Breguet Type XXI 3817

The Breguet Type XXI 3817 is a chronograph featuring a flyback function and date display. While purists may covet the legendary Breguet Type XX, Angus Davies prefers the modern Type XXI 3817 of today.

This detailed review of the Breguet Type XXI 3817 includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Image of Breguet Type XXI 3817 - flyback chronograph

There are some watches which achieve cult status and are often termed ‘iconic’. The usual suspects for ‘iconic’ status include the Rolex Submariner, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and last, but not least, the Breguet Type XX.

The Breguet Type XX, launched in 1954, was originally made to military specifications for the French naval air arm. Today, the timepiece is available in two versions, the tricompax Aéronavale sans date and the tricompax Transatlantique avec date.

Later, the Type XXI was released and over the years it has been offered with both steel and titanium cases. Finally, the Type XXII was unveiled in 2013, featuring a state-of-the-art 10Hz movement and completing this horological trilogy.

While purists/traditionalists will favour the Type XX and technophiles may well like the cutting-edge characteristics of the Type XXII with its ultra fast balance and larger 44mm case, I prefer the Type XXI. Indeed, the  focal point of this review is my favourite version, the current model, the Type XXI 3817 with a 42mm stainless steel case.

The dial

Breguet Type watches have been offered with black and chocolate brown dials but, in this instance, slate grey is the order of the day and it looks stunning. The muted tone of the grey suits the watch and contrasts wonderfully with the cream coloured hour markers.

Image of Breguet Type XXI 3817 - flyback chronograph

At 3 o’clock is a day/night indicator. At 6 o’clock is a 12-hour chronograph register featuring a date display. While the original Type XX did not feature a date display, I appreciate the convenience this additional function confers.

A small seconds display resides at 9 o’clock. Below noon, beneath the Breguet logo, the words ‘retour en vol’ are proclaimed, alluding to the flyback capability of this timepiece. The flyback was a requirement specified on the 1954 original as it was used for navigational purposes.

Encircling the dial area is a minuterie marked with 5 minute integers in Arabic numerals, with neat white strokes in between. The ‘radium’ hands and dots are luminescent.

Image of Breguet Type XXI 3817 - flyback chronograph

Breguet are masters of dials and the Type XXI proves no exception. Looking at the dial from the side, one is struck by the complexity of the dial epidermis with several layers and textures in existence. The masterful manipulation of depth heightens visual interest and usurps the typical dials found on other pilots’ watches.

The case

The 42mm steel case proves an optimum size for a large cross section of society. While the case is made of steel, unlike some earlier titanium versions, it does not feel unduly heavy as a result, proffering high levels of wearer comfort.

Image of Breguet Type XXI 3817 - flyback chronograph

While some versions of the XXI in yesteryear had black bezels with comparatively small numerals, this modern XXI features plain brushed steel with bold Arabic numerals arranged at 10 minute intervals. Again, mindful that traditionalists may not share my view, I prefer this latest iteration which proves eminently legible to read.

Despite a pilot’s watch being a ‘tool’ watch with a utilitarian character, this timepiece remains very much a Breguet, subscribing to some of the design codes found on many of the maison’s dressier watches, e.g. a fluted bezel. This detailing looks gorgeous and reaffirms the brand’s prowess at delivering aesthetic refinement.

Image of Breguet Type XXI 3817 - flyback chronograph

The original Type XX and some of the Type XXI models had solid case backs, but this latest version of the Type XXI is equipped with an exhibition case back revealing the finely finished self-winding movement within.

The movement

The Breguet Calibre 584Q/2 is a modern automatic movement. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the movement contains 26 jewels. The movement is capable of 48 hours of autonomous operation.

Image of Breguet Type XXI 3817 - flyback chronograph

The escapement features state-of-the-art silicon pallets and a silicon hairspring. The benefit of silicon is that it produces less friction, resulting in less wear and reduced power consumption. Moreover, silicon is not vulnerable to corrosion or magnetic influences. Breguet, with the resources of its parent company, Swatch Group, has the rare expertise to embrace this new technology and incorporate it into a wristwatch.

Breguet is held in the highest esteem and its haute horologerie credentials need little introduction. The movement is beautifully finished. The golden oscillating mass features a glorious  pattern and the bridges are beautifully appointed with Côtes de Genève motif. Furthermore, the bridges are bevelled and the wheels are circular grained. The balance wheel features screws set in-board in order to mitigate turbulence, hence aiding precision. The movement is adjusted in six positions and is truly a paragon of refinement.

Closing remarks

The Breguet Type XXI 3817 is clearly inspired by its forebear Type XX, but it is suffused with modernity, courtesy of its greater size (42mm versus 39mm) and the use of silicon within its escapement.

Where the Breguet Type XXI 3817 stands out and surpasses many other pilots’ watches is that it is imbued with a plethora of delightful touches, including the complex dial construction and case band fluting.

Ultimately, purists will cite the Type XX as the ‘iconic’ watch, however, I believe objectively that the Breguet Type XXI 3817 should be held in the same high regard and attract the same cult status.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Breguet Type XXI 3817
  • Reference: 3817ST/X2/3ZU
  • Case: Steel; diameter 42 mm;water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; date; small seconds; day/night indicator; flyback chronograph
  • Movement: Breguet Calibre 584Q/2, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz), 26 jewels; power reserve 48 hours.
  • Strap: Calfskin strap.
  • Price: £9,900.00 (RRP as at 10.1.2017)

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