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A date is a very powerful complication: it has the power to swiftly ruin the appearance of a watch. Elegant watches in particular don’t necessarily fare well with a hole punctured in the dial to reveal a date wheel underneath.
Some brands don’t even go to the trouble of making sure that the date wheel has the same color as the dial. To me, this is one of the great atrocities in watch design.
Fortunately, there are also many solutions to incorporate a date function in a more sophisticated way because the truth of the matter is that many clients do prefer having this complication. A personal favorite is the date hand – of which Oris is a great advocate – as this makes the date easy to read. This can not often be said of the small subdials that some brands prefer.
Inventive solutions can be found (and do exist), but they take time, effort, and creativity. I still remember the presentation from Anthony de Haas, director of product development at A. Lange & Söhne, in which he talked at length about the difficulties he and his team had to overcome while developing the Zeitwerk Date. Such effort to incorporate what is often seen as the least complex complication is rarely exerted but will always pay dividends – at least from an aesthetic point of view.
Upon introduction in 2005, the Tradition collection took its inspiration from the Montre à Tact pocket watches that Abraham-Louis Breguet made starting in 1799. Especially looking at Breguet No. 960 from 1802, the resemblance with the modern-day wristwatch is striking.
With an openworked layout giving this timepiece its strong appeal, a date function would nearly always be an “intrusion” taking away from the watch’s magic.
Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597: adding without taking away
With the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597, Breguet has found a way to incorporate a date function in a non-intrusive way that also pays tribute to the past. While many think that the retrograde style is an invention of recent history, it turns out that Abraham-Louis Breguet had already developed it in 1794.
A.-L. Breguet used it in a variety of his watches, most notably in No. 160, the pocket watch also known as the Marie Antoinette. The story goes that it was initially ordered as a gift for the French queen, but Breguet continued working on it long after she fell victim to the French revolution, making it the piece de resistance of his career.
The modern Breguet brand’s Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 uses a variation on this theme by placing the numerals on a semicircle arc along the periphery of the lower half of the watch, where a hand indicates the exact date.
It marginally covers the gear train, but not enough to endanger the original charm of the watch. The date hand is a true attraction, coming out from underneath the off-center hour-and-minute dial where it is connected to a snail cam that advances its position each day.
On the 31st, it reaches the highest position on the cam then falls back to the lowest, making the hand to fly back to the start (1). The hand has to clear quite a few obstacles along the way, so that it needed to be bent in three places.
As the hand is blued, it increases the perception of depth on the dial even more. The hand’s tip is also placed at an angle to elegantly and precisely indicate the date. Why Breguet filled the tip with Super-LumiNova is beyond me, though. When it is dark, you probably cannot read the date, so even based on the glowing tip it will be a guess anyway. Apart from that, the hour and minute hands are not filled with Super-LumiNova, making it even less understandable to me.
The movement of the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 is essentially the same as that of the Tradition 7057 and 7097, apart from their respective complications. Where the 7057 has a power reserve indicator and the 7097 retrograde seconds, the 7597 features a date.
The movement is fitted with a silicon Breguet balance spring and pallet fork of the inverted straight-line lever escapement. The modernized pare-chute shock protection system is also a nice nod to tradition as Abraham-Louis Breguet first developed this balance anti-shock system in 1790, but wasn’t completely happy with it until its final form in 1806.
The oscillating weight also took its inspiration from those that Breguet used in his Perpetuelle (automatic) pocket watches two centuries ago.
To like or not to like, that isn’t a question
Another advantage of the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 is that it isn’t larger in diameter than the regular Tradition 7057 or the 7097. One of the things that makes this watch so appealing to me is that Breguet got its dimensions just right. With a diameter of 40 mm, I think that the size is spot on, giving all the aspects of the watch enough room to shine without making anything look crowded.
In opting for this date function, though, you must endure the screw-in corrector at 10 o’clock protruding from the case side. I find this an interesting choice on the part of Breguet as this pusher is quite prominent.
Of course, the added advantage is its user-friendliness, especially over a hidden corrector, which always needs a stylus and a set of reading glasses to be operated properly.
Upon contemplation, I have decided that it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for me and might even seduce some clients who usually are more into sporty creations. It makes the watch transcend out of the realm of traditional classic watches, much more so than the original Tradition from 2005. This added date complication is a tour de force that Abraham-Louis Breguet himself would likely have been quite proud of.
For more information, please visit www.breguet.com/en/timepieces/new-models-tradition.
Quick Facts Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597
Case: 40 x 12.1 mm, white gold or pink gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 505Q with free-sprung balance spring in silicon, 50-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, inverted straight-line lever escapement with silicon pallet fork
Functions: hours, minutes; date
Price: €37,100/$37,800 (pink gold), €37,900/$38,600 (white gold)