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Breguet - Little-Known Histories

Breguet Little-Known Histories

Breguet’s Little-Known History In Aviation

The House of Breguet still draws inspiration from one of the pioneers of French aviation – and a Breguet family member of yesteryear.

Ask any watch collector to name a few pilot’s watches, or even brands intimately involved in the world of aviation, and the same few brands come to mind. Rarely, will you hear the name Breguet uttered in this context. The thing is, Breguet has an intriguing background in this world. In fact, Breguet descendent Emmanuel Breguet wrote an entire book on the topic just a few years ago: Breguet: A Century of Aviation. Still, except for the brands’ beloved Type XX and its continued successful iterations, little association is made between the two arenas.

This could be because when Louis Charles Breguet ( (1880-1955), founder of Louis-Breguet Aviation, struck out on his own, first to create submarine engines and later to conquer the air, he was no longer affiliated with the watch company that his great-great grandfather, Abraham-Louis Breguet, had started more than a century earlier. 

Little-known histories

Louis Breguet in Breguet aircraft in 1910 © Breguet

The thing is, Louis Breguet, although often referred to as unsociable and quiet, was a genius of his time. Not only was he a pioneer of the French aviation who designed innovative aircrafts in the first decades of the 20th century, but also he developed designs for seaplanes, fighter jets and even the forerunner of today’s helicopter. In fact, he and his brother Jacques invented an early gyroplane in 1905 that was the first aircraft to make a vertical ascent flight in 1907. 

In 1911, he founded his company, Breguet Aviation (formally named Societé des Ateliers d’ Aviation Louis Breguet. Breguet Aviation was instrumental in creating aircraft -- including the Breguet 14 biplanes -- used by France in World War I. That plane quickly gained recognition and was supplied to other squadrons, including the United States. Following the war, those planes were used for air mail and some commercial flights until World War II, when military planes were once again needed. 

Little-known histories

The Breguet 14 made its maiden flight in November of 1916 and remained in service for more than 10 years © Breguet

With his interest in aviation, it was natural that he would take an interest in cockpit instruments and watches. From 1918 onward, Breguet (the watch brand) provided timepieces for the American Air Force and after Louis Breguet approached the company in 1922, Breguet (the watch brand) began creating cockpit instruments for Breguet Aviation. Throughout both world wars, the watch brand supplied Breguet Aviation with wristwatches and cockpit panel devices. 

Little-known histories

Vintage Dashboard Chronograph © Breguet

Eventually the house of Breguet (watches) went on to design its own chronograph wrist watches inspired by the aviation field and, as early as 1935, these pieces were being seen on the wrists of pilots around the world. A couple of decades later, the brand launched the legendary Type XX chronograph in answer to a request from the French Armed Forces. The serial production Type 20 watches for commercial use really came into being in the early 1960’s.

Little-known histories

Type XXI 3815 © Breguet

Today, the Type 20 watch has enjoyed a host of iterations and evolutions and remains one of Breguet’s most beloved tool watches, though many don’t necessarily recall its illustrious aviation past. 

Little-known histories

3810 Titanium © Breguet

 

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