Earlier this morning, the biennial Only Watch charity auction officially revealed the 50 watches that will go up for sale on November 9, 2019. The Only Watch auction, hosted by Christie’s and with the support of the Monegasque Association Against Muscular Dystrophy, happens once every two years with dozens of brands contributing a single timepiece with all proceeds going towards scientific and medical research on neuromuscular diseases with a focus on Duchenne muscular dystrophy in particular. While a large number of the watches on display are iterative takes on existing timepieces, there are dozens of interesting one-of-a-kind watches that are worth discussing and often act as a preview to future production models. The first of these watches that we’d like to highlight is the revival of the Breguet Type 20, the iconic military chronograph originally intended for the French Air Force.
The first thing that is important to note when we’re discussing Breguet’s history of military chronograph production is the difference between the Breguet Type XX and the Breguet Type 20. Within Breguet parlance, the official military watches are referred to as Type 20, while the civilian models that have long been available to purchase are known as Type XX. The Type XX that we know and love today has been a part of the Breguet family over three successive generations and is one of the firm’s most well-known designs.
Breguet’s history of providing tool watches for aviation starts in the late 1910s. The brand first created a number of watches for the American Airforce in 1918; in 1922, it continued by building several watches for the Société d’Aviation Louis Breguet, a company founded by a descendant of Abraham-Louis Breguet. However, it wasn’t until 1954 that Breguet’s history of aviation chronographs became entrenched with the brand identity. Beginning that year, the first Type 20 Chronograph was built for France’s Centre d’Essais en Vol, the military agency that approved of new aircraft. The stopwatch was based on Breguet’s first wristwatch chronograph, which had debuted in 1935. Its distinguishing feature was a rotating, easy-to-grasp bidirectional bezel and a flyback mechanism, which responds to a single push of a button by returning the chronograph’s elapsed-seconds hand to zero. Breguet produced similar instruments for the pilots of the French Air Force, thus the legend of the Breguet Type 20 was born.
The new Type 20 model for the Only Watch auction derives its design directly from those early days in the mid-1950s. It’s nicely sized at 38.30 mm in stainless steel with curved lugs and a pear-shaped crown. According to Breguet, this is all a direct reference to the first-gen models that were received by the French Air Force and Naval Air Force.
Breguet combined the historic designs of both the Type 20 (military) and Type XX (civilian) timepieces for the dial appearance. The new watch features a dark brown, almost bronze-hued color that references the shade the typically black-dialed watches would revert to after extended exposure to the sun. One notable difference between the dial of the new Type 20 for Only Watch 2019 and the historic watches is the Breguet signature at 12 o’clock as most military watches at the time were presented without extensive branding. The caseback of the new watch includes a commemorative engraving stating “Breguet Type 20 Only Watch 2019 Pièce Unique.”
Inside the unique piece Type 20 is the Valjoux 235 13-ligne movement — another historic nod to the original models — that is a modernized version of the Valjoux 222 14-ligne caliber used throughout the 1950s. It’s a manual-wound flyback chronograph movement with column wheel and a 45-hour power reserve.
Although there are months to go until we find out the results from the sale that is hosted at the Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergues in Geneva, the Breguet Type 20 for Only Watch 2019 is currently estimated to sell for between $35,000 and $50,000 USD.