If any brand can stake a claim to the word “Classique” to name one of its collections, it is Breguet. Founder Abraham-Louis Breguet not only famously invented the tourbillon but also the classic Breguet hands with their o-shaped hollowed points, along with the trademark Breguet numeral font, both of which are regularly adopted by countless other brands on classic watches. In the Classique line, they become pure Breguet, by sharing the dial with tiny stars to mark the minutes and stylized fleur-de-lys at five-minute intervals, completing one of the most recognizable yet simplistic dial designs in the luxury segment. Together with the coin-edge caseband and luscious grand feu enamel dial, the Breguet Classique Ref. 7637 is pretty much the archetype of the classic dress watch.
The Breguet Classique Ref. 7637 is also a minute repeater, a high complication that Breguet also had a hand in developing. Abraham-Louis started making repeating watches in 1783, devising something called a spring blade, which he used instead of the bell-type gongs employed by most watchmakers up until then. The new component, which reduced the thickness of the watch and clarified the sound, was adopted by many watchmakers of the era.
The Ref. 7637 is a tribute to that endeavor. It works with a modern hammer and gong mechanism that still requires a steady, experienced hand to assemble and fine-tune. Breguet employs an in-house acoustician whose job is to ensure the perfect pitch on its minute repeaters. The work of tuning the gong is carried out in two phases: harmonic and melodic. Inside an anechoic chamber specially dedicated to this horological complication, the specialist will first ascertain the resonant frequency of each gong. Once this note has been determined, further adjustment is made to find the melody most closely resembling Breguet’s signature sound. The acoustics will differ (but only slightly) from one repeater to the next, making each subtly unique.
Inside it is just as beautiful. It contains the hand-wound caliber 567.2, which is so outstandingly decorated that flipping the case over to admire it is a must. The bridges are chased by hand in an elaborate scrolled pattern. The steel hammers are polished to a mirror finish. You can also see the gongs, which are made of gold to match the case. Breguet has attached them to the case middle instead of the plate, where they vibrate directly and transmit sound that has more overtones. Because the case is also made of gold, the components share the same acoustic “impedance,” a fancy word referring to the electrical flow of the components—thus providing better sound transmission and performance.
The dial has undergone the slow and exacting process of grand feu enameling, a task that can take several weeks to complete for one dial. It requires repeated application and firing at 800 degrees for just the right length of time. The alligator strap is matched to the dial (there is also a blue version, with a perfectly matched blue alligator strap). The hands are 18-karat rose gold to match the case (and gongs). The Breguet Classique Ref. 7637 is not limited. Price on request.
Previously published on Robb Report.