Breguet Classique 5177 Grand Feu Blue Enamel
Carl Eady reviews the exceptional Breguet Classique 5177 Grand Feu Blue Enamel. The acclaimed 5177 collection was first introduced in 2006, uniting engine-turned dials, unmistakeable Breguet styling and a silicon escape wheel and pallet lever. Last year, Breguet enlarged this family of models with the addition of an elegant timepiece which pairs a white gold case with an exceptional blue Grand Feu enamel dial.
Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) is perhaps the most celebrated and innovative watchmaker in horological history. He was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, however, he created the majority of his masterpieces in Paris.
Breguet’s remarkable expertise saw him continually revolutionise watchmaking, unveiling numerous inventions such as the perpétuelle (automatic), the keyless winding watch and the pare-chute, a shock protection system. The incredible standards set by Breguet became a benchmark for the world’s horologists. His distinguished clients included Napoleon, Marie-Antoinette and George III and his expertise was such that the world of science, and even the French Military, greatly valued his services.
Despite his supreme intellect, Breguet respected the work of his contemporaries, most notably Englishman John Arnold to whom he was introduced by King Louis XVI’s cousin, the Duke of Orleans. Arnold and Breguet formed a productive and respectful bond which led them to share insights into each other’s work, greatly enriching the world of watchmaking. Indeed, today’s most celebrated complication, the tourbillon, featured in two experimental models. Such was the close bond between Breguet and Arnold that he gave one of these models, watch n°169, to John Arnold’s son, John Roger Arnold.
To match his technical expertise, Breguet worked tirelessly to create his own design language, and, from 1786, he began equipping his timepieces with exquisite engine-turned dials and contrasting thermally blued hands. So desirable and prestigious were Breguet’s timepieces that they were targets for counterfeiters. Subsequently, Breguet endowed the dials of his watches with a secret signature to identify them as genuine. This is, yet again, a further illustration of Breguet’s problem-solving skills.
Breguet died in 1823, after which his son, Louis-Clément, took the helm and continued his father’s legacy. Today, the Swatch Group keeps the fires of the brand burning strongly under the watchful eye of the Hayek family. Undoubtedly, many of the brand’s admirers are drawn to the tourbillon, various other complications and its spectacular haute joaillerie pieces. However, it is the striking simplicity of the blue enamelled dial 5177 in the 2019 Classique collection that has caught the eye of many a discerning collector. Breguet tested the water with a very similar ‘non-date’ 5175 model in 2017 – released for the Japanese market. Known as the ‘Ginza’ (Ref#: 5175BB/2Y/9V6), it was limited to just 10 pieces, but it provided sufficient evidence to Breguet that a blue enamel dial would prove popular to the company’s many devoted fans.
As one would expect from a marque with the enviable heritage of Breguet, the execution of the Grand Feu enamel is first class. To achieve such a high grade fired dial, Breguet use a layer of ceramic on the metal dial before the enamel is applied, reducing warping and ameliorating the failure rate inherent to making enamel dials. Like a pool of deep blue gloss paint, the dial provides the watch with a stunning glass-like backdrop, echoing the hue achieved when Breguet thermally blued his indicator hands. Keeping the stability and continuity in the blue colour during the firing process at 800°C proves a challenge, necessitating extensive research and multiple trials in order to perfect. However, the resultant surface justifies the firm’s efforts.
The perimeter of the dial is adorned with the familiar Breguet numerals, oversized and silvered, while the star-shaped minute markers are a historical nod to previous designs, delivering a playful edge to an otherwise conservative personality.
A trapezoidal-shaped date window sits a 3 o’clock. Its proximity to the hour marker may challenge those of a more critical nature, especially when a two-digit date is shown. However, the silvered digits on the date disc are cleverly sized with the outer numeral being slightly larger in order to fill the unconventional-shaped aperture.
With Breguet, even watches that seem simple are invariably packed with subtle details to set them apart. The hands fitted to the Breguet Classique 5177 Grand Feu Blue Enamel are testament to this and will be familiar to Maison’s many aficionados. Finished in rhodium-plated steel, the hour and minute hands sport a hollow moon-shape aperture near their tips making them supremely legible. The long elegant centre-second hand sports the moon shape on its base like a celestial counterweight. It was in 1783 that Breguet first introduced ‘Moon Tip Watch hands’ and they have since become synonymous with the brand, often attracting the name ‘Breguet hands’. The hour and minute hands have a rounded shaft up to the moon tip, after which the hands assume a flat profile.
Despite Breguet’s meticulous efforts to number and record every timepiece he created, his watches were so sought after that the counterfeiters invariably tried to copy his work. Breguet’s retort was simple but highly effective. In 1795, he added a secret signature by etching his name into his dials. The signature, only legible in a certain light, was a successful method of thwarting counterfeiters. Even today, Breguet still adds a secret signature to its dials, validating authenticity.
The simplicity of the dial and the elegant dimensions of the Breguet Classique 5177 Grand Feu Blue Enamel make it a perfect dress watch. At 38mm in diameter and just 8mm in-depth, the 18k white gold case slips discreetly under a cuff and will complement the smartest black-tie ensemble. The long elegant lugs are welded to the case for extra strength and use a locking screw-pin system to secure the leather band. The case band features a highly decorative fluted motif, perfectly matching the edging of the winding crown, true to traditional Breguet styling.
On the reverse, the case is hallmarked and engraved with a decorative nautical wave pattern, punctuated only by the model reference number and a unique Breguet code. Sapphire glass is naturally used for the caseback, providing sight of the Calibre 777Q movement within.
Beyond the sensational engine-turned gold oscillating weight there is much to admire on the Calibre 777Q, as one would expect from Breguet. Superb standards of decoration are evident, with Côte de Genève, perlage, bevelling and mirror-polished screws all on display. All engravings on the movement’s bridges are gilded, adding a luxurious dimension.
Modern materials have been incorporated, particularly with the escapement. The balance spring, pallet lever and escape wheel are all fashioned from silicon. By using this glass-like material, each part is lighter, reducing energy consumption. In addition, silicon is antimagnetic and corrosion-resistant. Given Breguet’s innovative nature, one suspects that he would have been the first to embrace silicon components had they been available in his day.
The movement runs at 4Hz and has a power reserve of some 55 hours once the watch is fully wound. Despite the apparent simplicity of the dial, the movement is comprised of 243 parts, with 26 rubies keeping the major components running smoothly. Thanks to its ingenious bi-directional rotor design, the mainspring becomes fully wound after approximately 3 hours of normal wear.
The deep dial of the Breguet Classique 5177 Grand Feu Blue Enamel is aptly paired with a blue alligator leather strap. Secured at the lugs by Breguet’s locking-screw mechanism, it is far stronger than the alternative sprung-bar option. A white gold folding deployant clasp provides an extra layer of security and comfort for those lucky enough to own this sought-after timepiece.
This stunning Grand Feu enamel variant of the 5177 is unmistakably Breguet, with many of the marque’s classic traits on display. Undoubtedly, the most remarkable feature is the pure blue enamel dial, partly due to its rarity, but also due to its exceptional finish. The contrasting hands ensure excellent legibility, rendering the watch far more versatile than ‘just’ a dress watch. With remarkable levels of refinement throughout, the Breguet Classique 5177 Grand Feu Blue Enamel will appeal to purist fans of horology. Furthermore, with the added cachet of the Breguet name and its unrivalled heritage, this watch represents the best Swiss craftsmanship has to offer.
With a recommended retail price of £19,600 (RRP as at 1.5.2020), this watch will, of course, prove beyond the means of most people, but considering the expert finishing, styling, movement and the emotion it stirs, this Breguet 5177 represents considerable value for money. Given its star quality and the markets unrelenting desire for supreme artisanship, it will surely be a mainstay of this collection for many years to come.
- Model: Breguet Classique Blue Enamel
- Reference: 5177BB/2Y/9V6
- Case: 18k white gold; diameter 38mm; height 8mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date
- Movement: Caliber 777Q; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 26 jewels; power reserve 55 hours.
- Strap: Hand-sewn blue alligator leather with 18k white gold fold-over deployant clasp Price: £19,600 including VAT (RRP as at 1.5.2020)