Fifty-three watches, 30 million Swiss Francs, and just over 3 hours: the results from Only Watch 2021 are in, and there are some surprises. Held every second year in November under the patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Only Watch brings together the best watchmakers on the planet, each of whom creates one watch to be auctioned to support research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The watches on the block at Only Watch aren’t merely limited-editions, either. These one-offs often represent the very best of what these elite brands can do, and in recent years they have also become an inside look into what materials, case designs and complications they’re working on behind closed doors. Here’s a look at the best of them from the recent auction, and the surprising prices they fetched.
Tudor Black Bay GMT One
The biggest surprise of this year’s Only Watch was the whopping 650,000 CHF (about $850,000) paid for this one-of-one Tudor. That price (which is nearly 100 times its modest estimate of $5,500 – $11,000) makes this the most valuable Tudor ever sold, and there are a couple of reasons why. For one, the last Only Watch auction teased the arrival of Tudor’s new Black Bay Ceramic with a one-of-one edition, so it’s a good bet that this one-of-one GMT will eventually be followed by a production model. Secondly, these pieces are also the only Tudor models to carry the “piece unique” stamp on their case backs, which makes them even more rare and collectible. In addition to a stainless steel case and bracelet treated with a proprietary new ageing technique and a GMT complication, this Black Bay is Master Chronometer certified, which guarantees precision of 5 seconds a day, anti-magnetism to 15’000 gauss, water-resistance and power-reserve.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin
Ironically, the best way to get AP fans into a lather isn’t to create anything radically different but to revisit the brand’s greatest hits in a slightly new way. In this case, it’s a Royal Oak 15202, but not just any 15202 – this is the last unique piece from that revered lineage to be powered by the Calibre 2121, the automatic movement first introduced on the Royal Oak in 1972. A first-ever case and bracelet in sandblasted titanium and BMG (bulk metallic glass) keep things extra fresh. While the estimate topped out at a respectable 320 000 CHF ($440,000 CAD) things got predictably intense during bidding, with an ultimate achieved result of CHF 3.1 million ($4.2 million CAD).
F.P. Journe x Francis Ford Coppola FFC Blue
Over dinner at Coppola’s Napa Valley chateau, the Godfather director posed a question to Francois Paul Journe. “Could it be possible to tell time with a human hand on a watch?” This sent the celebrity watchmaker on a nine-year mission to figure it out, the result of which is this spectacular creation. To tell the time via the hand on the dial, Journe referenced a 16th century “automaton,” with fingers that extend and contract in the blink of an eye, one finger for one o’clock, two for two, and a thumb and index finger for 12, etcetera. This weekend’s bidding also made it the most expensive piece by Journe ever sold, with a final price of $6.1 million CAD, from an estimate of CHF 300,000 – 400,000 ($413,000 – $550,000 CAD).
Patek Philippe Complicated Desk Clock
At Only Watch (as at other major auctions) Patek Philippe tends to dominate the conversation, and they did not disappoint with this year’s submission, which produced the most intense bidding war of any piece at Only Watch. The complicated desk clock Ref. 27001M-001 is inspired by a clock made for automobile magnate James Ward Packard in 1923, which was the most complicated timepiece ever made at that time. Housed in a sterling silver cabinet with American walnut inlays, the new piece features a perpetual calendar, moon phases, week-number display, and a 31-day power-reserve indicator. Modestly estimated to fetch between CHF 400,000 – 500,000 ($550,000 – $690,000 CAD), you could have cut the tension with a knife as two steely-nerved bidders drove the price to CHF 9.5 million ($12.9 million CAD).
TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco
In the world of the TAG Heuer Monaco, nothing is rarer or more collectible than the so-called “Dark Lord,” a 1975 edition with a black DLC-coated case and orange hands. This new version pays tribute to that mythical model with a case and skeletonized dial forged from black carbon, and a Heuer 02 calibre movement fitted with a carbon hairspring – a first for TAG Heuer.
In true Only Watch fashion, this one nearly tripled the highest pre-auction estimate, achieving a final price of CHF 290,000 ($395,000 CAD).
Girard Perregaux Casquette
Only Watch has always been a place where makers can go wild with designs and materials, and that is clearly the idea behind this quirky Girard-Perregaux created with the help of luxury customizer Bamford Watch Department. A modern take on the brand’s cutting-edge 1970s digital watch, the Casquette, this one features a forged carbon and titanium case with titanium pushers and a red LED display. With a final price of CHF 80,000 ($109,000 CAD) it’s likely the most valuable digital watch ever sold.
Romain Gauthier Continuum Titanium Edition Only Watch
For die-hard watch collectors, a new movement from a favourite watchmaker is always a cause for excitement, and that’s definitely true of this watch. While it didn’t reach the stratospheric levels of some other pieces, realizing “just” CHF 100 000 ($136,00 CAD) from a estimated price of CHF 40 000 – 70 000, this unique creation from a beloved independent watchmaker is still worth noting as the first and only piece in titanium featuring Gauthier’s new Continuum calibre.
Czapek Antarctique Rattrapante “Sunrise”
The main attraction here is Czapek’s new proprietary SHX6 calibre, which was created in collaboration with high-end Swiss movement maker Chronode, and is displayed via a beautiful cutaway dial. Featuring a split-second monopusher chronograph module with two column wheels, a patented satellite minute train, a patent-pending split-second clamp, and a 100% recycled 5N rose gold rotor, this haute horology sports watch fetched CHF 240 000 ($327,000 CAD).
Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono Only Watch
While Chopard didn’t go entirely back to the drawing board for this unique piece, it did do a few things that fans of the brand will appreciate. The Alpine Eagle XL Chrono Only Watch features a chronometer-certified Chopard 03.05-C flyback chronograph movement set in a bead-blasted Lucent Steel A223 case – two firsts for the model. A colourful new dial made of Swiss granite from the Graubünden region completes the package, and made it worth CHF 80 000 ($109,000 CAD) to one lucky bidder.