Introducing the Breguet Type XXI 3815By Israel Ortega
Over the last few years, Breguet has mostly concentrated on its classical watches and marine chronometers. But with the new Type XXI 3815, the maison is calling up its track record as a key player in the development of watches for aviation throughout the last century, particularly the famed Type XX created for the French Air Force.
As early as 1918, Breguet delivered timepieces to the American Air Force as well as an aircraft manufacturer founded by Louis Charles Breguet, the great-great-grandson of Abraham-Louis who was also a recognised aircraft designer and one of the pioneers of French aviation. By 1935, the brand was developing its first wrist chronographs. A couple of decades later, in response to an order from the French Armed Forces, the maison launched its legendary watch, the Type XX chronograph, which would equip the French air and naval forces until the early 1980s. While the functional and aesthetic parameters of the Type XX watches have since been clearly defined, Breguet continues to refine their executions. Over the years, the most prominent characteristics of the Breguet aviator chronographs include a highly legible dial, good water resistance, accuracy of up to eight seconds per day, a reliable chronograph for frequent use, and a seconds counter with an instantaneous return. And even though the watches are no longer employed for professional use, Breguet has persisted in improving their technical prowess such as with the high-frequency (10Hz) calibre 589F used in the Type XXII 3880. Indeed, the Type XX and its various deriviations continue to enjoy the fruits of the brand’s distinguished tradition.
The Type XX was followed in sweet sucession by the XXI, and even XXII wrist chronographs over the past couple of decades, culminating in the Type XXI 3815. Available as a limited edition, the Type XXI 3815 is the contemporary counterpart to its predecessor, the lovely Type XXI 3817 from 2016 which bears a far more vintage aesthetic. The new 3815 comes in a very modern 42mm titanium case featuring the classic fluted side, water resistance up to 100 metres, a screw-down crown, and polished and satin-finished surfaces. The bi-directional bezel, also made of titanium, is fitted with a contrasting black lacquered 60-minute scale.
The 3815 bears the aesthetic and functional codes of the Type XXI watches, including subtle colour cues that are a playful nod to Breguet’s rich history of creating timepieces for the military.
It features a black dial with a sunburst finish, available with a choice of green or orange luminescent numerals, hour markers and hands. The warm colours of the markings on the dial — which is an emulation of the winnowing of certain types of old lume — make the 3815 look quite cheerful. Unlike some of its most recent tri-compax predecessors, the new dial opts for two recessed counters with a 24-hour indicator and a small seconds placed at three and nine o’clock, respectively. The chronograph minute is positioned in the centre, as is the chronograph seconds with flyback mechanism. Yes, Breguet’s 584Q/A self-winding movement is equipped with the retour en vol — or flyback — function, complete with an escapement with a silicon balance spring. The sapphire caseback reveals the movement, including the gold rotor with hand-engraving specific to the 3815.
Both iterations of the watch are glorious, not only because they are robust daily wearers, but also because of their ingrained military tool watch DNA. The fluted bezel of the 3815, for instance, replicates the style of previous aviator’s chronographs, fully integrating the watch into the Breguet family. But it is the titanium case that really elevates this timepiece, thanks to its stealthy shine and lightness, that makes the Type XXI 3815 easy to wear and always recognisable by those in the know. Given that the 3815 is a 250-piece limited edition for each colour, we predict they will soon fly off the showcases.
Movement: Mechanical self-winding; cal. 584Q/2; hours, minutes, and small seconds (at 9 o’clock); flyback chronograph with central minutes and seconds hands; date at 6 o’clock; 28,800 bph; 48-hour power reserve
Case: Titanium, 42mm; with fluted side, screw-down crown, and sapphire case back; 100-meter water-resistance
Strap: Calf leather strap with three-part folding buckle
Price & Availability: Euros 14,500; Limited and numbered edition of 250 watches per color (green and orange)