The Airbase Breguet

By Andrew Court

As we learned in the 2008 comedy Tropic Thunder, you should “never go full retard.” The same thing is true with anything French.

Never go full frog. You’ll end up in a powdered wig on the steps of Versailles or in a black turtleneck memorizing Foucault. Half-French, however, is the absolute sweet spot.

Action movies, an all-American genre, are awesome when done by the French. Just check out any of the Luc Besson films like Taken or The Professional. This also holds true with food. There’s no more blissfully delicious delicacy than a foie gras laden le cheeseburger.

This is why the Breguet Type XX watch is so wonderful. It takes the teutonic pilot’s watch and gives it some Parisian sex appeal. IWC and Breitling make great watches but they are a little too Germanic. A full Breguet dress watch is a bit fruity. When they come together it’s just right.

I should know; I purchased one.

My XX was an impulse buy. The flyback chronograph sits comfortably snuggly in the 39mm steel case surrounded by the multidirectional rotating bezel. Its elegant numerals give it an almost aristocratic air and, like a lot of things I buy secondhand, it is an absolute bargain. These are not Rolexes, and they don’t hold their value. Well, c’est la vie.

If you want something shiny, and don’t care about depreciation, Breguet just released a new version. It comes with some cool features including two easily interchangeable straps and a display case back. The watch has also grown considerably more hefty, coming in at 42 mm. For a pilot’s watch it’s relatively water resistant diving down to 100 meters. Its movement is also seriously updated with a 60-hour power reserve.

Watch nerds are pissed that there’s a date, which isn’t military spec, but my guess is the most action they’ve seen is a late night Call of Duty session. Another neckbeard criticism is that it has “Swiss Made” on the dial. I get that this is a little gauche, but Breguet is one of the few luxury timepieces made entirely in Switzerland, so if you’ve got it, why not flaunt it. The price, like everything there’s days, is high at around $18k.

At least at that number you get some serious horological history.

Breguet dates back to the late 18th century. Abraham-Louis Breguet, the founder of the company, was the mastermind behind a bunch of innovations that revolutionized watchmaking. In 1775, he set up his workshop in Paris, where he created timepieces that quickly gained recognition for their exceptional craftsmanship and precision. One of his most significant contributions was the development of the tourbillon, a rotating cage designed to improve the accuracy of mechanical watches.

A lot of famous people have worn them. Napoleon owned several Breguet timepieces, including the legendary “Marie-Antoinette” pocket watch, an intricate piece that took over 40 years to complete and is considered one of the most exquisite watches ever made. Sir Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was known for his appreciation of Breguet watches.

Churchill’s Breguet was a gift from his wife—not something that he asked her permission to buy. After trying one on you won’t need anymore militaristic inspiration to invade the household checking account.

The XX came into the picture in the early 1950s when the French Air Force put out a procurement order for a new pilot’s watch. Breguet delivered a version for the military as well as one for civilians. The main requirement was that it had to be a flyback chronograph, which combines stop and start functions. This was before satellites and timing travel was deadly serious for navigation. Other aviation features are the oversized pushers and crown to make this watch easier to operate with gloves.

The company itself went through some changes and in the 70s production was moved from France to Switzerland. In the 1990s the XX was rereleased as a luxury sports watch. The 90s were a season of great flourishing of watchmaking, with old pieces like the Type XX having new life breathed into them. This led to new versions including luxurious models in titanium and gold.

Right now I’m having a sort of personal moment with my XX. I purchased it during COVID and put it on an awesome alligator NATO and wore it pretty much every day. Then, when I moved to Miami, I wanted something larger, and flashier. The current world is making me rethink this, maybe it’s time for subtlety?

I wear mine as a dress watch. The slightly smaller dimensions and the black strap pair perfectly with a suit. It also works when I want to make less of a statement, as only really watch guys know about Breguet.

The XX is suave and understated while also being masculine. If the rumors are true, and Christopher Nolan reimagines Bond as a period piece, I could see Breguet getting a call from the costume department.

From the FE Films Archive

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