It was an immense pleasure to sit down with our very own associate editor, Brice Goulard, and hear where his passion for watches comes from. Brice is the only Frenchman in the Monochrome lineup, so me being from the UK, we try to avoid talking about the Football or le Rugby. Luckily we have no problems talking watches, so we caught up with Brice in Paris to find out why Brequet is so close to his heart and why the Type XX is historically so important.
How did you first get into watches?
My first contact with watches will sound familiar to many collectors. I was 15 years old and my father offered me a 1960s mechanical chronograph that was previously owned by my grandfather. I guess it was a Yema, a French brand that used to be extremely popular in France in the 1950s / 1960s. However, don’t ask me for more details about this one, as I only had it for a short period of time, before it had been stolen! Anyway, this watch was the starting point of everything (and it explains why I’m here, at Monochrome, today). At the time, I had no idea what a watch was about (and especially a mechanical watch). My father explained it had to be wound. This came as a surprise to me, as I was, like most born in the 1980s, used to quartz watches. As I wound the watch daily, my fascination grew. I started to ask my father (who was not a collector nor an aficionado) what was inside. He wasn’t able to sufficiently answer my questions, so I started to read and became fascinated by how such a small engine was able to run the watch. As I say, the sadness was that this chronograph was stolen a few months after I received it, and I lost interest.
The passion for watches really started with another watch, years later. My father (him again…) decided that for my 25th birthday, I had to have a proper ‘adult’ watch. Even with his limited watch knowledge, he chose an extremely beautiful watch, from one of the most sought-after brands: Breguet. He went for one that I know now to be one of the most beautiful chronographs and pilot watches ever made, the Breguet Type XX (fully reviewed here). This watch was the real starting point for my collection. This was the one that pushed me to become a student of the watch industry – and later to work as a watch editor.
Tell us more about Breguet
After reading a lot, I discovered the entire story behind Breguet and learned about Abraham Louis Breguet’s life and all the technical innovations he created (e.g. the tourbillon, the self-winding mechanism, the perpetual calendar mechanism or the para-chute). I mean, take a look at all the watchmakers (really, all of them, whatever the century) and try to find another one that created so much. A.L. Breguet was and still is the most productive watchmaker ever.
He created or improved almost all the mechanical devices that are now in a watch. Even nowadays, the industry still relies on many of his inventions (the Breguet overcoil, the gong-springs for minute repeaters and the tourbillon). Then, you start appreciating the heritage of the brand. When I received my Type XX, I dug deeper to understand what this model was about. The Breguet Type XX has a huge historical background. The Type XX stands out for me in the Breguet collection, for multiple reasons. Breguet re-issued this watch as a tribute to the vintage Type 20, a pilot watch made for the French Navy. With this watch, you have the link between the two sides of the Breguet family – the watchmakers and the pilots. Breguet is still for me a fantastic brand, with a rich past. Today’s production methods very much respect the brands heritage and adhere to its values: making classical watches, with elegant lines, while utilizing the typical Breguet features (fluted case, hollowed hands, engine-turned dials). But that’s not all, even today the manufacture continues to innovate. For example we’ve seen recently with the use of magnetic pivots for the balance wheel. That’s what I love at Breguet, the mix between traditions and innovation (something that is the brand’s DNA since its creation).
Can you tell us more about the movement in the Breguet Type XX?
The Breguet Type XX comes with a proprietary movement – I say proprietary and not in-house, mainly because the base-movement was created before the Swatch Group bought Breguet. Basically, it features a Lemania 1350 with an extra flyback complication. The Calibre 1350 is an evolution of the Lemania 1340 that can be found in some vintage automatic Omega Speedmaster and Seamaster chronographs. The main point of interest is of course the flyback complication that allows making several timings in a row. This is an historical feature that was used by pilots on the Type 20 (the vintage military edition). For the rest, it’s a classical, reliable and robust movement – don’t forget that the Type XX has utilitarian roots.
When buying, what is more important to you: Brand / model Heritage? Aesthetic? Accuracy? Rarity?
All of them and none of them. I’d say that the most important is the pleasure. I always buy watches that give a smile on my face. I have the chance to be associate editor of Monochrome (perfect for a watch-freak) and thus, I can trial many different watches. This allows me to wear the watches I want to buy for myself before taking the money out of my pocket. I’d say that knowing the brands helps to make decisions. Of course heritage is important to me (especially in the case of Breguet) but it is not the only factor. Some modern and young brands catch my eye. I tend to choose with emotions. I’m not buying for rarity reasons or with the idea to sell the watch back with a profit. I see a watch, I try it and if it sings to me, I consider buying it. The final decision however is dictated by my banker…
There are however several issues here. First of all (I know I shouldn’t complain) but sometimes seeing so many watches makes it hard to choose. When you’re back home after Baselword of the SIHH, there are dozens of timepieces you consider for yourself. Then, you tend to become envious, as you know you’ll never be able to afford them! I totally felt in love with Patek’s latest spilt-second chronograph (the ref. 5370) but at 220.000 euros, I’ll keep it as a dream. Finally, choosing solely on emotion and not on other tangible factors can lead you to (sometimes) make mistakes and to regret your choices.
How important is the case material to you?
I’m a stainless steel guy. Maybe I’m too young for the moment to be attracted to gold. I love to see gold watches and I do enjoy wearing some as a tester, but when it comes to my own timepieces, I’ll go for steel. I really wear my watches and sometimes abuse them on a daily basis. I’m a tool / functional watches guy. Steel is therefore a must. It’s lighter, more resistant and I don’t have to be too protective with it on the wrist. Maybe I’ll move to gold later.
How much wrist time does it get?
The Breguet Type XX used to be my daily-beater for a few years. I wear it for almost all activities – whether it’s with a suit and tie to work, for sports or on vacations. By the way, you can see the scars of its hard life on the case. It is quite scratched. However, I’m not going to change that. I recently serviced it and especially asked the watchmaker not to polish it. It has a story written on it. It’s not something that I’ll do with all my watches, but for this one, I prefer to keep it unpolished. Now that I’m wearing many different watches (both from my personal collection or from the tests I have to do for Monochrome), the Type XX is not that often out of its box. However, I take great pleasure when strapping it on.
Do you tend to research the market before making a purchase?
Yes of course. But that’s different than with the average collector. I’m doing these researches on a daily basis for my job. However, I encourage anyone who wants to buy a nice watch (meaning a mechanical one) to do so.
Do you listen to the advice of anyone before making a purchase?
Not that much. However, I always tend to discuss with Frank (Monochrome’s founder and Editor-in-Chief) and a few relatives. I read a lot (books, magazines and other blogs) and that is probably the best advice I can give.
Is the joy of wearing a watch more important to you than considering resale value?
I will never buy a watch with the intention of reselling it – or at least with the intention of making a profit when selling them back. I’m all about the pleasure of wearing. I’d recommend anyone with the intention of making profits on watches to be extremely careful. Except for a few brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe (and not all of them but only certain editions), you’ll loose money. Watches are like cars. You buy your BMW, drive it for a couple of years and resale it for 50% of the price. That will be the same with a watch. So unless you’re extremely aware of the markets; please buy watches for your pleasure and your pleasure only.
What (if anything) have you got your eye on next?
Tough question. If I have to be reasonable, I have a huge crush on the Oris Divers Sixty Five, which I’m seriously considering. If my pockets were deeper, I’d go for something extremely understated, pure and with a superb horological content like the Laurent Ferrier Galet Square – a very classical steel watch, with a ‘nude’ dial and a magnificent movement. I believe this watch suits my character well… I guess.
I’m also in a complicated quest: finding a 1983 Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513 or a 1983 Rolex Sea Dweller (that’s my year of birth). It sounds quite easy but I want it to be 100% original, with box and papers. I’m always very scared with the authenticity of vintage Rolexes and my knowledge of these watches is not good enough. This watch will probably be my lifetime unicorn.
Can a collector ever be fully satisfied with his / her collection?
I don’t think so. That’s the point of being a collector (versus being someone who accumulates). Over the years, the tastes of a collector will change and evolve – your point of interest will usually become narrower. If I use myself as an example, I’d say that my actual tastes are not the same than in 2005 and they won’t be the same in 10 years. Of course, some classics will still be in my collection but some will be on other collectors’ wrists and new ones will be in. A collection is something lively and that needs to be maintained. For this reason, I don’t think a real collector will ever be fully satisfied. He will have satisfaction from a new watch but another one will for sure grow into him / her.
Other than Breguet, which brands do you think are doing interesting work out there?
All of them… I know it sounds strange, but who am I to judge manufactures or brands? If they exist, it’s because there are potential clients for them – meaning that the produce attractive products. Now if you ask me, I have to admit that Rolex operates in a crazy world. I’m not a big fan of their watches but on a commercial / heritage / quality level, they’re unbeatable. However, they should be aware of Omega, who have come up with some particularly interesting bits and pieces over the past few years: the co-axial escapement of course but mainly the Master Chronometer movements. Patek Philippe still has a place my heart, but I might be more emotionally connected to their competitors from Glashütte (A. Lange & Sohne). The other brands I enjoy tend to be small independent manufactures. Why? Simply because they are doing what the others can’t do. Take a look at MB&F, De Bethune, Hautlence or Kari Voutilainen and you’ll understand my point.
What piece of advice would you give to someone considering starting a collection?
- Read (about watchmaking and history in general)
- Read (about the brands)
- Read (reviews of the potential watches you want to buy)
- Go in all the boutiques and try
- Read again (just in case you missed something interesting)
- Go again in boutiques to try
- Have a budget, think of your needs, think of how and where you’ll wear this watch, don’t go for a Rolex just because your lawyer / roommate / friend / father / dog told you so, feel the watch on your wrist and see if you have that smile on your face. Then, come back home and think again.
For the average collector, buying a watch is an important investment (and as I said previously, you’ll loose money if you want to resale it). So, do your researches and go for something that really creates emotions on you. Don’t buy in a rush.
When collecting do you think it’s important to stick to a brand or a category (ie. Patek, IWC / aviation, dive pieces?)
Collecting with such narrow criteria will only happen later into a collecting career. Initially, you’ll certainly buy from many areas. But that’s not bad; it will shape your tastes. Then, after a few watches (and potentially some bad experiences), you’ll know what you want – at least for the coming months / years, until you’ll have new expectations.
Is this Breguet Type XX a keeper or can you see it leaving your collection one day?
Never! I’ll keep it for all the reasons I explained before. It’s my first real watch. It’s the one that created my interest into watches. It’s also a sentimental gift from my father and there’s a lot of affection behind this simple watch. This watch could easily be on the wrist of my son / daughter one day.