Breguet CEO Lionel a Marca shares 3 key insights into the future of the Type XXZach Blass
Breguet is not like other watch brands. I say this not to simply point out that their products are distinct within the market, but rather to define their guiding philosophy, which ultimately informs their products, that also sets them apart. Sure, other watch brands have celebrated namesakes. Few, if any, are more celebrated than Abraham-Louis Breguet, however. This means anyone who sits at the helm of the brand must undertake a great responsibility, one demanding an individual to be the vigilant custodian and steward of what makes Breguet, Breguet. This task currently belongs to Lionel a Marca, a watchmaker by trade, who has been with the Swatch Group for nearly 30 years. So, he truly understands the importance of horological preservation. While visiting the manufacture after the launch of the long-awaited fourth generation Type XX/20 collection in Paris, I had the pleasure of sitting down with him to discuss brand philosophy and stewardship. What I really want to dive into is our conversation around the future of this latest collection, and three key insights he shared with me regarding the future of the Breguet Type XX collection.
1. Don’t expect the calibre 728 outside of the Type XX collection
Understandably, a Marca is proud of the calibre 728 which made its debut in the fourth generation Type XX collection. While previous chronograph calibres were certainly of great quality, they were ultimately legacy calibres inherited by Breguet after their acquisition of renowned movement firm Lemania. As a brand which prides itself in being the bastion of horology, it was decided that now was the time to develop a next-gen calibre created under Breguet’s roof. The result is a high-beat, flyback chronograph with 60 hours of power reserve that features a more modern aesthetic noted in the sunburst finish of its bridges. While the years of development bore fruit, the calibre will remain strictly within the Type XX collection. In fact, under Lionel a Marca’s vision, all calibres are designed for dedicated collections. He explains: “The movement is dedicated to the Type XX collection. The idea is to always develop movements that are going to fit the peculiarities of a particular collection.”
2. The Type XX collection will expand and evolve
Of course, in chatting with a Marca, I wanted to see if he would be willing to share what the future of the collection could look like. Upon their debut, the new Type XX collection was offered strictly with leather and fabric straps (both bundled into the purchase) while previous generations sported bracelets as well. I kicked off my probing by asking if a fourth-generation bracelet was in the works. “You’re talking about a steel bracelet? Yes, yes, yes. But not with the interchangeable system that exists for the leather straps.”
He went on to explain that the bracelet in development will be compatible with not only future models, but also the present two. “A client will be able to have a metal bracelet fixed to the Type XX ref. 2067 or Type 20 ref. 2057 that came with leather straps initially. So, that’s a possibility, or they will have the possibility of purchasing the watch with the metal bracelet already integrated,” a Marca told me. “But there will never be a possibility of rapid interchange system with the metal bracelet, as is the case for the leather straps. That is not foreseen.” He also established that more colours of interchangeable leather straps are in the pipeline.
If you go out of your way to spend years on developing a movement, and you pledge it will not be used outside of the collection it made its debut in, surely the Type XX road does not end with two references. And, the fact that a bracelet is in the works means we know definitively there is more to come. a Marca teases: “The line will evolve with a series of models, so it’ll become richer in terms of a collection, potentially different diameter, different dial colours, the bezels in different colours as well. Possibly the use of different materials, and it is one of the first modern Breguet watches that is not fluted.” This was music to my ears. With a strategic sombreness to the brand, it is cool to know that the Type XX collection can be a space in which Breguet gets to experiment more. With watches like the Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597, the collection has stricter parameters as its design is inspired by Abraham-Louis Breguet’s work. The Type XX, however, was born in the modern era, and can therefore play by broader rules.
3. Evolution, but not gone wild
Experimentation, however, will not be done just for the sake of doing so. While new configurations are on the horizon, like any icon, an adherence to a core unfaltering identity is paramount. This is a watch rooted in rich history, and it is clear from my conversation that its pilot’s watch nature will not be compromised aesthetically or technically. Then, aside from diameter, case materials, and straps, what sort of variation can we expect? Lionel a Marca explains: “The aesthetics of the dial will remain identical. The hands will change, the digits will change, and the way they’re stylised. The aesthetics might change, but the technical nature of the watch won’t. It’s geared to aviation, whether it’s a civil or military, that is something that won’t change. That’s the market that it is targeting.” Pilot’s watches, from a product-targeting standpoint, are not limited to just aviation, though. Breguet is ultimately looking at pilots in a broader sense: helicopter, plane, car, or motorbike. At the same time, these variations will be introduced respectfully. Breguet, under a Marca’s watch, will not bend to trends, so don’t hold your breath for a Tiffany-blue dial.
From a complications standpoint, a Marca firmly believes the Type XX is strictly a chronograph watch. “The chronograph is an instrument that is used to measure time and that’s what pilots use it for,” he explains. “You have to remain in that context.” This, however, does not mean adding complications is impossible. a Marca elaborated that “it is quite possible to actually fit a moon phase, but will I do that? No. You can always add modules and you end up with a hamburger with different layers. Do I want to do that? No. Is it possible? Yes.” So, expanded complication does not appear to be likely – but what about the removal of one? The most contested aspect of the watch, certainly by the niche hardcore enthusiast contingent, was the 4:30-positioned date window.
Lionel a Marca believes this is what the broader market wants in the current landscape. In a way, it was a lose-lose scenario. “This corresponds to what people want today in the 21st century. It’s not necessarily something that people wanted in the 20th century, when the Type 20 first appeared in the early 1950s. And if I had not included a date window, people would have said, ‘Why is there no date on the dial?’ We have a watch that draws its inspiration from a historical watch, but very much in today’s world and taking into account what clients today want.” When I asked about its controversial 4:30 placement, the logic was that at the 4:30 position, the aperture would not obstruct any chronograph counters. This is a prioritisation of legibility, which a Marca emphasized is a core aspect of the Type XX collection. It was made very clear to me that Breguet is, of course, capable of producing a Type XX or Type 20 without a date complication – so that could potentially be on the cards down the line.
It is fair to say watch collectors should remain tuned into the future of this collection, and that these initial two watches are just the beginning of an exciting trajectory.
Breguet Type 20 & Type XX pricing and availability:
The Breguet Type 20 & Type XX watches are available now. Price: A$26,200
|Type 20 (ref. 2057)
Type XX (ref. 2067)
|42mm (D) x 14.1mm (T)
|Black galvanic dial
|Sapphire crystal and exhibition caseback
|Interchangeable leather strap and fabric NATO strap
|Automatic calibre 7821 (ref. 2057)
Automatic calibre 782 (ref. 2067)
|Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, flyback chronograph
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.