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Breguet Type XXI 3817 Watch Hands-On

Breguet Type XXI 3817 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

At Baselworld 2016, Breguet debuted a new “line extension” of their Type XXI with the reference 3817ST/X2/3ZU 2016 Breguet Type XXI 3817 that bears a vintage-style dial with light tan coloring accents. This is my favorite line of watches from Breguet at this time, and like sister brand Blancpain at The Swatch Group, I continue to urge that these two brands market their great sport watches separately from their more classic style of timepieces that they are often more known for.

Breguet Type XXI 3817 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Premium-priced but excellent in style and mechanics, the Breguet Type XXI is one of the sexiest ways of demonstrating that you are a watch nerd. For me, this is one of the finest pilot-style chronograph watches currently available. While most of Breguet’s current lineup of watches are inspired by the work of Abraham-Louis Breguet (the brand’s namesake), the Breguet Type XX, Type XXI, and Type XXII pilot-style watches are inspired by 20th century Breguet timepieces which were made long after Abraham-Louis’ death in the early 19th century.

Breguet Type XXI 3817 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

In fact, it was Louis Charles Breguet (the great-great grandson of the founder) who was in charge of developing the brand’s pilot watches in the early-mid 20th century. From what I can tell, Breguet’s family was first involved in actually making a plane, and then only later, around the 1960s according to Breguet, did they produce their first aviation wristwatch (after making a few cockpit instrument clocks). With that said, it wasn’t until the 1950s, I believe, that Breguet introduced the original Type XX watches that were in service by the French military until the 1980s.

Breguet Type XXI 3817 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Yes, the Breguet Type XXI 3817 is a cosmetic update to the existing collection, but it is a collection that, in my opinion, deserves more options – as a lot of watch lovers will really enjoy these timepieces. It makes sense for a brand to offer an aesthetic range for its best models, and while Breguet does have more than one Type XXI, the more the merrier, in my opinion. In a 42mm-wide steel case (water resistant to 100 meters), the Breguet Type XXI 3817 has a slate gray-colored dial along with Arabic numerals and hands painted with a tan-colored luminant. This is attached to a matching calf leather strap. The Breguet Type XXI does look good on a strap, but for me, it also looks killer on a bracelet – so I hope that is an option as well, now or in the future.

Breguet Type XXI 3817 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

One of the best parts of the Breguet Type XXI is the movement – which is a bit more than your standard triple register chronograph. What is also very important to mention is that, unlike most (or all that I can recall) Breguet Type XXI watches, the movement – with its attractive machine-polished gold rotor – is visible through a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback window on the rear of the watch. Inside the watch is the very well-regarded in-house Breguet caliber 584Q/2. This is the newest version of the caliber 584Q, which now includes an “inverted in-line Swiss lever” silicon escapement in the 584Q/2, versus the metal straight-line lever escapement in the 584Q. This, of course, isn’t the first Breguet watch to use silicon parts – and it is good to see the brand continue to embrace this technology, as it helps the movements perform better over time.


Breguet Type XXI 3817 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The caliber 584Q/2 operates at 4Hz (28,800bph) with a power reserve of 48 hours. The automatic movement offers the time, date, and flyback chronograph, along with a synchronized 24-hour hand which operates as an AM/PM indicator. The chronograph is also a central minutes and central seconds chronograph, which means there are two centrally-mounted chronograph hands to measure these two segments of time. The subdials on the face are used for the running seconds of the time, chronograph hour indicator, and the synchronized 24-hour hand (which among other things makes setting the time easier). The movement in function and performance is really nice, and easily a highlight for owning this or other Breguet Type XXI watches.

Breguet Type XXI 3817 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Like a true aviator watch, the rotating bezel on the case moves bi-directionally, and wearing comfort along with legibility is very good. The Breguet Type XXI remains one of my grail watches, and I wonder what version I’ll end up getting at some point in the future. Available soon, the 2016 Breguet Type XXI 3817 reference 3817ST/X2/3ZU watch has a retail price of $13,900 USD.

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  • Chaz

    Is the hour hand independently adjustable so that the watch can work as a travel timer with the 24 hr dial serving as home time reference?

  • Normally I don’t think of “tool watch” when Breguet comes to mind, but I do like this watch a lot. Looks like something to wear with jeans and a jacket (not that I wear them much out here). I think the strap completes the vintage/rugged look. I could do without the date, it mars the chronograph hour display. I really appreciate the central chronograph minute hand. I wish more chronographs did it this way. Plus it’s a flyback, all good for me. And a lovely backside too! I think this watch pulls off the vintage pilots chronograph look effortlessly (too many watches try way too hard to be vintage looking and fall short or look contrived). This is an honest looking tool watch in my book. Notice that Breguet, shall we say, strongly encouraged us to wear gloves when handling all of their watches at BaselWorld.

    • IG

      In your case you could say Looks like something to wear with just flip flops

      • “Rubbah sleepahs” (as the locals pronounce it).

    • Chaz

      I too, appreciate a good back side.

    • Juan-Antonio Garcia

      Agree, could do without the date window. Excellent comments on the piece, specially that you had in your hands, complements Ariel’s review. Thanks

  • Nicholas E.

    Ariel – since you’re such a big fan of the Type XXs, is there any chance ABTW could do a “history of” the line at some point? I’m very interested in them because they’re beautiful but there are a lot of references, the differences aren’t clear, and the used market for these is wild. Just a thought!

    This is gorgeous, btw. Not a huge fan of the whole fake patina on the lume trend that’s been going on, but this watch pulls it off I think. The finishing and textures on the dial really pull it together. Dunno about $14k when the used market is so big for these but damn if it isn’t nice.

  • gadgety

    I love the traditionally styled Breguet watches. This one fails to be instantly recognizable as a Breguet to my eye. In fact the type 20 watches, (now stylistically changed to XX) originally made for the military, didn’t have any Breguet branding on the dial. The chronograph subdial first displayed 30 min, and then later changed to a 15 min version. The change was carried out for the naval aircraft carrier version where the airplane check up before lift off should take max 15 minutes. Furthermore the Breguet type 20s were subcontracted for manufacture to Mathey-Tissot and used a Valjoux movement. I find this design a bit busy, and the bezel too thick. I could see a solid gold version, though, that bezel making the watch suitably imposing. With the 15 min chronograph dial. Even cooler if they made it without displaying the brand on the dial.

    For further reading see the excellent

  • john coleman

    My favourite watch at the 2015 Only Watch auction was the platinum Breguet XX1 and I believe this 3817 is based on it. Just beautiful.

  • john coleman

    The Breguet XX1 Only Watch Platinum.

    • iamcalledryan

      Saw this puppy in the flesh!

    • TechUser2011

      Yup, that’s the first thing I thought of when I saw this new review. Is the only difference between this watch (3817) and the Only Watch that the latter is made of platinum?

      • Korz

        Movement. This is actually a better movement than in the platinum model.

  • BrJean

    Both dial and rotor looks great but where’s the chronograph’s column wheel?

    • WINKS

      Nowhere. It’s cam based.

    • Korz

      Not necessary. Column wheel is an aesthetic choice, not functional. It also make the movement quite a bit more expensive. There’s far more going on here than a cosmetic change to a column wheel would do.

      No other chrono movement in the world is as tool-watch oriented as the one in the 3817.

  • TrevorXM

    In my opinion, this is the most desirable chronograph, even beating out Lange. I’d much rather have this. The term “handsome brute” comes to mind.

  • Jerry Davis

    Very attractive. However for this price, beautiful, interesting timepieces are not hard to find.


    Great but… At this price I’d like to see manufacturers make all chronos functions water resistant (since the technology already exists -although it is only judiciously used for ‘chrono divers’). A better deployant clasp is also much needed for USD 14k instead of the old school pressure-based one used here.

    • Korz

      Really the only waterproof chrono pushers are on Omega and Blancpain’s dive chronos. Expecting brands to do it on non-dive watches is a little excessive, though I’d like to see JLC implement it on the Deep Sea Chrono if they’re going to market it as a dive watch and not a pilot.

      • WINKS

        IWC Aquatimer is another one. Plus quite a few micro brands to do as well. Speaking of the JLC Deep Sea Chrono, it is already so as well. Even if this particular watch isn’t n a diver, if the watch itself is rated to 100m, it makes a lot of sense to me to have the pushers rated for the same WR for underwater use, if nothing else for overall durability.

        • Korz

          You’ll have to inform me of the micros that do, as I’m unaware of any. Also I’d appreciate a reference on the Aquatimer, as I wasn’t aware that their pushers would work at depth.

          JLC Deep Sea Chrono I know for a fact won’t work underwater, as that was the only thing holding me back from purchasing.

          • WINKS

            Every IWC Aquatimer Chrono can be activated under water. TAG, Doxa, Breitling make a few too. As for micro brands, Charmex is one example.
            The JLC is specifically marketed by them as a chrono that works under water. A simple Google search will show you it can be used underwater too.

          • Korz

            I asked JLC directly about it, and while it CAN be used underwater, they don’t warranty the use underwater even after a service that restores seals. Something Omega, Blancpain, etc do.

  • Marius

    The Type XXI is one of my favourite watches, and definitely my favourite pilot`s watch. In fact, I am seriously considering buying one; however I don’t like two aspects. Firstly, the movement is only a cam-actuated caliber. Sure, it has a silicone escapement, but at this price absolutely all other competitors are offering a column wheel movement. Omega, IWC, Rolex, etc., are all offering more modern movements.

    Secondly, I find the price a bit exxagerated. I know; it’s a Breguet, but the technical specs are not super impressive. For instance, a Blancpain Bathyscaphe Chrono costs around $13,000 and is equipped with a very modern movement featuring a 5Hz escapement, column wheel, silicone, flyback and very good finish. Alternatively, the JLC Deep-Sea Chrono also has a very good column wheel movement, very cool design, and costs $4,000 LESS. I mean, the Type XXI is by far the most expensive chronograph in this range, yet, it’s the only one to feature a rather simple cam-actuated caliber.

    • iamcalledryan

      Although perception is that a column wheel actuator is more luxurious the cam/lever is not inferior and chronograph purists have ample respect for the cam system.

      As you have pointed out, there are vaguely similar watches available for less, but I should caution you that for each of the watches you list there are also vaguely similar watches for less. And on until we get to a hello kitty $10 toy. I expect that one of these days it might click and you will realize that knowing there are cheaper watches out there is not a grand reveal and people are happy to pay premiums for the watch that simply does it for them.

      • Dinkee, H. O.

        Maybe one day it might click for iamcalledryan, and suddenly he will realize that there are intelligent, thinking people with money who do comparative shopping for luxury goods and demand value for money, and there are those people with money whom are imbeciles who don’t recognize value for money and don’t care about intelligent decision making or connoisseurship.

        • iamcalledryan

          Actually I am quite aware that for some it’s a priority to get the most bang for buck. Marius is the one professing to not understand the people that would purchase here. As for you, assuming that someone is an imbecile for buying a more expensive chronograph than a cheaper one says an awful lot about you. So many chips on your shoulder, I do wonder what drives someone to fictionalize their online identity so that they can make snarky comments about Hodinkee. Doesn’t sound like the actions of an intelligent thinking person.

          Don’t get me wrong, I would be the first to advise comparative shopping, but I am coming close to dislocating my jaw from the yawns caused by the endless iterations on ‘why would someone buy this apple when I happen to know that a JLC orange costs less?’ The answer is because they want the apple. Move on.

    • Dinkee, H. O.

      I must admit that I have not compared all of the watches you list on a side by side comparison and defer to you with this question: Does the Type XXI chronograph button action have the wonderful feel of a great column wheel? Before I bought, I would have to test the action of the Breguet. Does it seem lesser in action?

      • Marius

        I didn’t have the chance to look at the new Type XXI; I only tested the previous version. In my opinion it’s not nearly as smooth as the Blancpain and JLC I mentioned. I find it to be a bit similar to the Omega Moonwatch Professional. However, one column wheel chronograph movement that has a rather stiff actuation is the IWC flyback chrono. I tried out two models — the IWC Chronograph Classique, and the Ingenieur Chrono — and both of them were rather hard to operate.

    • Korz

      Column wheel vs cam is all aesthetics, and has no functional impact on the performance of the timepiece. With everything else in this watch, there’s no other chrono out there today that’s as functional, or durable.

      Silicon (not silicone, that’s used in breast implants) is one of the most important materials to make its way into matchmaking, and to make even the escapement out of the material is quite a significant achievement, and very fitting to put into a tool watch.

      • Marius

        I don’t want to argue with you, but I’m not entirely convinced that a vertical clutch, column wheel movement has exactly the same performance as a cam actuated caliber. At least from a tactile perspective, the cam-based movements I tried out have a rather stiff actuation; the seconds hand does not move instantaneously, and it has a slight jitter.

        Also, for me, the new Blancpain flyback chrono movement is better than the Breguet. Besides also having silicon parts, the Blancpain caliber operates at 5Hz, has a modern design, uses a vertical clutch/column wheel, is adjusted to six positions, is better finished, and the pushers can be operated even underwater.

        • iamcalledryan

          Who said anything about vertical clutches? I think you need to do some reading before you can be entirely convinced of anything!

          That slight jitter is cause by the clutch, not the actuator, and almost all high end chrono’s opt for the same horizontal coupling. You would therefore notice the same jitter on this Breguet as you would on a datograph etc etc.

          The stiffer actuation is absolutely true, and it’s why many prefer the column wheel, but as Korz alluded, it is not objectively better, so to assume that the Breguet is inferior for that reason is to fall for marketing guff. Some people prefer the resistance of a cam.

          • Marius

            I’m sorry! Say what? The JLC does not offer a vertical clutch? It’s very strange, but right now I’m looking at the JLC catalogue for 2014, and do you know what I read? According to the JLC official catalogue, both the Master Chronograph, as well as the Deep Sea chrono (caliber 751A/I and 758) are using a VERTICAL CLUTCH column wheel movement. Didn’t you just say that the JLC I talked about was using a horizontal clutch?

            It’s OK not to like my comments, but I would appreciate if you read a thing or two about watches before starting an objective argument.

            Oh, and the Blancpain is NOT using an F. Piguet movement. According to your beloved Ben Clymer, from Hodinkee, Blancpain developed this movement from ground up. Again, do some research before you post.

          • iamcalledryan

            Lol, you got me, I didn’t review the unrelated chrono you mentioned!

            The point still stands, you confuse the actuator with the clutch as per your comments to Korz.

            Truth be told, now that it is clear that both the blancpain and the JLC use vertical clutches, it is perfectly clear why many would prefer the Breguet! I bought you were all about pretty movements after all.

            There is a difference between not checking the spec on a watch that is not being reviewed in this article, and falling for the column wheel marketing guff!

          • Marius

            I would be extremely grateful if you stopped recommending me to read more about chronographs.

            Firstly, you argued that nowadays only a few brands use a vertical clutch ( you gave the ex. of Piaget), when in reality, almost everyone is using a vertical clutch. The Rolex Daytona, Omega Speedmaster, JLCs, even Breitling (B01) and Panerai are using a vertical clutch/column wheel.

            Secondly, you argued that the JLC DeepSea chrono is not using a vertical clutch, when it actually is using one. In fact, all currently produced JLC chronos are using a vertical clutch.

            Thirdly, you argued that the Blancpain movement was made by F Piguet. In fact it’s not; it’s designed and manufactured by Blancpain.

            Lastly, here is an excerpt talking about how lateral and vertical clutch chronos do actually differ:

            Lateral clutch-based chronographs work well in general, and are visually very appealing; however they have a couple significant disadvantages: 1. Loss of amplitude in the balance wheel’s oscillation when the chronograph is engaged, affecting timekeeping accuracy, and 2. Backlash. When the chronograph is either started or stopped, the chronograph seconds hand typically hops, or jumps, due to the imperfect, mis-aligned mating of the lateral clutch’s gear with the teeth of the movement’s driving gear.[h=2]By design, the 4130’s vertically coupled approach enables absolutely precise starts and stops of the chronograph seconds hand. When started, stopped, or reset, no unwanted jitters are seen on any of the watch’s hands. The vertical clutch also allows the chronograph to run continuously for extended periods, with no impact on timekeeping accuracy. Understanding Rolex’s longstanding, noble pursuit of maximum timekeeping accuracy, their decision to use a vertical clutch makes sense.

          • iamcalledryan

            Hope your evident additional research didn’t waste too much of your weekend. I do find it a little odd that you are listing the benefits of the vertical clutch to me when I am fully aware of them, and their shortcomings, and when it has little to do with your conclusion that a cam actuator (as opposed to a horizontal clutch) was inferior. Enjoy shifting goalposts much?

            I could also list some very prestigious models, really fine, arguably the best of the best, that opt for horizontal and charge far more for their troubles, but why would I? You are now talking about the vertical vs horizontal argument, which has as many arguments for both sides of the fence, especially when you learn about sliding pinions and do more than 15 mins of Google research, and is a perfectly good conversation to have; but wasn’t your argument against the Breguet.

            Even if there is weight to the argument for vertical, it is strange that you would hold on to those principles while dismissing the impact that silicon would have in the escapement; a bit contradictory. Perhaps you do confuse it for silicone and you are not familiar with concepts of friction and lubricant? They also adversely effect amplitude and rate no?

            But your initial critique had nothing to do with the clutch, it was about the actuator. As a discussion about vertical clutches might have had SOME depth to it, I can only assume that you thought the column-wheel meant vertical clutch. You go on to say that ALL competitors are offering a column wheel movement, which even if true would go further to confirm that you have fallen for the column-wheel marketing. Makes sense that you promptly switched to talking about the clutch, no doubt after some solid searching.

            You initially dismissed the type XXI as being ‘only’ a ‘rather simple’ cam actuated caliber, which simply means nothing! Then you list watches that are great but you act like the JLC is $4k cheaper and better, but it’s price difference is better explained by the lack of flyback and solid case back (correct me if I’m wrong, no research for me today). I am more than aware of the benefits and cons of the vertical, but to say that a watch with a column wheel and no flyback is better, is for your opinion only – far from objective truth. Don’t get me wrong, the JLC would be my choice too, but it has nothing to do with the theoreticals about the clutch or the price – I like it more. The same argument works for the Breguet as indicated by most of the positive comments in here.

  • iamcalledryan

    Looks really nice on the wrist. I must say that I am not a huge fan of the XXI. I prefer their dress watches and particularly obsess over owning a Tradition. I do appreciate a good fly back when I see one though. Would be even more interested to see them make use of the central mins/hrs and go with a two-dial register option…

  • DanW94

    The fluted caseband gives it a sense of style and refinement while the dark hues of the dial and the large numbers, handset and prominent steel bezel add a healthy dose of masculinity. Like Trevor mentioned below, it’s handsome but with a bit of attitude. Would love to wear one.

  • Sevenmack

    The dial is handsome. The movement is well decorated. But that marked bezel and the fluting ruins it.

  • SuperStrapper

    Very handsome without a doubt, and that caseback view is all hotsauce. But with the other stuff Breguet does, this line could never be at the top ofmy listfor them. I was very close to buying an older XX at an auction a few years ago but stopped myself last minute. The case had a bad scratch and there were no service records, so I would have been re-investing in it immediately. Nice to see the display back on the newer iterations though.

  • Larry Holmack

    Pretty nice looking…but way out of my price range. I like everything about this watch….except I wish it was a tad larger….maybe 45 or 46mm’s….but that’s just me.

    All I can do is keep hoping my Lotto numbers hit!!!

  • Ulysses31

    Handsome for sure, with the raised, off-white lume and overall attractive face. I’ve never really liked bezels like that though, where the numerals are as large as, if not bigger than those on the dial itself. The dial should always take the most focus.

  • Greg Dutton

    The Type XX/I has always been a handsome line, and this looks no different. I’m glad the fauxtina isn’t too aggressive, although the lume application looks a bit lumpy.

  • Shinytoys

    That is a fine looking watch which I would happily wear…

    • Timestandsstill

      My sentiments exactly

  • jopez

    My new favorite! Someday I hope to own a Breguet watch.

  • Mark Baran

    Nice version. I’m not normally a leather strap guy on non-dress watches. But the combination looks great.

  • GalaxyGuy

    I really love this watch. The dial is bold but legible, the case is classic Breguet, and the movement is solid and reliable. Too bad it’s so pricey. Maybe in 5 years on the used market…

  • Gary Aerne

    This is an awesome watch. Really like the color and design.

  • Nateb123

    Gorgeous, unmistakably Breguet and extremely wearable. I can’t find a thing wrong with it. Yes it is expensive but for an in-house chronograph with this level of finishing, it’s hardly surprising.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Yes, it’s a lovely looking piece and for a chronograph taking up the face, surprisingly legible. The date window seems a little out of place for the relaxed look of the rest of the face, i would expect that look and font in a more dressy watch. Cost wise, is it worth robbing a bank for ?,…

  • ILOW

    Really wanted to like these, but saw the previous model (white lume, black face) in person and it looked a bit busy with too many features on the face screaming for attention. Perhaps all aviator chronos can be guilty of this? Coin-edge flanks just add an extra element of excessive flair. Calm the face by swapping the numerals for pips and it might be a winner.

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