When one thinks of iconic military pilot watches, a few springs to mind. The IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre Mk 11 watches made for the British Royal Air Force and the Zenith CP-2 Cairelli issued to the Aeronautica Militaire Italiana are some of them, but right at the top of the heap would have to be the Type 20 watches issued to the French Air Force.
Throughout the 20th century, the French military commissioned quite a few brands to produce their famed Type 20 wristwatches, including Auricoste, Airain, Vixa and Breguet. While the Breguet would certainly be the most desirable, the Vixa would have to come next. In my opinion, the Vixa still presents great value as the next comparable military chronograph would be the Zenith Cairelli which trades at multiples of this. What you get is a stainless steel chronograph with caseback markings issued to one of the greatest militaries in the world- not to mention it is a flyback chronograph. Only the French Type 20’s featured this specification.
While some brands such as Auricoste used chrome plated cases, the Vixa has a full stainless steel case. Produced by Hanhart, a German company, it is estimated that around 4000-5000 pieces were made. It is not known how many have survived but many of these were used for a very long time. For instance, this one was used for just under 30 years, more on this further below.
Flip the watch around and this is why I think the Type 20s are one of the most fun and interesting issued watches to collect. You will see that there are many markings- very unusual as normal military markings usually only feature a few lines.
Well, most of the markings you see, which feature ‘FG’ as the prefix stands for ‘fin guarantee’ which were markings made by military watchmakers every time these watches were serviced. You can see that this watch has a total of 8 ‘FG’ stamps, showing it had a distinguished life in the military and amazingly being used from its issue date of 1956 all the way until 1981. This gives a great insight and historical provenance to these watches and I guess this is part of why I love military watches so much.
Other than the ‘FG’ markings, the ‘P’ on the dial signifies that this was serviced in the aviation specialists Ateliers Pechoin, a workshop in Paris that serviced many Type 20 pieces.
With all of this history literally engraved on the caseback of this watch, I think you would agree too that in regards to collecting from a purist point of view, this is what it's all about.