With ultra-thin, time-only watches, what sounds initially like an advantage is actually a disadvantage. Don’t think for a second that creating a pleasant ultra-thin, time-only watch with its own personality is easy.
With the Breguet Classique Extra-Plate 5157, we might have found a solid case study to prove the opposite. This watch doesn’t have to pack complications and design tricks to be immediately recognisable as being part of the Breguet family. Consistency in the design and a well-dosed use of tradition isn’t just a statement of conservatism. In the case of this Ref. 5157, it becomes a way to express the brand’s DNA in a watch that is absolutely simple, but easily identifiable.
The Breguet Classique Extra-Plate 5157 is all about purity: a 38mm case, a slim profile, a 2-hand display and voila! All of these features can also be found in a Piaget Altiplano, a Patek Philippe Calatrava or a Vacheron Constantin Patrimony. Yet, the Breguet stands apart from the rest of the crowd of ultra-thin 2-handers. How is that possible? This is where Breguet’s “unmistakable signs” take on such an important role.
The fluted case – fine grooves enhanced with double beading found on the caseband. This fluting was used already by the founder, A.L. Breguet, on some of his earliest creations and has since become a cornerstone of the brand’s design. The fluted pattern is cold-rolled into the case band then finished by hand on a mechanical workpiece-holder.
The welded lugs – A salient feature of Breguet watches is the specific lugs. While many brands use lugs that are machined at the same time as the case (being an integral part of it, mechanically and design-wise), Breguet relies on lugs that are later welded onto the caseband and with a thin, straight profile. Also, screw-pins, rather than the more usual sprung bars, hold the strap between the horns.
The Breguet hands – These hands need no introduction anymore. Widely used by other manufactures, they still need to be credited to the Breguet Maison. These hollow, eccentric “moon” tip watch hands have been used by the brand for over two centuries now (designed around 1783).
The engine-turned “guilloché” dials – by far the most important “unmistakable sign” of a Breguet watch, and the easiest to spot. All Breguet dials, from a grande complication or this simple 2-hander Ref. 5157, are always manufactured with great attention to detail. Smooth to start with, the solid gold dial plate is first worked with a hand-graver to outline and hollow out the areas of the dial reserved for indications. Engine-turning or guillochage is then applied by lathes designed and built over a century ago, which engrave intricate patterns – in the case of the 5157, a fine “clous de Paris” pattern in the centre, “pavé de Paris” cobbling to separate the indication and circular brushed surfaces for the hour ring.
The secret signature – Breguet was probably one of the first brands to face counterfeiters. For this reason, in 1795, A.L. Breguet came up with the idea of secretly signing the dials of his watches. Etched into the dial, the signature was all but invisible unless the dial was examined in oblique light – it is slightly easier to see nowadays.