Ready to pull the trigger on your grail? You may need to take a number. Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of watch collecting in 2021. Just because you’ve got the means and the will, does not mean you’re going to get the watch you want at the price you expect (or at all). The reasons for this are complex, but it mostly has to do with unprecedented demand for certain models, and brands’ unwillingness to oversaturate the market with these products in the short term. It makes sense when you think about it, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for someone who’s finally ready to buy their dream watch. If you’re looking to buy one of the watches below, you’re going to need a lot of patience, and a bit of luck.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL
Unveiled this spring at Watches & Wonders, this watch’s combination of unmistakable looks, high-tech bona fides and ultra-limited availability make it one of the rarest new watches on the planet. As part of IWC’s long and rich history of innovation in the aviation watch space, this watch’s unique design – featuring a cantilevered movement and components made from Bulk Metallic Glass (BMG) – makes it shock resistant up to 30,000 g. Due to the complexity of this design, IWC is making just 30 of these watches over the next three years and selling them for $83,600 USD apiece – which must be some kind of a record for a time-only watch.
Bradley Taylor Paragon
He doesn’t have the name recognition of anyone else on this list, but by making his watches painstakingly by hand, Bradley Taylor is quickly establishing a reputation as a rising star. Trained in Switzerland and based in Vancouver, Taylor’s first creation is the Paragon, a beautifully-finished but highly-limited edition of 12 pieces, each priced at $22,000 USD (half payable upfront). It was a big risk for Taylor, but it seems to have paid off: he sold them all in short order. Fortunately, we’re pretty sure this young watchmaker is just getting started.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, and the brand is going big. With four faces, 11 complications (including a minute-repeater and indicators for both the draconic and anomalistic lunar cycles) and 12 patents, this is by far the most complex and rare Reverso they have ever made. With a retail price of €1.35 million, a limited edition of 10 pieces, and all of the attendant bragging rights, Jaeger-Lecoultre should have no problem sending these home with the world’s most elite watch collectors.
Patek Philippe Tiffany & Co Dial
Watches with corporate logos on them generally aren’t the first to be snapped up by collectors, except when the logo in question is that of iconic New York jeweller Tiffany & Co. If you’re looking for a Nautilus 5711 (the current grail of grails – a watch whose popularity got so out of control that Patek Philippe discontinued it) you’re going to easily spend mid-six-figures on the secondary market, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to beat out all of the other interested parties. There are two main reasons for this. Tiffany has been selling Patek watches since the 1850s, and as one of the world’s leading luxury brands, collectors appreciate the historic synergy of this partnership. The other thing is exclusivity. Tiffany is said to release just a handful (like four or five) of these watches every year, making them among the most exclusive timepieces on the planet.
Most stores that sell watches actually, you know, have some watches available for sale. Not Richard Mille. Depending on the day, anyway. Stroll into a Richard Mille boutique (which in Canada means the one in Vancouver) and you’re probably going to see lots of empty display cases. Why? Because most of the new watches they receive go directly onto the wrists (or into the safes) of RM’s loyal customers. That’s not to say you can’t buy a Richard Mille if you want one, but if your heart is set on a limited-edition, like the Bonbon collection, or something Drake has publicly worn, like the RM 69 Manual Winding Tourbillon Erotic, you might need to prove your loyalty by buying a few of the brand’s other pieces first.