Call it Type 20 and not Type XX. What you see here is a true revival of the original, military-issued pilot Chronograph made by Breguet in the 1950s. Once again this year Breguet participates in Only Watch with what could be the coolest watch of the entire auction lot. Meet the Breguet Type 20 Only Watch 2019, an ultra-faithful re-edition, all the way from the case to the movement (yes, because that’s historically relevant too).
The Type 20
While Breguet is historically associated with delicate, high-end pocket watches and several groundbreaking inventions in watchmaking, the Maison also reveals another facet of its history: aviation. The name Breguet is also associated with a plane manufacturer, the Société d’Aviation Louis Breguet, a company founded by a descendant of Abraham-Louis Breguet. Also, from 1918 onwards, Breguet provided several timepieces for the American Air Force, chronographs with counters and tachometers, which could either be worn by the pilots or affixed to the plane’s instrument panel. Breguet continued to provide increasingly sophisticated chronographs to various aviation and aircraft companies.
However, Breguet’s main foray into aviation came in the early 1950s. The French Ministry of Defense drew up specifications with a view to purchasing chronograph wristwatches for its Air Force, to be known as Type 20. Breguet expressed its interest and designed a model that was quickly approved by the authorities, in 1954, with a new watch named Breguet Type 20.
The Type 20 was introduced as a pilot’s watch equipped with a flyback chronograph, the emblematic function of this watch. The flyback function allows the chronograph function to be reset to zero by simply pressing the lower push button. The chronograph Type 20 or Type XX evolved through three successive generations. It was discontinued, but in the mid-1990s Breguet relaunched this model, turning it into a successful luxury chronograph.
The Breguet Type 20 Only Watch 2019
As mentioned, this watch is referred to as “Type 20” and not “Type XX” – the latter refers to watches for civilian use, while Type 20 refers to military pieces. Thus, this unique Type 20 for Only Watch 2019 is a re-issue of the military versions of this chronograph, explaining the design of the bi-directional bezel – fluted here and not graduated (the latter being mainly for civilian use).
For this piece, the main idea was “historical relevance”. This watch is a 1-to-1 re-edition of the original model and as such respects the original diameter of the watch with a 38.30mm steel case with twisted lugs and pear-shaped crown – typical of the first-generation military models delivered to the French Air Force and Naval Air Force. The caseback is plain steel, just like the original.
The layout of the dial and the design of all its elements – hands, markers, sub-dials – is also entirely faithful to the earliest Type 20 watches. The colour of the dial is inspired by the very rare civilian and military models with a bronze-coloured dial sold at the time. Some black dials also took on a shade of bronze after long exposure to the sun, the so-called “tropical” dial versions. One notable difference with military editions of the past: the dial is signed Breguet, while old models were unsigned.
The Breguet Type 20 Only Watch 2019 isn’t only faithful outside, it is also faithful inside… Indeed, under the dial ticks a vintage Valjoux 235 movement, which is derived directly from the Valjoux 222 used in the 1950s. The movement blank of this hand-wound, column-wheel chronograph was restored back to working order. It allows this watch to retain all the proportions (position of the sub-dials, thickness) of the original. Being a Type 20, this watch is, of course, equipped with the signature flyback “retour en vol” function.
This Breguet Type 20 “Revival” is a unique piece for Only Watch 2019. Will we see this watch commercialized in the future by Breguet? Honestly, we hope so. What a superb piece.
Only Watch is a biennial fundraiser for research on muscular dystrophy – Association Monégasque Contre les Myopathies (AMM). Organized under the patronage of HSH Albert II de Monaco, the watches of the 8th edition will be auctioned by Christie’s on Saturday 9 November 2019. More details at www.onlywatch.com.