The Breguet Marine quation Marchante 5887 was the biggest news from Breguet this year you might almost say they launched a new flagship model. It’s a relatively large, platinum cased watch, and by far the most complicated timepiece in the Marine collection it’s a perpetual calendar, with running equation of time, as well as a 60-second tourbillon and a peripheral rotor automatic winding system.
There have been several interesting design decisions made in the general arrangement of the dial it’s an easy thing to miss at first glance, but the chapter ring for the hours is slightly off center, with the aperture displaying the tourbillon and the Equation of Time cam projecting slightly outward at 5:00. The use of off-center dials was a characteristic of much of A. L. Breguet’s own watch designs, although in the case of work produced during his lifetime the amount of space around the main sub-dial for hours and minutes was generally a bit more pronounced than in the case of the 5887. The center of the dial is decorated with an ocean wave motif; it’s not so much an attempt to create a literal illustration of the waves as it is a fairly abstract pattern that lends some texture to the composition.
The date is shown by a retrograde hour hand, tipped with a stylized anchor, and the running equation of time hand is tipped with a representation of the Sun; only the hour and minute hands have SuperLuminova. As the hands move there are times when legibility suffers a bit as they overlap (particularly in the upper half of the dial, where the date hand is located) but in general, it’s not terrible difficult to distinguish one hand from the other. The luminous hour markers and the wave motif give the hour chapter ring something of the look of an old-fashioned ship’s wheel, and the fact that this isn’t done too literally keeps the watch from running aground on the reef of kitsch.
One of the most interesting features of the watch is the window in the lower right-hand side of the dial; this contains the kidney-shaped cam for the Equation of Time, and also the tourbillon. The Equation of Time, you might remember, is basically the difference between mean solar time, and apparent solar time; the easiest way to think of it is as the difference between the time shown on a clock, and the time shown on a sundial. A clock shows what’s called mean time that is, an average solar day of 24 hours. A sundial, on the other hand, shows apparent solar time, which is based on the length of time it takes the Sun to return to a given point in the sky. Over the course of a year this is actually not exactly 24 hours on any given day; thanks to the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit, and the inclination of the Earth’s axis an apparent solar day can be as much as 14 minutes shorter, or 16 minutes (approximately) longer than a mean solar day. The difference between the two is known as the Equation of Time.
The Equation of Time is for most of us something of an abstract entertainment, but it was of practical importance for a number of reasons in the past. One of the most important was in navigation, where the Equation of Time was an essential part of celestial navigation in general, and in determining longitude in particular (the Equation for any given day also facilitated the more mundane, but more common, task of setting a clock from a reading taken from a sundial).
The Equation of Time is not, generally, a very mechanically complex complication the cam is calculated to reflect the difference, over the course of a year, between mean solar and apparent solar time, and a lever with one end pressing against the rim of the cam translates the slow rotation of the cam into the movement of a hand, which shows the difference for any given day. The 5887, however, uses a much more complicated “running” Equation of Time (known as an Equation of Time marchant) in which the Equation hand runs along with the minute hand. This requires the use of a differential system of gears, in order to control how far ahead or behind the minute hand the Equation hand runs. In the case of the reference 5887, the input to the differential system is via a lever with a ruby pin on its tip that runs along the inside of the Equation cam.
While the simpler system has a certain bare-bones appeal, the running Equation of Time is much more mechanically and aesthetically satisfying and seems to far more intuitively capture the slow dance back and forth of the length of a day over the course of a year, as the Earth orbits the Sun. The reference 5887 has some wonderful kinetic poetry built into it, with the superimposition of the Equation cam over the sixty second tourbillon showing dramatically different but intimately linked time scales.
The movement behind all this has a number of interesting features as well.
Breguet caliber 581DPE is a good fit for the 43.9mm case; at 16 3/4 lignes, or about 37.78mm, it’s really almost a pocket watch movement in a wristwatch case. There are a total of 57 jewels (including that ruby pin on the Equation lever) and there’s a peripheral rotor winding system, the use of which in a tourbillon movement Breguet pioneered in theThe Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5377, which was when it was introduced in 2014 the thinnest self-winding tourbillon in the world. Caliber 581DPE is in fact directly derived from the caliber 581DR used in the 5377; it’s basically the same movement but with the addition of perpetual calendar works and the Equation cam. Normally, the addition of these complications onto a self-winding tourbillon would produce a rather thick movement but since caliber 581DR is so thin to begin with the watch overall remains fairly thin, at about 11.5mm (and 100 meters water resistant too, although the mind boggles a bit at the thought of taking this particular watch scuba diving).
As with much modern Breguet production, silicon plays a role; the escape wheel is skeletonized silicon and there’s a silicon balance spring. Though silicon parts are more brittle than steel and are easier to break if mishandled, they do offer the advantages of not requiring oil on their working surfaces and as well (and particularly relevantly for the balance spring) they are unaffected by magnetism.
The bridges it’s worth mentioning that you have an unobstructed view of the bridge layout, thanks to the use of a peripheral rotor system are very elaborately engraved with an image of a French naval vessel known as the Royal Louis. This vessel was one of a total of six vessels to have that name, between the years 1668 and 1780. However, Breguet was made “chronometer maker to the Royal Navy” in 1815 so one assumes that the vessel depicted on the watch is not the Royal Louis of 1780, but rather, a later vessel. The Impriale was launched during the reign of Bonaparte, in 1812, and saw action against the British during the blockade of Toulon in 1813, but was renamed Royal Louis after the restoration of the monarchy. A first-rate ship of the line of 118 guns, she was one of the largest wooden warships ever made and one of the last of her kind, as sailing and then steam-powered ironclad vessels swept the great ships of the age of fighting sail from the world’s oceans.
On many levels this is a very impressive watch, though I do wonder whenever I see one of the Marine watches about the plausibility of the designs in general. The Classiques are easy to like; in general they are a more or less direct extension of the design language laid down by Breguet, into modern times and into the wristwatch indiom. Tradition, as well, is solidly grounded in Breguet aesthetics in movement aesthetics specifically, with the open dial showing off a going train derived from the layout of the souscription watches; and the tonneau-shaped Heritage watches are redolent with the charm of Breguet’s early-to-mid 20th century wristwatch production. Type XX, XXI, and XXII are likewise solidly grounded in a watch made for the military that has both Gallic flair and the coherence that so often travels along with military-spec tool watches.
I’m just not sure where the Marine collection really fits aesthetically of all the modern Breguet collections, it’s the one that departs the most aesthetically from previous Breguet design codes and design history and the larger cases and sports-watch cues have always seemed a little at odds with the Augustan grandeur and unapologetic elegance that marked so much of Breguet’s history.
Ultimately I think the Marine line makes more sense considered not as a sports watch line, or as a manifestation of those uncomfortable bedfellows, sports and elegance. So many watches that strive to be sport-elegant watches simply turn out failures; they’re neither adequately sporty, nor convincingly elegant. The line, and the ref. 5887, make much more sense when you think of them rather as an injection of a more contemporary flavor in the Breguet collections, which otherwise run the risk, left to themselves, of seeming a bit too bound by tradition.
The Breguet Marine quation Marchante Ref. 5887: as shown, in platinum, $230,400. Case, platinum, 43.9mm x 11.5mm. Movement, Breguet caliber 581DPE, 16 3/4 lignes, 80 hour power reserve; one minute tourbillon with visible cam for the running Equation of Time; running at 4 hz in 57 jewels, with silicon escape wheel and balance spring. Perpetual calendar with retrograde date indication. Find out more about the ref. 5887 at breguet.com.