The New Breguet Type XX and Type 20

Whether on the wrists of French pilots or in the hands of bright-eyed collectors, the Breguet Type XX has inspired over seven decades worth of aviation timekeeping excellence, and continues to do so with a tasteful reimagining of its original design principles

Despite the many variations and countless spinoffs, the bog-standard ‘military watch’ — no frills attached — has a special place in my heart as a fan of minimalist watch designs. Function over fashion, paradoxical as it seems, becomes chic in waves across the passing decades, and few watches have accomplished this collective renaissance as well as the Breguet Type XX and Type 20, a singular line of timepieces that has once again been revived by the iconic Maison in two parallel designs.

‘Type 20’ is a code — one that belongs specifically to a series of flyback chronographs issued to French pilots over the decades, and yes, it was indeed preceded by nineteen other watches used in various capacities across the French Army. Each model had a few common elements; a manual winding flyback chronograph function, a bi-compact or tri-compact dial arrangement, simple fluted bezels and large numerals for easy timekeeping. It’s fair to say that while the Type 20 was a design cornerstone all by itself, Breguet has largely been responsible for the piloting watch’s longest enduring and most refined blueprints.
Which brings us back to the latest Type 20 and Type XX, which exhibit multiple similarities and subtle distinctions all at once. Both timepieces boast a dual-dial configuration and share a common essence. The Type 20 caters to military preferences, featuring syringe hands and a mint green lume, while the Type XX targets civilian tastes with alpha hands and a creamy yellow lume.

Housed within sturdy steel casings, each watch measures 42 mm by 14.1 mm and showcases bidirectional steel bezels, complemented by matching lume pips. Under the surface, they are equipped with a cutting-edge self-winding movement. The civilian variant, known as Calibre 728, and the military rendition, the Calibre 7281, both exhibit outstanding performance. These movements incorporate a column wheel and a vertical clutch, operating at a high 5Hz frequency. Moreover, they also showcase the originals’ flyback functionality, enabling smooth timekeeping and ease of operation. With a remarkable 60 hours of power reserve, these watches ensure enduring precision. To enhance their longevity, both models incorporate an inverted in-line lever escapement, featuring a flat silicon balance spring.

Despite the potential eyebrow-raising aspect of the 4:30-located date window, Breguet’s offering reminds us of the original modern-era Type XX and Type 20 watches. These debuted nearly three decades ago and still evoke sentimental and design significance in their mature years; now in 2023, they have successfully infused these timepieces with a modern, dynamic, and technologically advanced spirit, exemplifying a commitment to watchmaking excellence and history.

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