Many of us associate the name Breguet with watchmaking milestones, but fewer may be aware of its historic connection to the world of aviation. Louis Charles Breguet, great grandson of horology icon Abraham-Louis Breguet, was an aeronautical pioneer who developed the gyroplane (forerunner of today’s helicopters) as well as the storied Breguet XIV and Deux-Points airplanes in the early 20th century, the golden age of aviation innovation. The Breguet watch company, still run at the time by the founding family, worked with Louis Charles’s firm in the development of, first, chronograph mechanisms for cockpit instrument panels and then, in 1935, its first chronograph wristwatches for pilots. The most famous of these, the Breguet Type XX, made its debut two decades later. Commissioned by the French armed forces, this timepiece would be the watch of choice for the French air force and naval pilots up until the 1980s.
The modern collection that evolved from this enduring icon, the Breguet Type XXI, added a new model at Baselworld 2016: the Breguet Type XXI 3817, which not only boasts an all-new slate-gray dial but also, for the first time in this vintage aviation-inspired collection, a see-through sapphire caseback.
The Breguet Type XXI 3817, which is equipped with a flyback chronograph function, has a 42-mm steel case with the vintage-influenced fluted caseband that is characteristic of Breguet’s luxury pilots’ watch collection. The case’s bidirectional rotating bezel, a fixture of classical pilots’ watches, has engraved Arabic numerals and a smooth, brushed finish; the screw-locked crown aids in the case’s water resistance of 100 meters. The crystal is sapphire and the lugs are elegantly rounded.
The details on the slate gray dial include luminescent Arabic hour numerals, luminescent hour and minute hands, a 24-hour day-night indicator subdial at 3 o’clock, date window at 6 o’clock, and small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. Two center-mounted hands count off the chronograph seconds and minutes (indicated on a 60-minute track on the dial’s outer ring), while the subdial at 6 o’clock tallies up to 12 elapsed chronograph hours.
Through the sapphire exhibition caseback — a first for the Type XX collection — the wearer can glimpse the self-winding movement that powers the watch, the numbered and signed Breguet Caliber 584Q/2. In addition to the flyback function that Breguet Type XX chronographs have boasted since 1954, the movement has incorporated several elements made of high-tech silicon: the inverted Swiss lever escapement has silicon pallets and a silicon balance spring.
The new Breguet Type XXI 3817 chronograph comes on a vintage-style brown calfskin strap and retails for $13,900. Scroll down to find some photos we snapped of the watch during its introduction to the press at Baselworld.