Breguet. A Rare and Early Stainless Steel Chronograph Wristwatch Issued by the French Military
Model: Type 20
Valjoux Cal. 222 mechanical movement, 17 jewels, black matte dial, luminous Arabic numerals, outer minute divisions with Arabic numerals, luminous hands, two subsidiary dials for 30 minute register and constant seconds, circular stainless steel case, stainless steel bezel with reeded edge, two round chronograph buttons in the band, onion crown, downturned lugs, screw back engraved with FG dates, case, dial, and movement signed.
Accompanied by email from Breguet Archives confirming that the watch was sold to French Air Ministry on November 16, 1955.
The Type 20 was developed to provide pilots with a chronograph that was not only accurate, but readable and with an immediacy of change. The time between stopping, resetting, and re-starting a chronograph could mean the difference between life and death for pilots, who needed to be able to immediately start their chronograph after finishing timing an event. The Type 20 model was one of the first to have a fly-back movement, in which the chronograph is instantly reset just by pushing the lower chronograph button.
In 1954, Breguet was commissioned to produce 2000 Type 20 watches, and the casebacks were engraved “Breguet, Type 20, 5101/54” for the contract number and year. As Breguet was still based in France and needed to produce a large number of watches in a short amount of time, production of the watches was contracted out – Breguet used the Valjoux 222 movement, and the watches were assembled by Mathey-Tissot. Later, Breguet would produce their own civilian version, with their name on the dial and slight variations, including three registers on the dial.
The Breguet-produced watches for the French military were given to the Armée de l’air (French Air Force), Marine Nationale (French Naval Army) and Centre d’essais en vol (French Flight Tests Center), also known as CEV. These watches needed to be inspected for accuracy and after each inspection, the date of the next scheduled examination would be engraved on the back with the letters “FG” – Fin de Garantie, end of warranty. The Type 20 watches were used by the French military through the 1980’s, and were often replaced by quartz models.
The present example features a two-register dial that is unsigned, and crisp case engravings and case facets. Sought after for their unique story told through its "F.G." engravings, the Type 20 is a classic example of a tool watch with a classic design.