What does time sound like? Breguet’s minute repeater is a mechanical masterpiece that perfects the art and science of telling time, inside and out.
Crafting a major horological complication like a minute repeater calls for precision, dexterity and skill of the highest standards. The Breguet Classique 7637 Répétition Minutes is no exception. Each of these timepieces takes more than a month’s work to complete. Within its modestly-sized case, you will find not just the movement but also a chiming mechanism that consists mainly of hammers striking a gong-spring. All these components must be small enough to fit into the case, and the materials used in its design must also possess acoustic qualities that fit its function.
The art of the minute repeater is one that Breguet’s Manufacture has been perpetuating for close to 250 years in the Vallée de Joux. In fact, it was Breguet’s founder Abraham-Louis Breguet who created the first repeating watches striking a spring blade instead of the bell-type gong, in as early as 1783. Abraham-Louis Breguet’s passion for the minute repeater led him to constantly seek ways to improve the mechanism, after the first watch that could chime on demand emerged around 1680. Initially straight and placed across the back plate, these blades were later coiled around the movement, slimming these chiming watches considerably, while making the sounds emitted from them clearer and more harmonious.
Developing a minute repeater like the Breguet Classique 7637 Répétition Minutes requires both the expertise of a watchmaker who specialises in high complications, and an acoustician who can perfect its sound. Once the movement is assembled, the gong is tuned in two phases: harmonic and melodic. Inside an anechoic chamber specially dedicated to this horological complication, the acoustician will determine the resonant frequency of each gong, then find the melody that most closely resembles Breguet’s signature sound. Each timepiece is handcrafted, so the acoustics differ subtly from one watch to another, adding to its uniqueness.
Technical mastery is not the only touch of genius here. The classy minimalist dial of the 7637 is achieved with the grand feu enamelling technique which few artisans still practise today. The process involves concocting a mixture of silica and ground oxides, then dissolving the coloured powders in water before applying it to the dial. Each layer and colour applied requires an additional firing at a set temperature of over 800 degrees Celsius, for a carefully programmed duration to ignite the enamel and melt it to create each layer. Attaining the desired shade for a single dial can take several weeks. On the 7637’s dial, the Breguet Arabic numerals, the minutes track and the Breguet logo are highlighted in a powdered silver colour, while the hours and minutes are displayed by open-tipped gold Breguet hands, and the minute repeater, activated by the dedicated slide at 9 o’clock.
The 42mm watch case in 18K rose gold houses the Calibre 567.2, an entirely hand-chased mechanical hand-wound movement whose balance oscillates at a frequency of 2.5 Hz. Admire the beating heart of the creation, along with the hammers made of polished steel, through the sapphire crystal caseback. Notably, the gongs are fixed to the case middle instead of the plate so they vibrate directly and transmit sound more effectively. Crafted from gold, the gongs are able to produce a harmonious sound quality with a wealth of partials (overtones). Since the case is also made of gold, the components share the same acoustic impedance, thus providing better sound transmission and performance – a Breguet-patented feature.
Completing the elegance of the new Classique Répétition Minutes is a black alligator leather strap secured by a gold triple-blade folding clasp. An alternative version comes in here white gold, with a grand feu enamel dial and alligator leather strap, both in midnight blue.
Images courtesy of Breguet, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.