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Review: Breguet Double Tourbillon 5349

We’ve had some pretty pricey watches on this channel, but none quite so much as this Breguet Double Tourbillon, which costs new an absolutely insane $850,000 … for a watch! Let’s find out what makes this outrageous timepiece so massively expensive.

This isn’t the kind of watch you’d want to wear if you needed to be subtle. Breguet makes some fine watches for the kinds of wealthy statespeople who would prefer to keep their spending on the hush—and this is not one of them. If you were a prime minister attending a charity event for childhood poverty, you would not be wearing this watch.

So, who would wear it? Footballers, princes, magnates—in fact shiny ball player Christiano Ronaldo is known to have one of these, the Breguet 5349. His does have more diamonds though. There really is an infinitesimally small pool of people with both the presence of mind and wallet to wear such a thing, but they do, and here it is, all $850,000 of it.

It’s less wristwatch and more hulking mass of platinum and diamonds, really, an item of not inconsiderable heft at 50mm wide and 18.65mm thick. Not that there’s much of the platinum to see, thanks to Breguet’s insistence on setting diamonds anywhere that will stay still for long enough. I think the watchmakers must have worked to the mantra, “If it fits, I sets” with the 5349.

How many diamonds? I was wondering the same, so I counted them. There’s forty-two in the bezel, eight in every lug—top and side—thirty-three in the case, including between the lugs where you can’t really even see them, twenty in the crown and even thirty-six in the belt buckle-esque clasp. There are one hundred-and-sixty-three diamonds in total, over thirty carats, and each one is absolutely massive.

Breguet was founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1775, Paris, France

Breguet was founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1775, Paris, France

Whether you’re a fan of diamond-caked watches or you’re a normal person, the application here in this Breguet is absolutely astonishing. Look at the bezel for more than a moment and you’ll notice that the inner edge is elliptical, and the outer is round, which means that every single diamond is set at a different angle to transition smoothly and seamlessly from the steepest to the shallowest angle. And here’s something I’ve never seen before: the diamonds set in the crown are placed upside down to replicate the traditional ridged profile so that it’s easy to grip.

Where your typical gem-set jewellery piece sets out to present an elegant and beautiful profile, the wall of pavé set baguettes is more on the imposing side than the dainty, a stark reminder of just how wrecked your life would be if you were to drop it. With the diamond dial version Christiano Ronaldo has, your life would be even more ruined with a single, clumsy slip.

The decoration of this watch extends beyond the excessive with a dial that’s both guillochéd and enamelled; the two hardest dial manufacturing techniques come together to smother the hand-operated rose engine-engraved relief with a transparent blue enamel, resulting in a surprisingly pleasing effect that’s revealed with the right light—and that just might be the only subtle thing about this watch.

Surrounding the calibre 588 is a vista of the cosmos—hand engraved, of course—complete with stars, planets and the exposed mechanism drawn in 3d like some kind of street mural. This being a custom-order piece—what, you thought they just have these sat on the shelf?—you can have the view of Earth however you like it.

Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the tourbillon in 1795

Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the tourbillon in 1795

Because the Breguet 5349 is such an eyeful, it’s easy to forget that it’s from one of the most innovative and impressive watchmakers the world has ever seen. Lest we forget, the tourbillon was a Breguet invention—and this particular Breguet has two of them.

Let’s remind ourselves just how complicated a single tourbillon is as a standalone complication—yes, I’m calling it a complication, fight me—because it’s a pretty incredible device that perhaps we’ve become a bit desensitised to. Where your typical, every day balance bounces back and forth, motivated by the escape wheel and pallet fork to collectively make up the escapement, a tourbillon bundles up the whole collection of mathematically ordained parts and sets them free to rotate independently of the rest of the movement—whilst somehow still retaining drive from the mainspring. How the tourbillon can keep spinning around without getting all tangled up is beyond me.

There’s some debate over whether a tourbillon is actually useful in a wristwatch, and I’ll tell you now: it’s not. In a pocket watch, which hangs on end all day, the balance fighting against gravity with every beat, a tourbillon makes perfect sense, giving the escapement an even application of Earth’s mass throughout the day. In a wristwatch that moves about all the time and lays flat when it’s not, it’s pretty much redundant. Two of them? Double redundant.

But that’s not why there are two tourbillons in the Breguet 5349. There are two tourbillons for the same reason the dial has two exquisite finishes and the case is constructed from two ultra-rare elements. It’s about excess, excess in engineering, in art, in luxury. Nothing here falls short of this mantra of more, from the setting of the stones, to the engraving of the calibre 588, to the very telling of the time.

Breguet has been owned by the Swatch Group since 1999

Breguet has been owned by the Swatch Group since 1999

Your watch has an hour hand suspended from the middle of the dial; the Breguet 5349 has an hour hand suspended from the middle of the dial and two sixty-second tourbillons that both orbit the centre once per day to keep the indication true. Let me say that again—this watch has not one but two tourbillons with the sole purpose of supporting the hour hand. Look down at the watch at any given time of day, and not only will the tourbillons themselves be rotating, but the entire display—tourbillons and all—will be in a different place every time. Given the amount of torque it must take to move all this, the watch still manages a reasonable 50 hours of power reserve as well.

I mean, it’s just ridiculous, all of it. Incredible, but ridiculous, fuelled by the same kind of extreme curiosity as the first person who wondered if they could fly in a squirrel suit or send man to the moon. Sometimes the pursuit of something is the challenge in itself, and here the 5349 is challenge after challenge to test the very limits of mechanical watchmaking. Porsche didn’t have to fit its racing V10 in the back of the Carrera GT, but they did. North American didn’t have to fit a Reaction Motors XLR99 rocket in the X-15, but they did. Breguet didn’t have to squeeze an orbiting double tourbillon in a watch, but they did—and I’m glad they did.

In a world of hammers to crack walnuts, the $850,000 Breguet 5349, with its 50mm platinum case, thirty carats of diamonds, guillochéd and enamelled dial, plus double tourbillon hour hand, is a cashew that’s been soaked overnight prior to its main event feature on the Hydraulic Press Channel. There’s no feasible, possible, explicable way that any part of this watch makes sense—and it’s all the better for it.

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