Breguet Debuts the Type XXI 3815 Limited Edition

Aggressively colourful.

While Breguet is associated with classical timepieces – and a history laden with gems that continue to inspire watchmakers today – it does have a significant history with military watches. In the mid-20th century, Breguet, along with a few other watchmakers, supplied the French military with the “Type 20” aviator’s chronograph.

Breguet has referenced that military history since the military-inspired Type XX of 1994, which was succeeded by the more complex Type XXI and Type XXII. And now Breguet has just unveiled the Type XXI 3815, which has a titanium case and strikingly peculiar dials in two colours.

The version with orange “lume” is especially striking

Initial thoughts

Breguet has been iterating the Type 20 for almost 30 years – rumour has it a replacement for the base model is due next year – and the Type XXI was an upgrade to the original that never gained the popularity of the original.

The new Type XXI 3815 is the third variant of the model to date, and perhaps a missed opportunity.

Most elements on the watch are taken from historical models, each correct on its own way – including faux-radium lume and a “big eye” register – but combined haphazardly. The result is an aesthetic that tries to be bold but ends up looking odd.

The combination of elements on the dial leaves it off balance. The “big eye” counter feels too big, creating the impression it is far off centre, while the text under 12 o’clock leaves the dial top heavy. Add to that the oversized Arabic numerals, and the clutter is apparent.

But the 3815 could have been so much better. Its looks will divide opinion, but there’s no doubt that the execution of the 3815 is top notch.

The cal. 582Q/A inside is already excellent – Breguet movements are mostly beyond reproach – and the design has several attractive features, including the black bezel and two-counter layout.

And being a Breguet, the finishing inside and out will certainly be high quality, and better than most at its competitors at the US$15,000 price point. In fact, considering it’s a chronograph with a titanium case and in-house movement produced in a limited edition – and the fact that it’s a Breguet – the 3815 is strong value.

Fine execution

This is a Breguet, so all its details are carefully attended to, even for its most prosaic elements.

The bezel, for instance, is not merely fitted with an insert of anodised aluminium or ceramic as is the norm. Instead, it has been machined to create relief markings, and then filled with black lacquer, leaving the markings raised above the lacquer.

Another detail that’s hidden until the chronograph is engaged are the distinct central hands. As both the elapsed minute and seconds hand are mounted on the same central axis, they are set apart in both colour, finish, and shape – a distinction that is discreet yet obvious.

Visible through the back is the cal. 582Q/A, an integrated, flyback chronograph movement that’s finely constructed and finished – and quite a bit more accomplished than its peers at this price point.

It is interesting in terms of function, having both a flyback as well as co-axial elapsed minutes and seconds. And it is also interesting in mechanics, featuring a free-sprung balance that promises more stable timekeeping, along with a hairspring and pallet lever of silicon, which boosts its magnetism resistance.

Notably, the movement also has a 24-hour indicator in the sub-dial at three o’clock. The 24-hour hand is not the most useful of features in a pilot’s watch – and having a “big eye” that’s not a chronograph counter is strange – but it’s nonetheless an extra complication.

Key facts and price

Breguet Type XXI 3815 Limited Edition
Ref. 3815TI/HO/3ZU (orange lume)
Ref. 3815TI/HM/3ZU (green lume)

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 15.2 mm
Material: Titanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. 582Q/A
Functions: Time, date, flyback chronograph with central minute register, and 24-hour indicator
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Calfskin with folding clasp

Limited edition: 250 pieces each
 Only at Breguet boutiques
Price: US$14,900; or 21,400 Singapore dollars

For more information, visit

Correction June 18, 2021: The 3815 is not the only pilot’s chronograph with a titanium case as stated in an earlier version of the article. The Type XXI 3810 is also available in titanium.

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Highlights: Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts 2021

Treasures of artisanal craft.

Patek Philippe went big at its annual Rare Handcrafts Exhibition that just opened at its Geneva Salon. The watchmaker unveiled  the 75 timepieces of this year’s Rare Handcrafts collection, along with as many more from last year’s line up that is on show for the first time, since the 2020 exhibition was cancelled.

The most accessible watches of the collection, relatively speaking, are the complicated watches that will join the regular catalogue, which include a trio of chiming watches, from the graceful minute repeater for ladies to the new Sky Moon Tourbillon in rose gold.

The Sky Moon Tourbillon ref. 6002R

But it is the rest of the Rare Handcrafts collection that capture the creativity and diversity the brand’s metiers d’art. Each unique, the watches and clocks are mechanically uncomplicated, and instead use the dial and case as a canvas to showcase exquisite, vivid depictions of animals, landscapes, and art with a variety of artisanal techniques.

Here’s a selection of a few standouts from this year’s collection, all one-off creations that are expensive but usually sold in advance, so most will be dispatched to their owners after the exhibition.

Dome clocks

One of Patek Philippe’s most distinctive timepieces is not a watch, but the round-topped table clock. A fixture in its catalogue for decades, the Dome Clock is produced in small numbers every year, typically with its exterior panels decorated in enamel.

This year’s Rare Handcrafts catalogue includes several Dome Clocks in both small and large sizes. But the most outstanding are a pair of full-sized clocks that are very different but equally beautiful.

With the coming year being the Chinese Year of the Tiger, the Dome Clock ref. 20090M “Tigers” is all about the big cat. Decorated in cloisonné enamel, the exterior depicts several tigers in a bamboo grove – a portrayal that required 27.1 m of gold wire for the cloisonné. And instead of traditional fluted feet, this stands on four tiger paws.

Dome Clock ref. 20090M “Tigers”

Inspired by art from the other side of the world, the Dome Clock ref. 20061M “ Mucha, Les Arts” reproduces the four lithographs that make up Les Arts, a series of prints by the Czech artist Alphonse Mucha. His Art Nouveau style is captured by cloisonné enamel in 43 colours, ranging from transparent to opaque, and matched with enamelled, Art Nouveau-style hands that replace the conventional leaf hands.

Dome Clock ref. 20061M “ Mucha, Les Arts”

Pocket watches

Another key genre represented in Rare Handcrafts is the pocket watch, which offers two faces – and even a stand – for decoration. The pocket watches of this year’s collection features a variety of enamelling techniques, as well as other ornamental methods such as marquetry and engraving.

The most traditional is perhaps the ref. 992/108J-001 “Lac Blanc”, featuring a classical dial in white enamel that belies the multicoloured depiction on the back. It shows Mont Blanc as see from Lac Blanc, a small lake in France just an hour’s drive from Patek Philippe’s home in Geneva.

Ref. 992/108J-001 “Lac Blanc”

The mountain range is executed in grand detail, presented in both enamel and hand engraving. The sun-rays over the mountain are engine turned while the waves on the lake are hand engraved before being covered with transparent enamel, a technique known as flinqué enamelling, while the mountain is depicted in cloisonné enamel.

Perfectly capturing the essence of a lone owl in winter, the ref. 992/149G “Owl” turns to enamel miniature painting to depict the bird perched on a branch. Created with enamel paint applied with a tiny brush, the image is then protected by several layers of clear enamel, each step requiring its own firing to set the enamel, with the watch needing a total of 29 trips to the oven.

Ref. 992/149G “Owl”

More obviously decorative is the ref. 995/113J “Aubusson Tapestry in Green Tones”, which is inspired by the Verdure tapestries woven at Aubusson, the French town famed for its tapestries.

Paradoxically, the hunting scene that was originally on fabric is reproduced in wood marquetry, with 490 veneer and 150 inlay pieces from 38 species of trees to complete the motif.

The case and bow, on the other hand, are finished in cloisonné enamel, while the hands are hand engraved, making this one of the most extensively decorated watches in the collection.

Ref. 995/113J “Aubusson Tapestry in Green Tones”

Decorated with a similar technique but with a vastly different aesthetic is the ref. 995/122J “Panda”. A panda munching on bamboo shoots is depicted in wood marquetry – requiring 94 veneer pieces and 190 inlays from 26 species of wood – while the dial is finished in flinqué enamel.

Ref. 995/122J “Panda”

The dial is engine turned to create the leaf motif in the background, and also engraved by hand to create the bamboo shoots in relief. Both are then covered in translucent green enamel.

And in keeping with the theme, the watch is delivered with a solid-gold stand shaped like a bamboo shoot that sits on a green marble base.


As with the pocket watches and Dome Clocks, the Rare Handcrafts wristwatches also encompass obviously figurative decorations. One such example is the Calatrava ref. 5177G-024 “Falcon Head”, which bears a closeup of the bird of prey in wood marquetry. Twenty species of wood supplied the nearly 400 tiny pieces that make up the portrait.

Ref. 5177G-024 “Falcon Head”

Featuring similar motifs inspired by Middle Ages, the “Medieval Ornaments” are a pair of watches – sold separately – that featuring similar decoration in cloisonné enamel.

The Calatrava ref. 5177G-023 “Medieval Ornaments I” is a round wristwatch with a hobnail bezel, with a dial in 15 colours of enamel.

And the Golden Ellipse ref. 5738/50G-017 “Medieval Ornaments II” takes the form of the brand’s signature ovoid wristwatch of the 1970s. It is slightly more muted in its palette, with the dial made up of 12 shades of enamel.

Ref. 5177G-023 (left), and ref. 5738/50G-017

Amongst the most abstract in the collection is the pair of Golden Ellipse wristwatches that form a two-piece set.

The Golden Ellipse ref. 5738/50G “Ellipse 70’s” each feature dials decorated in cloisonné enamel in psychedelic patterns inspired by the 1970s. Both motifs are made up of rounded, geometric forms that echo the shape of the Golden Ellipse case.

Ref. 5738/50G-016 (left), and ref. 5738/50G-015

Rare Handcrafts 2021 Exhibition

June 16-July 3
Open daily from 11 am-6 pm, excluding Sunday

Patek Philippe Salon
41, Rue du Rhône
1204 Geneva
Tel.: +41 22 809 50 50

Admission is free but due to the health and safety regulations, visitors are highly encouraged to register in advance on the Patek Philippe website.

Correction June 17, 2021: The Chinese Year of the Tiger is in 2022, and not 2021 as stated in an earlier version of the article.

Update July 1, 2021: Patek Philippe has announced that the show will be extended until July 3, 2021.

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