running out of time until it was presented with a sample from Pablo Bronstein. The sample artwork depicted horological machinery on a scale larger than life, and the brand knew Bronstein was the right fit. For the first collaboration, Bronstein expanded on his initial sample and created a multi-paneled wall representing a full industrial watchmaking scene including depictions of the famous Souscription pocket watch, which happened to be on display at the fair, as well.
You may be wondering, “I came here to read about a watch, so why is he talking about an art fair?” Well, nothing in the watch world happens very quickly, and this new watch was partially the result of this shift in direction. As the first step on the road to modernity, Breguet has incorporated the traditional Breguet blue into the new Quantième Rétrograde 7597. The introduction of a simple color that the brand uses frequently is not the most earth-shattering change, but when you consider the courage it takes for a brand like Breguet to take a small step out of its comfort zone and admit it is time for a change, it is hard not to get a little excited. With each consecutive Frieze Art Fair through 2024, Breguet will display new artwork from Pablo Bronstein and potentially new and exciting updates to its collections.
The Quantième Rétrograde 7597 in blue is a 40mm-wide example from the Tradition collection. Coming in at 12.1mm-thick, the 7597 has an elegant but substantial wrist presence, partially due to the extra weight that comes with a solid white-gold case. It will fit under a cuff, but I’m not sure you’d want to hide it. On wrist, the Quantième Rétrograde 7597 is surprisingly hefty and provides plenty of wrist presence without feeling large. The short stick-like lugs are welded to the case and finished to fall in line with the coin-edge texture of the caseband. While extending sharply from the case, the lugs provide just enough clearance for the moderately stiff midnight-blue alligator strap. The simple pin buckle leaves the wearer wanting a clasp that feels more substantial, but all is forgotten once you see the dial and movement again. As this is no sports watch, by any means, a water resistance of 30 meters is sufficient.
The dial affixed at 12 o’clock is made of gold and given the Breguet blue treatment. It features a “Clous de Paris” pattern applied through hand-guilloché, providing dynamic textures for a majority of the dial surface. Transitioning from the “Clous de Paris” motif in the center, there is a notched appearance interspersed between the radial grained outer sectors. Roman numerals and open-tipped hands round out this small time-telling platform with quite a lot of character and enough contrast to read the time at a glance.
A symmetrical self-winding caliber, the 505Q, echoes the design language of the Souscription but has all the benefits of modern materials. Silicon is implemented in the Breguet balance-spring and inverted lever escapement to increase anti-magnetic resistance. Beating away at 3Hz, the 7597 has a somewhat standard power reserve of 50 hours. Both sides of this caliber are finished with an anthracite coating and have a frosted texture that plays with light while contrasting the high polished bevels of the bridges and screws. The white-gold oscillating weight, which is the same shape as the one found on Abraham-Louis Breguet’s Perpétuelle watch from 1780, has a near mirror polish, as well, and can be viewed through the sapphire caseback.
The standout feature of this watch, and part of its namesake, is not a subtle one. Extending from the center of the dial, the long blue pointer date hand has two ninety-degree adjustments to avoid any contact with other movement elements as it transverses the date sector. This dial sector spans the bottom half of the movement, starting just shy of 3 o’clock and terminating just before 9 o’clock. It is given the same blue treatment as the primary time dial with a radial finishing. High-polished pips are present for even numbers and white text for the odd. And for those wondering, that is not a helium escape valve at 10 o’clock, it is a screw-down pusher to adjust the retrograde date indicator.
As the Frieze Art Fair makes its way to locations across the globe, so will Breguet, displaying fascinating watches from its history and current collection along with new unseen artwork from Pablo Bronstein. Speaking of modernization and actively pursuing it are two very different things, and we look forward to seeing the steps Breguet takes to stay relevant and appeal to new audiences. For information regarding future fair events, head over to the Frieze Art Fair website. The Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 is not limited and is listed at $38,600 USD. For more details head over to Breguet’s website.