Breguet Type 20 Generation 1 Military Issue
Montres Breguet was founded in 1775 by the great inventor and clockmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), and had its headquarters in Paris until it moved to Switzerland in the 1970s.
After WWII the French military Ministry of Defence issued a specification, Breguet Type 20, for aviator watches, and asked manufacturers to respond to the tender.
Breguet was on such responder and won the tender for a large number of the watches.
Six manufacturers were selected to supply these watches with four still making and selling watches: Breguet, Dodane, Auricoste and Vixa. Vixa used a Hanhart calibre 4054 movement, as they took the capability for these calibres as part of war reparations, but manufactured in Germany and assembled in France. Dodane provided the most of these watches, about 4000 in two batches of about 2000 and used the Valjoux 222, movement as did Breguet. The brands Airain and Boullier have not survived.[1,2,3,6]
Some models were signed Type 20 on the dial, e.g. the Vixa, Airain, Chronofixe and the coin-edged Auricoste below. The Auricoste was produced in a batch of 2000 and housed the best Type 20 movement, the Lémania 15TL (Auricoste 2040) calibre.
This article covers the first generation of the model and its use in the French Military. Another article will cover its civilian twin, and the evolution to later generations.
THE TYPE 20 SPECIFICATION
No accurate edition of the Type 20 specification exists, but the consensus is that the watch should have the following.[1,2,3,7]
A black dial adorned with easily readable Arabic numerals and luminescent hands and indexes;
a seconds chapter ring;
a screwback case of about 38mm and less than 14mm thick;
a bi-directional rotating bezel;
a mechanical self-winding chronograph movement with a power reserve of 35 hours;
accuracy to within eight seconds per day;
a flyback mechanism;
and evidence that the watch is able to support more than 300 times starting, stopping and resetting the chronograph.
The crucial feature the French government requested was the flyback for the chronographs. The flyback function of the chronograph allowed pilots to reset or retour-en-vol timing by pressing the lower push piece.
The need for improved reliability and maintenance gave birth to the Type 21 model in 1956.
Breguet had produced chronographs from the early 1930’s and these supplied design ideas and style to the Type 20 model. However, the French military as part of war reparations were already using German supplied Hanhart and Stowa watches, and were familiar with design features, which would have fed into the Type 20 specification.
Hanhart had earlier supplied pilots in the Luftwaffe, and there are strong design similarities between the 1950 Hanhart and the Type 20 Breguet. The Tutima Glashutte supplied to the Luftwaffe is also very similar.
Hanhart 417 ES flyback chronograph series produced by the brand in the 1950s
The model below was sold to Société d’Aviation Louis Breguet on February 3, 1953 for 27,000 old French Francs. The dial is signed 1164 which is also engraved on the caseback. The sub-registers have pie tin dials, and the hands were the characteristic syringe style, and an arrow sweep second hand.
The Breguet 4174 case type below was also a precursor to the Type 20 model.
BREGUET TYPE 20 5101/54 MODEL – AIR FORCE
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 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.
At the same time, Breguet produced their own civilian version, with their name on the dial and slight variations, including both two and three registers on the dial.
The standard model for the French Air Force is shown below. It was a 2 register model, with a 30 minute sub-register, and almost universally was fitted with an unsigned dial, characterized by a gorgeous onion crown.
The Type 20 5101/54 model had a Valjoux Cal. 222 mechanical movement, 17 jewels, black matte dial, luminous Arabic numerals, outer second/minute divisions with Arabic numerals, luminous skeleton baton hands, skeleton propellor sweep second hand, two subsidiary dials, one a 30 minute register and the other showing constant seconds, circular stainless steel case, stainless steel bezel with reeded edge and arrowhead indicator, two round chronograph buttons in the band, onion crown, downturned lugs, and a screw back case.
Delivered to the French Air Force on 1 October 1956 this watch above has syringe hands with long thin pointers at the tip. The numerals 4 and 7 have a unique style. This model does not have an onion crown, which may have been replaced during service. Note the tiny BREGUET logo at 12 o’clock, perhaps an attempt to carry branding on the dial, despite the Type 20 specification.
Case number 7513 is shown above. This model has baton hands and a particularly thin minute hand without the long thin pointers, no model identification on the dial, and an onion crown. Image courtesy of casowatches.com
Case number 7397 above with onion crown and syringe pointers.
Case number 7546 above with luminescent skeleton syringe hands and detailed minute and second markings on the sub-register dials. Oversized non-onion crown from the second series. Delivered to the Air Force on 16 November 1955.
Breguet Type 20, ref. 5101/54, case no. 7590, 1957. The hands are syringe without the thin pointer tip. Fewer markings on the sub-registers. This has an onion crown.
Above case number 7710 sold to the “Ministère de l’Air” (French Airforces Ministry) on June 17, 1955. The second hand is a thin pointer and the 30 second sub-register has an arrow pointer.
The caseback is engraved with Breguet, Type 20, 5101/54 and then further engraved with FG and a date. The caseback of this watch bears a large number of these inscriptions. FG stands for “Fin de Garantie” or end of guarantee.
This version had different style 4, and 7 hour markers, and the open 6 marker.
This model has a differently maked 30 minute sub-register. Case number 7688. Delivered to the Air Force on November 16, 1955.
The Breguet-produced watches for the French military were given to the Armée de l’air (French Air Force), 2000 pieces from 1954, Aeronautique Navale (Aeronavale, French Naval Airforce), 500 pieces ordered in 1958 but delivered from 1959 onwards , and Centre d’essais en vol (French Flight Tests Center), also known as CEV .
The Type 20 delivered to the Air Force differed from the version for the Naval Aviation. This version has an internal protective anti-magnetic housing and a 15 minute sub-dial.
CEV had two different versions (a two register (500 pieces 1960), and three register (50 pieces 1960) ) both equipped with a 15 minute sub-dial.
These watches needed to be inspected for accuracy and after each inspection, the date of the next scheduled examination was engraved on the back with the letters “FG” – Fin de Garantie, end of warranty. The FG dates can be seen engraved on the case above. 
All these chronographs were overhauled and their precision controlled by the Dodane company at the Service Officiel de Contrôle de la Marche des montres de Besançon (CETEHOR).
The servicing was done in the workshops of Besançon and Paris (mainly Dodane and Pechoin). Dodane was probably the largest supplier of Type 20 models to the French military. 
The Type 20 watches were used by the French military through the 1980s and were often replaced by quartz models.
In parallel to these official orders, Breguet also offers civilian versions of its Type 20 and some 2,000 chronographs were sold between 1954 and 1970 to civilians.
Different 30 minute subregister with index marks at 3,6,9 Image courtesy of robertmaron.com
All the above watches have thin pointer 30-minute sub-register hands, but arrow sub-register hands were also used on these models. Open 6 style numerals.
This is a military version with 5101/54 engraved case back, and many records of prior service dates, although the dial is signed Breguet.
Case back 7921 and Type 5101/54 engraving.
Another arrow sub-register model below.
TYPE 20 AERONAUTIQUE NAVALE
All the 5101/54 models above had 30-minute sub-registers. The dial was generally unsigned.
When issued to la Marine Nationale et l’Aéronautique Navale, shortened to the Aeronautique Navale, this Navy watch was identical to the 5101/54 model but was signed Breguet on the dial and had a “Big-eye”15 minute sub-register, generally with a propeller hand. Case backs were engraved BREGUET MARINE NATIONALE AERONAUTIQUE NAVALE, together with an issue number. 500 pieces were ordered.
The model had a signed dial, with a propeller hand on the 15 minute sub-register, which is broken into 3 minute sectors. Issue number 5 above was ordered in 1958 and delivered in 1960. This still has the onion crown, which was often replaced as it tended to catch on clothing. Case number 4100.
Some models had propellor hands on both sub-registers, still with the “big-eye” 15 minute sub-register hand being larger. This is issue number 9.
Case back engraved Breguet Marine Nationale Aeronautique Navale. Thin crown. Issue Number 20, case number 3943.
The watch on the right has an engraved bezel, but the caseback indicates that it was a BREGUET MARINE NATIONALE AERONAUTIQUE NAVALE model Issue Number 397, case number 4195. [7 ] Perhaps the case back or bezel was from another model and changed during repair or servicing, which was carried out centrally for the military.
Valjoux Cal 222 movement
Bigger 2 below, and thin crown.
Breguet, Marine Nationale – Aero-Navale, Issue No. 29, 1950’s.
Issue number 88, case number 4109.
Breguet Issue Number 164, which was sold to Aeronavale January 13 1960, sold by Sotheby’s for CHF18,750 on Nov 16 2008. Case back 4247.
Model number 4113 on case Issue number 26. Image by Zaf Basha of classicwatch.com
Issue number 157, case number 3967.
Also delivered on 13 January 1960 this issue number 24x has a replacement bezel and crown. Case number 42xx.
The model below is issue number 423, case number 4358. Sold in 1991 for CHF 71,300
The last of the 500 watches delivered by Breguet, case number 4401, but issue number 500 is shown below. The rotating bezel is missing, and the sage leaf 15 minutes (Big-eye) sub-register hand has been red radium coloured during servicing at the request of the pilot.
Breguet also supplied 3 register models to the MARINE NATIONALE AERONAUTIQUE NAVAL, and below is one such model with Dauphine hands.
Below is a 3 register model, with case back 4199, but issue number 80. Manufactured September 1958. The sage leaf (propeller) 15 minute sub-register hand has been replaced.
Above is one of the later watches supplied in the 500 series. Issue Number 451, case number 4005. Delivered to Aeronavale January 1960.
TYPE 20 CEV 2 REGISTER
The Centre d’essais en vol (French Flight Tests Center), also known as CEV, purchased civilian type 20 watches prior to receiving their own design. These had a 30 minute sub – register, and a plain reeded bezel.
CEV 10 has case number 3105 and is a 2 register model with arrow sub-register hand with a reeded bezel. The sweep second hand is different, and the minutes sub-register is marked differently.
The later CEV commissioned models were either 2 register or 3 register models developed for the Centre from the BREGUET MARINE NATIONALE AERONAUTIQUE NAVALE model, with an engraved dial with a milled edge.
Breguet still featured on the dial, which was either brown or black, but the bezel was engraved with the numbers 1 to 11. 500 2 register pieces were ordered.
Note the thin skeleton propeller sweep second hand with lume, and twin-propeller hands on the sub-registers.
Not actually a CEV model, the above model sold to SFATAT (Service of aviation training, aerial work and transport) on 7 January 1960 for 410 Francs
This model has a case number 631 and maybe part of the civilian series.
Onion crown 1956 Breguet CEV 21 in the 4 images above. Sold for $26,000 in 2016.
Engraved CEV 22 with small Breguet logo.
Model CEV 56 is below
Another plain, reeded bezel model below, with brown dial and long thin pointers on the syringe hands.
Case back unmarked externally, inside case number 3107, sold to CEV on 2 May 1957 for 28,500 old francs. Sold by Christie’s for CHF 23,750 in 2016.
TYPE 20 CEV 3 REGISTER
This watch is the most complicated of all the French Military wristwatches: the ” three register” Breguet chronograph was developed from the Navy model, with both 15 minutes and 12 hours registers, as well as a continuous auxiliary seconds. The mechanism was Valjoux 72 flyback, cal 225. An additional feature was the adjustable bezel graduated for 12 hours. 50 pieces were ordered.
The initial watch in the CEV series was the property of the CEV’s director, Louis Bonte. Sold 12 December 1956 for 278 new francs.  It is now owned by the Breguet Museum.
Another image of CEV 1 is below:
The numbering of the CEV model series is interchanged with the two register models, early models which were with reeded bezels, and later models with 0 to 11 bezels.
CEV 5 has case number 2520, and is virtually identical to the watch above, except for the length of the pointer on the syringe hands.
However, CEV 7 has Dauphine hands, shown below, case number 2508, and like CEV 1 was sold to the CEV, Bretigny, on 12 December 1956, for the sum of 27,800 old French Francs
CEV 8, case number 2340 is shown below, and has a mix of pointer lengths on the syringe hands, and has a differently marked hour sub – register.
Below is CEV 11, with case number 3175.
Image by kronos forum user: doctor steel (@doctorsteelitaly on IG)
Above is CEV 61, calibre 225 with reed finish on the bezel which is not engraved. CEV 61 engraved on the case back.
A similar model, case back 3495. The pointer on the sweep second hand is longer than previous models.
Image from openers.jp
A 1959 model sold to the Societe Aerotechnique in Algiers
MATHEY – TISSOT
Mathey-Tissot assembled the 5101/54 model for Breguet and later produced both 2 and 3 register civilian models under their own name. The 2 register model is more prevalent. The sub-register is 15 minutes.
The images below are representative of the Mathey – Tissot civilian production and many similarities with the Breguet Type 20 can be seen. Arrowhead sweep second hand, baton hands with long thin pointers, propellor hand on 15-minute sub-register, broken into 3-minute sections.
The starting point would be the model which started it all, the model 5101/54 for the French Airforce, with reeded dial and the wonderful onion crown. The case back will be engraved 5101/54 and the dial will not be signed Breguet. Although this is the most common Type 20 with military engraving, expect to pay over $15,000 for a good model. Other Type 20 models from Dodane, Auricoste, Airain and Vixa are less desirable, and cheaper. A Mathey-Tissot, almost identical, would be les than half price.
A rarer model is the BREGUET model engraved MARINE NATIONALE AERONAUTIQUE NAVALE on the rear case, of which only 500 were produced. The model with the thin pointers at the end of the baton hands could easily cost $20,000 in good condition.
The grail is a brown faced 3 register CEV model, of which less than 50 were made. A price approaching $30,000 could be expected for a good model.
From The Spring Bar Store: