Part Two On The History Of Breguet’ Pilot Watches. The Second Generation Type XX.

by Chamath Gamage

Continuing on from the first part of diving into the history of Breguet’s pilot timepieces (which you can find here), we pick up from Breguet releasing the first generation Type XX watches that were immensely popular, not just within the aviation industry but in other industries and the general population as well. Now, Breguet was about to continue its success with the first-generation Type XX timepiece by releasing a second generation of this iconic timepiece.

Photograph from Breguet’s draft catalogue from the 1970s showing two different bezel designs for second-generation Type XX

The evolution of the first-gen Type XX started in 1963 with the Valjoux 14-line 222/225 movement being replaced by a more modernized Valjoux 13-line 230/720 movement. Once the movement was upgraded, it was naturally time to improve the aesthetics. This came in 1970 when the Breguet upgraded the timepiece’s aesthetics by producing the second-generation in 1970s style that unmistakably fit the era.

When the second-generation Type XX was launched in 1971, it was instantly recognisable thanks to its larger case which was also now polished rather than brushed steel. The lugs on the timepiece were also broader and thicker. Breguet also increased the size from the first gen’s 38mm case to now a 40mm case, which also had a stronger ring of casing inside to hold the movement in place. Another fine detail on the second-gen was that the top of the winding crown was decorated with a fine grid pattern.

Breguet Type XX Chronograph no. 20799 (sold 1975).

The second generation Type XX had a decent start upon its release. Between 1971 and 1986, according to sales ledgers, approximately 770 models of the second-gen were sold. 406 of these models had a 3-counter layout (including 15-minute and 12-hour totalisers), while the remaining 364 models had a 2 sub-counter layout (15-minute totaliser only). The numbering system for the second-generation timepieces was also changed. While the first-gen was numbered in series from 250-5250, the second-gen came with a special numbering system where each piece was given its own 5-digit number, starting with 20050.

Side Profile of the Second-Generation Type XX. Showing grid-pattern crown.

Thanks to the popularity of the Type XX model, and also its second-gen version, the House of Breguet continued the opening of its distribution network. Breguet strengthened its existing relationship with Aéroshopping boutique at Le Bourget airport, which first began in 1969. Between the years of 1971 and 1982, this boutique sold over 175 Type XX, which equated to approximately 25 percent of the total sales of the model. Breguet also took on new clients in France during the years 1971 to 1982, which included 4 watches being sold to a helicopter company, Heli-Union, and 10 watches sold to Aérospatiale (Airbus Industrie). A very distinguished client, the President of France, Georges Pompidou, was also interested in these watches, and in 1971 the ‘Présidence de la République’ bought six Type XX’s as official gifts.

The second-generation Type XX models proved to be a huge success for Breguet, even though no large official orders from the French weren’t put through. The first-generation models that were produced over a decade or so ago were still in great working order, which was also a testament to the build quality of these timepieces. Regardless of the success of the first-gen Type XX and also the strong competition from rival houses, clients still put their trust in Breguet for the second-generation model.

Breguet Type XX chronograph no. 21326, sold to the Royal Moroccan Air Force in October 1975, with its distinctive six notches on the back.

A total of 115 second-generation Type XX timepieces were supplied between 1971 to 1978 to different clients. Breguet states that “The archives reveal that 40 Type XXs (with minute counter) were supplied to the FAR (Royal Moroccan Air Force) in July 1975, with a further dozen watches supplied simply to ‘Morocco’; 10 additional watches (with 15-minute counter) were supplied to the Chad Air Force in 1972; 53 pieces were supplied to the OGA (Office Général de l’Air) between 1971 and 1978, of which 35 (with 15-minute and 12-hour counters) were destined for ‘Abidjan’, probably the These Type XXs are also recognisable by their grid-pattern crown. Second-generation Type XX is viewed in profile, with its polished steel case and the black rotating bezel. Ivory Coast Air Force; and 12 pieces (with 15-minute counters) were supplied to the ‘Air Service Gabon’ company in 1977.

Breguet Type XX chronograph no. 21326, sold to the Royal Moroccan Air Force in October 1975, with its distinctive six notches on the back.

After 1980, the sales of Type XX timepieces lapsed into a slow decline, with one of the reasons being that Breguet was now focusing the brand’s marketing strategy on their gold watches with both classic three-hander and complications. These watches were going through a period of strong revival, which meant that the brand didn’t see the importance of promoting the Type XX timepieces. Even though Type XX still had sales throughout London, Geneva, and Brussels between 1980 – 1984, the story of Type XX was drawing to a close. By 1986, the Type XX was officially dropped from production, and the last 38 timepieces that remained in stock were sold off to an official Breguet agent in Italy, which marked the end of an era, a period of Breguet’s rich history that lasted for over thirty years.

The Second-Generation TYPE XX

Movement: Valjoux 13-line 720 movement with
‘retour en vol’ (fly-back function); Valjoux 725
movement for pieces with 15-minute and 12-hour
totalizers from c.1975
Case: Polished steel case, water-resistant
with screw-down caseback, diameter 40mm
Caseback: Bearing individual Breguet number
Dial: Black, with Breguet signature in cursive script
Quantity produced: 770 pieces

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