The Type XX collection, which has had iconic significance for almost 70 years, has been a part of the history of aviation, whether worn by pilots as a precise instrument or by regular enthusiasts who were enthralled by its legendary features.
The Past – A Legacy Of Excellence
It was only natural for Breguet to use its endless past to inspire the new Type XX. In order to put things in perspective, one might remember that Breguet was able to satisfy the demands of air forces who wanted to arm themselves with a durable wrist chronograph that featured a few unusual features in the early 1950s.
Breguet, eager to participate in humankind’s grand experiences, dedicated itself to the advancement of airborne navigation in the 20th century, just as it had done for maritime navigation in the previous. Many pilots, such as Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1910, American pilots stationed in France in 1918, the Louis Breguet aviation firm, Japanese pilots visiting France in the 1920s, and others, acquired Breguet watches.
Maintaining temporal references in a setting that is marked by excessive activity and stress is essential for pilots and aircrew members in general when keeping track of time on board an aircraft. Operations like calculating flight time or intermediate flight times, keeping track of fuel consumption, getting a bearing, and performing maneuvers all called for instruments that watchmakers would eventually make more accurate and practical to use: on-board chronographs, and soon after that, chronograph wristwatches.
According to a review of the company’s archives, various “special” items were introduced starting in the 1930s to address the unique requirements of the aeronautical environment. Split-second chronographs, compact 24-line on-board chronometers with a heat-insulated case, 19-line aerodrome chronometers in an antimagnetic silver case, a thermostat and lights, and siderometers. All these highly technical timepieces were delivered both to military aviation and to the recently created French national airline, Air France.
From the early 1950s onwards, Breguet experienced a significant increase in the delivery of watchmaking instruments specifically designed for aircraft instrument panels. This became one of Breguet’s well-known areas of expertise for a period of 30 years. Among the most popular models were the Type 11, 11/1, and 12, which were sold to numerous countries and prominently featured on the instrument panels of various aircraft, including the iconic supersonic Concorde.
Even before the 1950s, Breguet had been steadily producing wristwatches with chronograph functions, and the post-war era only solidified this trend. The demand for wrist-worn chronographs gained momentum and has since remained consistently popular.
For pilots, time is of utmost importance while aboard an aircraft, necessitating the establishment of redundant timekeeping systems for safety reasons. During that time, this redundancy meant having a backup chronograph on the instrument panel, as well as another chronograph securely strapped to the pilot’s wrist. If one chronograph became inoperable, the other would seamlessly take over. This principle formed the foundation for the development of specialized watchmaking instruments, a field in which Breguet emerged as an expert, notably with the legendary Type XX.
The Evolution – From Past To Present
The history of the iconic Type XX is impossible to summarize in just a few lines. The name “Type XX” was given to the future product by the Air Ministry. Multiple companies competed and won contracts, resulting in several brands producing Type XX watches. Interestingly, the brands selected for public contracts were also allowed to sell the same product to private customers. This led to the production of military Type XXs as well as civilian versions.
For Breguet, the journey unfolded as follows: the prototypes submitted by the company in 1952 received approval from the Service Technique Aéronautique in 1953. In 1954, the French Air Force placed an order for 1,100 military Type 20s, which were delivered between 1955 and 1959. These models featured a 30-minute totalizer, an unsigned dial, and the official inscriptions BREGUET – TYPE 20- 5101/54 on the back.
The prestigious Centre d’Essais en Vol (CEV), dedicated to elite French test pilots, also became a customer, ordering 80 timepieces delivered in 1956 and 1957. These watches had a 15-minute totalizer, with 50 of them featuring a 12-hour totalizer at 6 o’clock. The back of these models was engraved with the letters CEV followed by a number from 1 to 80.
In 1958, the French Navy placed an order for 500 Type XX watches for its pilots and sailors in the Aéronautique Navale airborne wing.
The reputation of the Type XX quickly transcended the military realm, attracting the attention of the civil aviation industry and chronograph enthusiasts. Despite undergoing minimal aesthetic changes until 1970, such as the replacement of the Valjoux 14-line movement with a modernized 13-line movement and slight variations in the dial, hands, and bezel, the Type XX remained highly sought after. Breguet sold over 2,000 “civilian” Type XX models during this time.
And now, the Manufacture Breguet proudly presents a completely new range that is avant-garde, incredibly modern, and full of allusions to the past.
A new Type XX, new momentum, a new generation, and a completely new caliber all arrive in 2023. The new generation of iconic Type XX watches took four years to prepare for; this time, they were released in two variants to suit everyone’s expectations, one with military inspiration and the other with inspiration from the best civilian models. By drawing inspiration from iconic first-generation models, Breguet has infused its designs with a modern, dynamic, and technological spirit into its new timepieces.
A look into the future? Stay tuned as we introduce the two new chronographs, their design aesthetics, and an all-new calibre!