Among Breguet’s collections, the Classiques are proud standard-bearers for the company’s traditional values and watchmaking art. They beautifully epitomise its two-hundred-year-plus heritage and the standout characteristics that are so original as to have influenced Fine Watchmaking history itself. The new Breguet Classique 5717 Hora Mundi watch introduced at Baselworld 2011 perfectly exemplifies the spirit of this prestigious collection.
It is made of precious materials: 18-carat red gold or 950 platinum. Three versions of the dial are available, each representing one part of the world: the Americas, the European and African continents, or Asia and Oceania – six references in all. Breguet’s teams needed three years to design, develop and perfect this complication watch. It is the first example of a mechanical timepiece with an instant-jump time-zone display. This function allows the traveller to easily display the time in two pre-selected time zones, changing instantly from one to the other simply by pressing a button, without disturbing the operation of the watch. Accurate operation during setting is ensured by a stop second system. Changing the time zone affects not only the time, but also the date synchronised through a «tracking» calendar system – and the day/night indicator.
The new Breguet Classique 5717 Hora Mundi watch features exceptional finishes, such as its translucent lacquered dial, and so seems likely to become a favourite of travellers who value beauty. It is a timepiece that draws its legitimacy from the very history of the brand. Indeed, throughout his life, founder Abraham-Louis Breguet could not imagine his passion and watchmaking genius as being separate from the distribution of his watches across the world. While he founded his company in Paris on the Quai de l’Horloge, and at first sold his pieces only in France, Abraham-Louis Breguet had understood since before the French Revolution that he simply had to ensure that his creations would be enjoyed beyond the borders. Accordingly, during the Napoleonic period and thereafter, he devoted himself to building an international sales network. To accomplish this, he devised a very personal strategy of approaching markets through a network of enlightened friends and professional salesmen. While Breguet’s timepieces found ardent aficionados mainly in England, Spain and Russia, they also had a following in Poland, throughout the German states and principalities, on the Italian peninsula, in Turkey, and even as far away as the United States.
In memory of its founder’s extensive travels, Breguet had already introduced a first Hora Mundi watch in 1996, in the Marine line. The 2011 version has markedly different functions. In addition to the hour, minute and second in the centre, it has a completely original date display that makes use of a dragging disc.
The disc appears in a window on the dial at 12 o’clock. The window is large enough to show three consecutive dates at once. For example, on the 25th of the month, the number 25 will cross the window from left to right over a period of 24 hours. Gradually, the 23 disappears, then the 24, and the 26 appears, followed by the 27. However, to avoid any confusion in reading the date, Breguet’s watchmakers have made an improvement. To the dragging calendar system they have added a tiny retrograde hand, hidden beneath the dial and ending in a small circle. The circle surrounds the day’s date as soon as it appears at the left side of the date window, and follows it through the day until it disappears at the right side of the window. At midnight, the hand with the circle jumps back to the left side of the window to indicate the date of the day just beginning. This entirely unique system is designed to make reading the date easier in a dragging calendar configuration.
This watch’s most iconic complication, however, is its instant-jump time-zone display system with synchronised date, day/night and city indications, a world first for a mechanical watch. This function lets the wearer preselect, from among the cities listed for the 24 time zones, two cities for which he wishes to display local time. He can then change from one to the other by pressing on the combined crown/pushpiece at 8 o’clock, which triggers an instant jump. For example, assume it is 4 pm in Paris on the 25th of the month. Rotating the combined crown/pushpiece reveals «Paris» in the window at 6 o’clock, then the crown at 3 o’clock is used to set the hands to 4 o’clock and the date to 25, taking care that the day/night indicator shows the sun. For quick display of the local time in Sydney, the crown/pushpiece is first rotated to bring up the name of the Australian city in the window at 6 o’clock; the watch then automatically sets itself to Sydney time. Since the difference in time is nine hours, the hour hand will move forward by nine hours. At the same time, the date will change to the 26th and the day/night indicator will turn to show the moon. When it is 4 pm in Paris, it is in fact 1 am the next day in Sydney. Once the watch has been preset, the double instant-jump time-zone display system will simultaneously change all the indications – hour, date and day/night – in a coordinated way from Paris time to Sydney time when the wearer simply presses on the crown/pushpiece. This complication will thus prove extremely useful for frequent travellers, or persons in contact with others living in distant countries; it allows them to get in touch with such people while being certain that they are not waking them up in the middle of the night.
The new Hora Mundi is equipped with the 5717 self-winding mechanical movement, which is based on Calibre 777 with a silicon escapement, in this case fitted with an additional module. Four patent applications were filed when it was designed. The first was for a timepiece comprising a mechanism with two time zones; the second covered the display of a time zone on demand via the main set of hands; the third was for a programmable and reprogrammable mechanical memory wheel for a timepiece; and the last for a mechanism for displaying a temporal dimension by means of a dragging hand.
In terms of its finishes and case this watch, measuring 44 mm in diameter and 13.55 mm thick, is in the purest Breguet tradition. Made of 18-carat gold or 950 platinum, the case is watertight to 30 metres. It has a sapphire caseback and a number of sophisticated touches such as a thin, rounded bezel, a case middle with fluted sides, and added soldered strap lugs. The display uses the famous Breguet hands, recognisable anywhere by the «eccentric moon tip». The hands run over a solid gold, highly complex dial. The dial’s periphery, sporting a chapter ring with Roman numeral transfers, has a silvered and circular satin-brushed finish, a border that is hand-engraved on a rose engine, and red-gold hour markers – or platinum depending on the version of the case. The dial’s centre, depicting a view of the globe, is stamped and hand-engraved on a rose engine to create a «wave» motif on the oceans. The oceans are then given multiple coats of lacquer and the continents are polished. On the day/night indicator, the sky is made of lapis lazuli containing numerous pyrite inclusions that look like tiny specks of gold and represent the stars. The sun and moon are made of solid gold: yellow gold for the sun, rhodium-plated yellow gold for the moon. The cover for this disc, representing a cloud and bearing the Breguet name and the watch’s serial number, is also made of silvered 18-carat gold and engraved entirely by hand.
Once again, Breguet has met the challenge of excellence and innovation by presenting this new Classique Hora Mundi, the first mechanical watch with an instant time-zone jump and a memory with synchronised date, day/night and city indications.
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