Thanks to luxury Swiss watch brand Breguet, I found myself sipping a glass of champagne on the deck of the USS Intrepid on a beautiful Thursday evening in New York City surrounded by watches, fighter jets, and space shuttles.
Breguet was hosting an exhibition to “celebrate a century of Breguet in aviation,” that included 10 historical Breguet timepieces displayed under the recently arrived Space Shuttle Enterprise. The brand’s public relations manager promised that the event would be a “visual buffet” and it did not disappoint.
Did I mention free booze and fighter jets? I did? Just checking.
Before I run down all the cool watches I saw during the evening, let me just tell you that your humble JCK Web editor couldn’t have been more out of place if you had dropped him in a math and science fair at M.I.T. However, I love being out of my element, especially dealing with a group that’s in a much higher tax bracket than I am. It was a pleasure to dart in and out of conversations I had no business being a part of, and being able to observe that even the most “sophisticated” men and women talk about the same things everybody else does with a few drinks in them.
Anyway, I digress. Here are some of the fascinating things I learned during my night aboard the USS Intrepid:
Dashboard Chronograph Type 31
The Dashboard Chronograph Type 31—bottom right in the photo—has a black painted steel case, a 60-minute recorder, and a straight line lever escapement. It was built into French airplanes.
Time for Three
Nothing says aviation watch history like a trio of classical musicians who cover U2’s “With or Without You.”
First-Generation Type XX
The French Ministry of War in the mid-1950s asked Breguet to produce “a reliable, accurate chronograph wristwatch” that they code named Type 20. This military issued watch was only available to French pilots from 1954–60. The watch’s name was officially changed to Type XX in the early 1960s when it was first sold to the public.
Second-Generation Type XX
A photo of the second generation of Type XX watches. That is the Space Shuttle Enterprise hanging out in the background. No big deal.
The Sikorsky H04S-3G (H-19) Chickasaw
This helicopter was used by the Marine Corps in major assaults and troop supply missions during the Korean War (1950–53). It was also the inspiratin for Harold the Helicopter in the Thomas the Tank Engine cartoons.
More than 4,000 missiles were fired at stealth bombers while they were in active service and not one was shot down. Also, the bomber was built in part using Russian titanium. The United States set up a dummy corporation to buy it from the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. The tour guide said a couple of Russian intelligence agents were on a tour of the Intrepid recently—escorted by F.B.I. agents, of course—and got really excited when they were told that. Apparently titanium is to the Russians what apple pie is to the United States. “We make very good plane!” the tour guide said the Russians exclaimed. “Unfortunately, we can’t shoot down.”
Sixth-Generation Type XXII
I was having a discussion the other night with Jonathan Green, a Florida jeweler who has become a good friend of mine, about our favorite high-end watches. After last night, there is a new leader in the clubhouse. The Type XXII—billed as the sixth-generation Type XX—is the first integrated mechanical watch to achieve 72,000 vibrations per hour, or 20 beats per second. I don’t have a clue what that means, but look how sexy that watch looks!
If that’s not watch eye candy, then I don’t know what is.