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The history of the Type 20 / XX, Breguet’s aviator’s watch

After the Eterna Kontiki, the IWC Portugieser and the Cartier Santos, we continue to tell you the story of the mythical watches with the Breguet Type 20. Or should we say the Breguet Type 20? Type 20 / XXThe two variants of this model are so inseparable. An aviator’s watch with a fascinating history and an incredible career. This is thehistory of this Breguet icon.

An order from the Ministry of Defence and very precise specifications

The story begins in early 1950swhere the French Ministry of Defense has a rather unusual request. To equip its pilots, it wants a chronograph watch, which it calls its own. Type 20. But the specifications are very precise. Aesthetically, the watch must have a case measuring around 38mm, a black dial with 2 counters at 3 and 9 o’clock, capable of totalizing 30min, Arabic numerals, and be legible in all circumstances thanks to the use of photo-luminescent material. And on the mechanical side, the Ministry demands a hand-wound movement accurate to within 8 seconds per day, with a minimum power reserve of 35 hours, and able to endure more than 300 start-stop-reset cycles. But, in addition to the usual chronograph function, the Ministry insists that the movement be equipped with the return-in-flight” function. A rather rare complication, invented in 1936 by Longinesbut particularly useful for aviators. It allows the stopwatch to be instantly reset and restarted by simply pressing the pusher at 4 o’clock, instead of the usual procedure: stop, then reset, then restart.

The Type 20, or rather the Type 20

Among the watchmakers who submitted their models, four were selected: Breguet, Auriscote, Vixa and Dodane (which sold Type 20s under its own or other names, such as Chronofixe or Brass). But it was Breguet who won the jackpot, with around 50% of the total order. Thus, there is not one, but several Type 20s. And that’s why, even today, the name “Type 20” is not only associated with Breguet – even if it is by far the best-known brand – and why, in fact, Breguet is the most famous brand in the world. other brands are just as entitled to use the name.

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Between 1954 and 1960, Breguet supplied the Ministry of Defense with more than 2,500 Type 20 watches, distributed among theFrench Air Force (around 2000 units), theNaval Aviation (500 copies) and the CEV Flight Test Center (80 examples). It’s worth noting that Breguet was able to deliver these watches very quickly (just a few months after winning the tender). And all thanks to another company founded by the Breguet family: Breguet Aviation. The aircraft factory, founded in 1911, was chaired by Louis Bregueta descendant of Abraham-Louis Breguet (the watchmaker’s founder), who still maintains close ties with the company. In fact, Breguet Aviation pilots had themselves been equipped with models similar to the Type 20 for 2 years.

Breguet Type 20 “survivors

The Breguet Type 20s are therefore endowment watchesThese are intended exclusively for military pilots. And the procedure stipulates that at the end of a pilot’s career, he must return his equipment to the military administration, including the watch. The watch is then destroyed. So why did some Type 20s end up in civilian life? The answer is both simple and vague. There are of course Type 20s who have managed to slip through the netin a “roundabout” way. But there are also Type 20 “survivors. Indeed, it’s customary for pilots who have achieved great feats or survived very delicate situations (such as ejecting from their aircraft) to be able to keep their equipment… and therefore their watch. Thus, some Type 20s with incredible stories have returned to civilian life for a well-deserved retirement, much to the delight of collectors.

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The Breguet Type XX, the civilian variant

By the early 1960s, Breguet realized the commercial potential of such a chronograph. And in parallel with the Type 20 reserved for military pilots, Breguet offered a civilian” variantcalled Type XXwhich is fast becoming a the brand’s best-sellerand a catalog mainstay for the next 30 years. From then on, the Type 20 and Type XX names would co-exist.

Four generations of Type XX

Four generations of Type XX can be distinguished. The 1st generation of Type XX is produced in the 1950s and 1960sand is modelled on the military Type 20, with its brushed steel case and slightly curved lugs. Mechanically, the Breguet Type XX is based on the caliber 22 from Valjouxto which the return-in-flight function is added, thus becoming the Valjoux 222. The housing is made by Mathey-Tissot. The 2nd generation is produced in the 1970-1980s and saw the introduction of a bakelite bezel and wider straight handles.

Then Type XX production between 1985 and 1995at a time when Breguet was in dire straits due to the Quartz crisis. The 3rd generation Type XX was inaugurated in 1994, and is divided into 2 categories: theNaval Aviation (no date) and the Transatlantique (with date at 6 o’clock). This generation is equipped with caliber 582 (based on Lemania 1378 without date or 1372 with date), and features 3 counters. It will remain in the catalog until 2020 and the withdrawal of reference 3820. Finally, in 2023, Breguet unveils a 4th generation Type 20 / XX with a slightly larger diameter, then equipped with Manufacture caliber 728/7281.

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