Czar’s alarm

Czar’s alarm

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An exclusive WATCH WORLD report on a horological classic-the Réveil du Tsar, which harmoniously combines technology and aesthetics

Among the watch brands, Breguet is arguably the best. And among Breguet’s best is the Réveil du Tsar watch that was launched at Baselworld 2003.

The Réveil du Tsar has its association with Czar of Russia, Alexander I-a Breguet devotee. The story goes that the Czar came to see Breguet at his workshop on the Quai de l’Horologe on April 2, 1814. No one recognised him as he wound through the Parisian streets incognito. His army, along with those of the other countries allied against France, had just marched into Paris, putting an end, or nearly an end, to Napoleon and the 15 years of war he had instigated. Having arrived in Paris two days earlier, the Czar could wait no longer to visit his favourite watchmaker! Owner of several Breguet watches, including sympathique clocks, he placed an order for two watches, a repeating watch and one other.

What’s so special about the Réveil du Tsar? Named after the famed Czar, the watch is powered by a new caliber created specifically called 519F, features an alarm function that can be switched on and off, a power-reserve display, and a display for the time in a second time zone.

The alarm mechanism has a classical construction. When depressed, it acts on a lever blocking the hammer. An aperture on the dial indicates whether the alarm function is currently switched on or off. This little display is situated above the dial’s center and directly below the Breguet insignia. If the alarm function is switched on, a little musical note appears in the window. While its off, the window shows a blank white field. Importantly the alarm time is not affected when you reset the ordinary time of day. Thanks to an innovative patented system called débrayage, the mechanisms for setting ordinary time and alarm time are disconnected-an important improvement. Every watch needs resetting twice a year, i.e. once when day-light savings time begins and again when it ends. Made for frequent travelers, the Réveil du Tsar’s subdial at the “9” keeps track of the reference time, which is seldom reset. It can be used, for example, to show the time in a traveller’s home zone. When the globetrotter arrives at her/his destination, s/he resets the central hour-hand and minute-hand, thus ensuring that the local time is always conveniently legible. The date display at the “6” and the alarm time at the “3” both refer to local time, which is not reset. The date display can move both forward and backward.

The advantages of the Caliber 519F become clearer when you consider the following real-life example. Suppose you take off from Frankfurt at 6:00 pm on an eight-hour flight bound for New York but when you land in the Big Apple, your watch shows 2:00 am Of course, all the other clocks and watches in New York are six hours behind yours, so you have to reset the hour-hand on your wristwatch six hours back. To do so, you halfway extract the crown at the “2.” When it’s in this intermediate position, rotating it will reposition the hour-hand in full-hour increments, while the seconds-hand and minute-hand continues to progress forwards, unaffected by the resetting of the hour-hand. This means that the to-the-second accuracy of the watch remains unaffected. If the alarm time is set for 9:00, it remains there unchanged, although the central hours-hand passes the 9 o’clock position on its way back toward the correct setting for New York time. The date display will also jump back to the previous date, because the new day hasn’t yet begun in New York.

The Seven Engraved Patterns on the Dial of the Réveil du Tsar

The art of fine guilloché decoration has a long tradition at Breguet. No fewer than seven different patterns are used on the Réveil du Tsar.

1 Clous de Paris on the main dial
2 Satiné circulaire on the hour-circle
3 Sauté (or Piqué relevé) on the minute-circle
4 Vieux Panier on the upper half of subdial at the “9”
5 Décor flamme on the lower half of subdial at the “9”
6 Point de diamant (or Pavé de Paris) on the subdial at the “3”
7 Grain d’orge circulaire on the small seconds subdial at the “6” (and on the rotor)