Breguet Classique 7147: True Simplicity, True Mastery...

Wes Lang
Breguet's horological innovations have helped create the modern watch world as we know it. The Swiss house invented the wristwatch--and 200 years later, according to L.A. artist Wes Lang, it has perfected the form.

People spend insane sums of money on wristwatches because of their sophisticated simplicity. The expression of hours, minutes, and seconds requires an intricate system of cogs, wheels, and springs that exceptionally few people know how to assemble. But the Breguet Classique 7147 displays this craft right on its face. The 7147, which debuted in 2017, has an enamel dial made with the centuries-old grand feu technique, which hasn't gotten any less painstaking over the years. Because each one is glazed and fired one layer at a time, it takes hours to create a single flawless enamel dial. And for every 50 made, only two might be usable. The tiniest flaw means you have to throw it out and start over. It’s easy to see why grand feu enameling is a dying craft. Most brands won't touch them.

But the payoff is huge. The 7147's dial has a depth of color that is nearly indescribable—it almost looks alive. And there's the unbelievably perfect transition where the enamel practically melts down into a slightly recessed sub-dial for the second hand. You can't see it from some angles. Then you turn the watch and the light catches it.… There are watches that try to be cool, and then there's this one, which just really is cool.

Breguet, which has been making watches since 1775, basically invented the wristwatch. It created the very first one in 1810 and also pioneered the chronograph, the tourbillon, and the self-winding mechanism. When you wear a Breguet, it feels like a historical object. The slender blued-steel hands on the 7147 were introduced in 1783, and if the numerals look familiar, it's because the house-designed “Breguet numerals” are now a standard option across the industry. (The color on those blue steel hands, by the way, is achieved through a process nearly as difficult as grand feu enameling.)

One of the most unique parts of the watch is unphotographable: Breguet's “secret signature,” etched on the enamel dial between the sub-seconds hand and 3:00, which can only be seen in oblique light. Breguet's been doing this since 1795 to stymie counterfeiters. Breguet also hand-paints the minuscule diamonds and fleurs-de-lis, which makes for an absolutely stunning minute track.

This watch is never going to go out of style. If you handed it to me and said it was mint from the '50s, I would believe you. It's beyond timeless. At $21,500, it's not cheap for a watch you won't wear every day, but you won't find a more pure expression of the art of watchmaking for anything less.

A version of this story originally appeared in the June/July 2019 issue with the title "True Simplicity, True Mastery..."

Originally Appeared on GQ