Hands-On: Breguet Type XX Only Watch 2021An old-school pilot's instrument.
The upcoming Only Watch auction is an impressive catalogue of 53 one-off timepieces, a good number of which – more than a quarter of the total – are chronographs. Among the dozen chronographs, a couple caught my eye.
One is the Breguet Type XX Only Watch 2021. It’s essentially an evolution of the Breguet Type 20 created for Only Watch 2019, simple in design and execution but attractive in that simplicity.
Like another notable chronograph in the sale, the TAG Heuer Monaco, the Type XX is reinterpretation of an iconic model of the brand. But the Type XX Only Watch 2021 is a nostalgic reinterpretation with a chocolate-brown dial that evokes the aged, “tropical” effect found on vintage examples.
That said, the vintage styling is its only weakness. The Type XX is almost identical to the Type 20 Only Watch 2019 – right down to the strap – though the point can be made that the two make a perfect pair.
They are each inspired by historical aviator’s watches made for the military and civilian markets respectively (the vintage Type XX was marketed to civilians, while the Type 20 was supplied to the French military). So this year’s Type XX should go home with the owner of the Type 20 from 2019.
Notably, the Type XX is powered by a vintage movement, though one that is from a later period from an actual vintage Type XX. Still, given Breguet’s impressive manufacturing prowess, one would have hoped for something more technically interesting than a Valjoux 235 from the 1970s.
Still, I gravitate towards the clean simplicity of the Type XX. And Breguet almost never does such vintage-inspired watches, none at all in recent years in fact, which makes the Type XX even more special.
The Type XX is very much traditional in style. That means a restrained, 38.5 mm case containing hand-wind movement, with a minimalist dial that’s made livelier because of its colour.
It could, in fact, pass for a vintage watch, but paradoxically the Type XX is not a one-to-one remake of a past model.
Instead the Type XX is an amalgamation of features from several variants of the vintage Type XX/20, like the bezel and “Big Eye” sub-dial. Despite not being a pure remake, the Type XX stands out from the brand’s current pilot chronographs offerings – and is a lot more attractive in its vintage style.
Because the Type XX shares the same milk-chocolate dial colour with the Type 20 Only Watch 2019, they appear similar at a distance. But there are obvious differences between the two, though they lie in the subtle details, such as the bezel and dial layout.
The biggest distinction between the consecutive pair of Only Watch chronographs is the “Big Eye” counter at three on the Type XX, which contrasts with the equally sized sub-dials on the Type 20.
Used on some vintage chronographs to aid the reading of elapsed minutes, the “Big Eye” is an appealing feature though its scale graduated in three-minute segments is less intuitive to read and ironically diminishes the legibility. But the “Big Eye” register is attractive because it very much evokes the vintage originals.
At the same time, the Type XX gets a bi-directional bezel that’s engraved with a 12-hour scale, allowing it to measure elapsed hours, by zeroing it against the hour hand.
Inside the Type 20 is a Valjoux 235, a hand-wind movement with flyback chronograph dating to the 1970s. According to Breguet, the Valjoux 235 has been restored, but probably not finished fancily since the case back is solid.
Interestingly, while the Valjoux 235 is not the same movement found in the vintage Type 20, it is a relative of the Valjoux 222 found in the vintage originals.
The 235 is part of the Valjoux 23 family of movements, which was a scaled-down version of the Valjoux 22, to which the 222 was a part of.
And the Valjoux 23 family is best known for having supplied the movements found in several landmark watches of the 20th century, including a variety of Patek Philippe chronographs. The Geneva watchmaker transformed the Valjoux 23 ebauche into its own cal. 13-130 that was found inside models like the refs. 130, 1463, 1518, and 2499. Another member of the Valjoux 23 family was the Valjoux 72, the movement found inside the hand-wound Rolex Daytona.
Key facts and price
Breguet Type XX Only Watch 2021
Diameter: 38.3 mm
Height: 13.9 mm
Water resistance: 30 m
Movement: Valjoux 235
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and flyback chronograph
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 45 hours
Strap: Calfskin strap
Limited edition: Piece unique
Availability: To be sold at Only Watch on November 6, 2021
For more, visit onlywatch.com.
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