Breguet is one of the oldest and most prestigious watch manufacturers in existence. It has contributed major innovations to the world of horology including the first self-winding movement, the tourbillon, and the “Breguet” hands known for their elegant and timeless design. (I should add the Breguet numerals which are now being used my micro and independent brands.) Breguet is also a brand that has made significant contributions to the categories of military and tool watches since the 19th century. In fact, Breguet also made planes for the French army during World War I and subsequently, pilot watches.
One of the brand’s most famous collections is the Type XX released in the 1950s as a commission by the French Air Force. Last week, the brand announced two new models which were immediately welcomed with open arms by the watch community and collectors of Breguet military watches: the Type 20 (ref. 2057) and the Type XX (ref. 2067.) These new models are important because they constitute the closest recreation of the original pilot chronograph watches from the 1950s. In this article, we’ll take a quick look at the history of the Type XX and what makes these new models special.
Brief History of the Breguet Type 20/XX
I know, “XX” means “20” in Latin and there is a reason why Breguet named one of two collections this way. It all started in the early 1950s when the French Air Force shared a list of specs for a chronograph for their pilots. The list went to several brands and Breguet was one of the first to respond to the commission. The French Air Force was looking for a pilot chronograph with a black dial, luminescent numerals, a rotating bezel, and a flyback function. The watch also had to withstand the extreme conditions these watches would be put through during military operations. This is when, in 1953, Breguet submitted prototypes to the French government which the latter accepted. Production started in 1954 with 1,100 units.
Any brand that was chosen to create the pilot chronograph watches for the French Air Force was also authorized to make them available to the general public. In the case of Breguet, these chronographs became “Type XX” so that it would be easy to tell them apart from the military-issued Type 20. From what I can tell, the Type 20 and XX were the same watches, they just had two references. The original Type 20 first created in 1953 was revised a few times, notably in 1971 when Breguet replaced the plain stainless steel bezel by a black one with full graduation (which reminds me a lot of the modern Sinn chronographs,) and endowed it with a beefier case.
The Type 20/XX saw other revisions after 1971, of lesser importance, which is what I will not mention here because it’s time to talk about the new models.
The 2023 Type 20 and Type XX Breguet Chronographs
The 2023 Type 20 (ref. 2057) and the Type XX (ref. 2067) are, in fact, modern recreations of the original models from the early 1950s. From a design standpoint, the Type 20 has a similar dial layout as the original one, having two sub-registers, Arabic numerals, and a stainless steel bezel showcasing an inverted arrow. (This type of bezel is known as “Bund” bezel and was originally created for the German underwater commandos to track elapsed hours.) The new Type 20 also comes with an onion-shaped crown like it was the case on the original, and mushroom pushers for the chronograph function. The Type 20 ref. 2057 is equipped with the new caliber 728 which comes with 60 hours of power reserve.
The new Type XX is also a recreation from the first models created in the 1950s and utilizes a design language that borrows from both the original Type 20 and XX models. In other words, it has three sub-registers layout (the additional one at the 6 o’clock is a 12-hour totalizer,) a flat and large crown, a 12-hour stainless steel bezel, a black dial with luminescent markers which contrast nicely with the matte black dial. The Type XX ref. 2067 also comes with a new caliber, the 7281 which includes an additional 11 parts (compared to the 728) to account for the additional complication. Both the Type 20 and XX come in cases 412mm in diameter and 14.1mm thick and retail for roughly $21,000.
Thoughts on the 2023 Breguet Type 20/XX
Honestly, I don’t have that much cash to spend on a new watch at this moment, and I probably never will. But let’s imagine for a second that I would indeed have $21,000 in my secret watch budget. Then I would seriously consider a Type 20 ref. 2057 or a Type XX ref. 2067. What I like about either model is the fact that they refer to the original ones from the 1950s whilst providing movements that are much better made and more reliable. There is a lot of competition in the category of vintage-looking pilot chronographs, thinking here of the Hanhart 417 ES and Longines Avigation BigEye, both being faithful recreations of original models. And given Breguet’s history and contributions to the watchmaking, I feel the new Type 20/XX make for some serious contenders.
I’m pretty sure that many watch enthusiasts and collectors do not like the addition of a date aperture at the 4:30 (which appeared in previous generations Type 20/XX.) Personally, I like that Breguet did so and how they went about integrating it within the design. It’s seamless and functional, and seems to be a logical addition for whoever would buy a Type 20/XX in 2023. Indeed, we no longer need these types of watches to fly planes and I would think that those who would buy one are looking for watches that come with a great heritage and functionality. Therefore, why not get a watch which looks good and which is also practical—here referring to the modern construction and new movement.Featured image: www.fratello.com