In high-end watchmaking, sometimes its business in the front and party in the back. Whether it’s the complexity of the movement viewed through the sapphire crystal or incredibly intricate engraving, the caseback can often reveal the real artistry behind the piece. But Breguet’s new Classique Double Tourbillon 5345 delivers a double whammy. The sapphire crystal covering the dial reveals the horological fireworks of its 588N movement, which pivots entirely when the crown is adjusted, while the caseback shows off a next-level engraving of founder Abraham-Louis Breguet’s original manufacture, located on Paris’s Quai de l’Horloge in the city’s central Ile de la Cité neighborhood.
Much attention was given to the decorative hand-engraved tableau—if you look closely, and you may need a loupe, you can make out the figure of a woman peeping out the window. The ruby jewel bearings act like city lights, while the movement’s golden gear train wheels pop through the building so that you can see them spin as they appear to light up the building. The main gold bridge, as well as three additional bridges in the center, are coated to match the color of the surrounding surface of the highlighted building, which contrasts with its neighboring structures. Engraving aside, the decoration of the bridges alone takes two weeks of the kind of work that would make most people go blind.
On the flip side, you can see the mind-boggling mechanics, normally reserved for the caseback, through a curved sapphire crystal glass that allows for full transparency of its engineering. Based on a movement originally introduced in 2006 and updated with improved finishing and decoration, the 588N effectively twirls on the wrist. Two gear trains rotate around a fixed differential over a 12-hour period, so that when you set the blue-steeled hands to change the hour you can see the entire calibre move instead of having the gears operating invisibly underneath the dial.
Interestingly, the hour hand also operates as the upper bridge of the tourbillon, while an extension of the hand on the other side plays the role of the upper bridge on the second tourbillon. In case you didn’t know, tourbillons are kind of a big deal at Breguet—its founder actually invented them—so putting them on display is a perennial exercise of the utmost importance at the manufacture’s headquarters, now located in Switzerland.
Great care was also given to ensuring that this piece remained as true as possible to traditional watchmaking. Instead of using the modern favorite, silicon, for the hairspring component, Breguet opted for steel—a move that horological purists will admire. The hairspring also features the signature Breguet curve (another house invention that improves timekeeping by reducing friction on the pivots and isochronism), and, along with a balance wheel, connects the two tourbillons. These parts receive their impulse from the escapement wheel and are housed in a steel carriage that rotates around a fixed second wheel that makes a one-minute turn of the tourbillons. Each cage is driven by its own gear train and each has an individual barrel that gives power to the tourbillon carriage.
Combine that with the fact that many of the movement’s parts have been crafted in gold where possible, and the fact that the mainplate has been engine-turned in a fan pattern and the bridges underneath the dial treated in a Clous de Paris decoration, and you have yourself a very serious collector’s timepiece. The “B”-shaped bridges that hold the barrel for the source of energy, replace the main bridge that was on the original Double Tourbillon and, in this iteration, the steel structures have been hand-beveled. The tourbillon carriages have been crafted in polished steel and the barrel bridges satin-finished.
It’s difficult to slim down a watch’s profile when it comes packed with such meaty horological complexities, but Breguet tried to achieve a more svelte profile, at least in perception, by maximizing the sapphire crystal to allow a full view of components like the “B” bridges while keeping the platinum middle case just half of the overall thickness for a trompe l’œil effect.
Beneath the glass are hand-engraved and blue lacquered Roman numeral dials. Just beneath, Breguet added numerals that also come engraved on the case middle to create a shadow effect when the watch is viewed in certain light. And, of course, the Breguet secret signature it imprinted not once, but twice: once between 12 o’clock and 1 o’clock and again between 11 o’clock and 12 o’clock.
Topping it off, the rubber straps, which can come in blue, red, orange or black and feature a platinum triple-blade folding clasp, is finished in a slate pattern that has literally been lifted straight off of a stone. A sticky material is applied to the rock and it takes a layer of its pattern off that is then applied to the rubber…because just throwing on a plain rubber strap would be just too easy for this type of piece.
Not surprisingly, this level of horological flexing is for heavyweights only, with a price tag of $651,000 (although, according to Breguet, pricing is subject to change). While the hand-wound 46 mm x 16.8 mm timepiece is not a limited-edition, you can be sure that not many will make it onto the hands of collectors unless they are willing to wait. For now, only one has been delivered to the U.S., at Breguet’s Beverly Hills boutique.