The Breguet Type XXI 3817
My Grail vintage-inspired chronograph
Only Watch isn't simply the biggest charity auction devoted to timepieces but it is also a place where new creations get tested to see what the public reactions to them is like. This is the only possible explanation that you can give when you are presented with the Breguet Type XXI 3817 timepiece that was released in Basel and you then compare it to the Breguet Type XXI 3813 watch with its platinum-made case that the manufacturer donated to Only Watch in 2015. Except for the material used to craft the case, the two watches are virtually the same. While the Tradition collection summarizes Abraham's skill to create the most important complications in the history of watch-making, one of the best modern iterations being, for instance, the Breguet Tourbillon Extra-Plat 5367, the Breguet Type XXI 3817 represents the brand's sporty side of horlogerie. In there is also that part of the manufacturer's history that is closely linked to Abraham's great-grandson Louis Charles and the development of aviation in a period of time from 1920 onwards.
After the experience of the 10Hz-caliber, the idea to release again the 3813 clearly means that the manufacturer is trying to find the Breguet Type XXI's original place while equipping it with a slate-colour dial and taking to the extreme the size of its vintage-colour oversized Arabic numberals filled with glowing material. The two oversized indexes crafted in the shape of a quad appearing on the dial make their come-back at 3 o' clock and at 9 o'clock and the dial seems to be split in three different levels. The three counters are slightly recessed, starting from the right hand side is the day/night indicator and the minutes ring on the inner rehaut that is raised too. This type of design is used to give a tri-dimensional shape to the dial, the minutes ring is connected to the dial through those two cream-colour, glowing indexes filled with SuperLuminova material, while the third index has a triangular shape and is located on the bi-directional rotating bezel positioned at 12 o'clock.
The chronograph is somehow unusual in its shape; the position of the three registers doesn't correspond to the classic functions of a chronograph since the totalizer of the chrono minutes is in a coaxial position if compared to the central seconds hand that is actually a Flyback's one. It is an original solution that was probably used in the old-type chronographs and, at first sight, it seems as if Breguet had decided to craft a split-seconds chronograph or that are aiming at crafting a new one in the future using this type of basis as their starting point. Moving the totalizer to the centre has actually allowed, as said, the insertion of the day/night indicator at 3 o'clock.
The Breguet Type XXI 3817 is hence a Flyback chronograph or, as written in italics on the dial, it features a "retour en vol" function, a way to stress the fact that this timepiece has a pedigree and also to remind us that this brand's chronographs used to be part of the instrument panel of the aircraft's cockpits or were worn around the wrist of the soldiers of the French Air Force. The stainless steel-made case measures 42mm and is completely grooved following the traditional rules of Breguet timepieces.
The on-view caliber is a first for this collection and it is actually a very nice feature if you consider the fact that we are dealing with a Swiss in-house built movement with inverted straight-line lever escapement and silicon balance spring. For some strange reason, Breguet inserted a winding rotor that covers half of the caliber and, in a specific moment when brands try their best to bring out the style and skeletonize it, the movement is definitely less visible than you might expect.
If you really want to make sure whether this is a well-designed timepiece or not, the only thing that you can do is trying it on. The Breguet Type XXI 3817 is the best answer to those who love historic collections, those people who consider a Type as a model of timepiece that is too sporty for this brand. The finishing and crafting of this watch are outstanding, but the main issue is that it will inevitably tend to relegate the other versions of this collection to second place, since they simply don't own the same warmth. Such warmth was in my opinion the non-declared goal that Breguet had in mind when they released the 3817. Retailing at 13,500CHF, this is the most accessible and sporty Breguet timepiece on the market, it is the quintessence of the Flyback chronograph and the best Type XXI ever crafted, a vintage sport watch for those who love timepieces and the history of aviation alike.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®