Swiss-French watch brand Breguet has relaunched its Type XX timepiece with two new models, which have a history over 70 years in the making.
The Story Behind the Breguet Type XX
Watch brand Breguet has been making luxurious timepieces since it was founded in 1775, when Swiss artisan Abraham-Louis Breguet opened his first workshop on the Ile de la Cité, Paris. For the first decade of his career he supplied the French aristocracy – and notably Marie-Antoinette – with the finest clocks and watches. However, the revolution of 1789 forced Abraham-Louis to return to his native Switzerland, where he successfully rebuilt his eponymous brand.
In 1870 ownership of the brand transferred from the Breguet family to its head of workshop, Edward Brown, whose family went on to lead the house for the following century. Which brings us to the 1950s, and the birth of the Breguet Type XX and Type 20.
What is the Breguet Type XX?
Breguet’s association with the world of aviation goes back its beginnings at the start of the 19th century – pioneering pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont (read his story here) even had one in 1910.
For pilots, and other air-crew members, keeping track of time on board an aircraft is vital for operations such as measuring flight times or intermediate flight times, monitoring fuel consumption, taking bearings and carrying out manoeuvres. These initially involved on-board chronographs, which thereafter, after much innovation by the watchmaking industry, were joined by chronograph wristwatches.
From the 1930s onwards, Breguet created timepieces for France’s military aviation sectors, and the newly created airline Air France. Its instruments were even used on supersonic plane Concorde.
In the early 1950s the company was asked by the French Air Force to create a chronograph wristwatch meeting the following technical specifications: a black dial with luminescent numerals, luminescent hands, a high-quality movement resistant to changes in pressure and acceleration, a rotating bezel and of course a ‘flyback function’ – which enables the wearer to reset the chronograph with a single push, without needing to reset it entirely. This was useful for pilots working in high-stress environments. The French Air Ministry named the product ‘Type XX’.
The Breguet Type XX flyback chronograph was worn by French military and civilian pilots alike in the 1950s and beyond. One of the first Type XXs was given by aircraft manufacturer Louis Breguet to the great aviator Jacqueline Auriol, a test pilot and internationally renowned figure in women’s aviation.
Later on, the Type XX would also become popular in the world of motor-racing, and was worn by famous drivers such as Fernand Masoero and Jack Brabham.
Why are there two models, the Type XX and Type 20?
When Breguet won the contract from the French Air Force, it was allowed to sell the same product to private customers. This led to the production of military Type 20s and civilian Type XXs, of which more than 2000 were sold.
The 1100 watches delivered to the French Air Force between 1955 and 1959 had names that appeared as Type 20 in Arabic numerals; the later watches (military and civilian) had the name written as Type XX in Roman numerals.
What is the modern version of the Breguet Type XX?
Earlier in 2023, Breguet relaunched the Type XX with two new automatic timepieces inspired by the original military watches created in the late 1950s.
The first (model 2057) has a black dial that has been modernised while remaining faithful to the Type 20 identity, while the Arabic numerals and the triangle on the bezel are luminescent and feature a mint green shade, as do all the hands. The 30-minute totaliser located at three o’clock is now larger than the 60-second totaliser displayed at 9 o’clock, and a date window has been added between four and five o’clock.
The second (model 2067) is a direct descendant of the finest civilian Type XX from the 1950s and 1960s, notably a model made in 1957. While its dial is black as the 2057, the Arabic numerals, the hands and the triangle on the bezel are coated with an ivory-coloured luminescent X treatment, and it has a classic straight crown, unlike the first model’s pear-shaped one.
They both come in 42mm diameters, with steel cases, and a power reserve of 60 hours (more than enough to fly you to Australia and back).
So, to continue the great Breguet Type XX heritage, whether you’re a professional pilot, military personnel or just a chrono-loving watch fan, one of these iconic timepieces is sure to hit the spot.
Both models £16,400, breguet.com