Only Watch, the bi-annual auction of luxurious one-off watches raising money for research into muscular dystrophy is back once again. In 2021, lots of orange-themed Breguet Marine Hora Mundi 5555 watches, and one clock, went under the hammer at Christie’s at an auction for a very special cause. OnlyWatch raises money for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). DMD is the most serious form of muscular dystrophy. An inherited illness, it works by causing muscles to weaken and be replaced by other types of tissues which aren’t suitable muscle replacements, eventually affecting the heart muscles and becoming life-threatening. DMD is also one of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy, with the NHS in the UK stating that about 100 boys are born in the UK with DMD annually.
Thankfully, medicine has come a long way, and now people with DMD are able to live well into their thirties and have families and a career, this is over twice the average life expectancy previously thought possible. For this year’s Only Watch Breguet, a stalwart of the auctions, returns once more with a unique version of the Breguet Marine Hora Mundi 5555. Reference 5555 as a 43.9mm x 13.8mm 18k rose gold case which is presented on a blue rubber strap and is water resistant to 100m. The Hora Mundi’s unique feature is its complication, a timezone function with memory. When travelling, you program the watch’s city ring to the timezone you’re going to, then press the pusher and the watch instantly jumps to the new time and date without interrupting anything else, truly a remarkable feat from the self-winding calibre 77F1. Another unique feature of this Only Watch version is the dial which has a world map coloured in navy with gold flecks to show the lights of the world at night. This is all set on a hand-engraved blue guilloché base.
The weight of history varies from brand to brand, but there probably isn’t a single brand whose founder casts a longer shadow than Breguet. Abraham-Louis Breguet was born in Switzerland but made his fortune in Paris before and after the French Revolution, and he left his mark on virtually every facet of watchmaking. He might be the most striking example of a polymath in watchmaking – an inexhaustible experimenter and horological inventor, he also excelled at design (his watch designs and compositions have influenced some of the greatest horologists of all time, including George Daniels) and even at marketing his own work – just one example are the Souscription pocket watches, which were reasonably priced, high-grade timekeepers that could be ordered with a down-payment, with the balance payable on delivery. So when Breguet considers doing a complicated watch, the pressure’s on, to put it mildly. Breguet took on the two time-zone complication in 2011 when the first Hora Mundi watch (in the Classique collection) came out. The original Classique Hora Mundi looked like a traditional Breguet through and through, albeit on the large side – 43mm x 13.55mm, which is pretty big for a Breguet Marine Hora Mundi 5555. Breguet himself is generally thought of as an horologist who, all things being equal, would prefer a thinner watch but he was certainly not averse to giving a movement more space if technical needs demanded it, which is the case with the Hora Mundi models.