Will These Unique Timepieces Be Only Watch 2019’s Top Performers?
Since its launch in 2005, Only Watch has been one of the most – if not the most – significant auctions in the watch world. A biennial charity auction founded by Luc Pettavino, Only Watch is organized by the Monegasque Association Against Muscular Dystrophy (MAAMD) under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Brands donate unique timepieces to be auctioned; 100 percent of the proceeds finance research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a debilitating and life-threatening genetic disorder that affects around one in 3,500 boys, including Pettavino’s son, who died of the disease in November 2016.
Ahead of the eighth edition of this auction taking place on November 9, 2019 in Geneva, let’s take a look at what I think are going to be the biggest contenders for hammering large chunks of coin in the name of doing one’s best for helping those affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
For all 50 watches in the auction taking place on November 9, 2019 see Complete Listing And Live Photos Of All 50 Timepieces In The 2019 Only Watch Charity Auction
Obvious heavy hitters
Going on the results of the past auctions, I think I can pick a couple of clear top contenders for the highest results of the 2019 edition.
Only Watch 2017 raked in a total of CHF 10,776,500 (including buyer’s premiums), a huge win in anyone’s book for this charity.
A solid two-thirds of that CHF 10 million total, though, came from the sale of one watch: a whopping CHF 6,200,000 for the Patek Philippe Reference 5208T-010, which represented a first for this most traditional of all brands as it was housed in a titanium case.
I expect no less of a result for this year’s entry, the Grandmaster Chime Reference 6300A-010, a bombastic timepiece introduced in honor of Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary housed in stainless steel with 20 different functions and a double-sided reversible dial.
There isn’t even a doubt in my mind that it will at the very least double its high estimate of 3 million – and perhaps go even higher. And what a win that would be for everyone!
The next biggest performer after the Patek Philippe at the 2017 auction was F.P. Journe’s Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante, featuring a tantalum case and blue chrome dial developed just for this watch. It realized an astounding result of CHF 1,150,000 (almost three times its high estimate).
I expect no less of this year’s offering, either, the Astronomic Blue, which is housed in a bold 44 mm tantalum case and outfitted with a blue chrome dial. It is also outfitted with an F.P. Journe prototype movement crafted in 18-karat pink gold filled chock-full of astronomical functions – 18 of them according to the Geneva-based watchmaker. Its pre-auction high estimate is CHF 600,000.
Audemars Piguet’s unique ceramic-encased Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar for Only Watch 2017 brought in a whopping CHF 800,000, about seven times its high estimate. While the new Code 11.59 collection introduced to great negativity in January 2019 plays in a fully different category than the evergreen Royal Oak, this openworked tourbillon from the Code 11.59 line housed in an interesting two-tone case is a gorgeous piece of watchmaking. I have no doubt it will find a good home able to donate a large sum of money to the Only Watch cause. High estimate is CHF 240,000.
Tudor’s Black Bay Bronze One offered at Only Watch 2017 in a unique bronze case and khaki green bezel was for me the surprise hit of that auction, bringing in an unbelievable CHF 350,000. I am very sure, too, that it wasn’t the added incentive of an all-expense-paid trip to the Geneva factory for the winning bidder that pushed the price so high. Its pre-auction high estimate was only CHF 5,500!
Which allows us to expect the upcoming auction’s unique-piece Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One to also rake in an awesome amount, although just how high is really hard to predict.
The Tudor Black Bay has been a multiple winner at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in various iterations over the years. And here it shows up in a daring all-black look bound to make bidders go wild.
And despite Tudor’s stellar performance at Only Watch 2017, this unique 2019 entry’s high estimate remains CHF 5,500.
The fifth best performer at Only Watch 2017 was the MB&F Horological Machine 8 with a CHF 210,000 result. This was a huge surprise for me, but in a good way. MB&F is a collector darling, but actually more than doubling its high estimate of CHF 100,000 was not something I would have predicted.
This bodes very well for MB&F’s 2019 donation to Only Watch: the unique-piece edition of the MB&F x L’Épée Tom & T-Rex clock, which features a little figure riding a fictional creature. The little figure is “Tom,” a child not bound by this lifetime, illness, disability, or even the shrunken imagination of adults. He rides a mechanical dinosaur-type creature. The creatively crafted duo has a high auction estimate of CHF 40,000.
The outsiders capable of greatness at Only Watch 2019
The unique Chronomètre Contemporain with hand-hammered blue-grey enamel dial and platinum case by J.P. Hagmann is Akrivia’s first donation to Only Watch, not a small gesture for an independent watchmaker. But I think that this act of charity will pay off in two ways: in terms of giving back, of course, but also for the publicity that goes along with achieving an unexpectedly stunning result here.
This Akrivia derives from the 2018 Chronomètre Contemporain, winner of the Men’s category at the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, and carries a high estimate of CHF 60,000. But according to reports I’ve received from friends attending previews all over the world, this watch is causing something of a sensation. My FHH colleague Carson Chan reports that after seeing it at the preview in Hong Kong he believes this watch could obtain as much as CHF 250,000. I am inclined to agree with him.
Even though Kari Voutilainen’s 28S “only” obtained 75,000 in the 2017 auction – just reaching its high estimate – I expect that this year’s pocket watch will go much higher than that. So many of Voutilainen’s watches are unique pieces, and the 28S of Only Watch 2017 didn’t look as different from his “regular” offerings as it could have in my opinion.
This year’s cushion-shaped pocket watch TP1 OW2019, a first-time collaboration between the master watchmaker and his daughter Venla, is the most unique thing (in the fullest sense of that word, of course) we’ve seen from his workshop in a very long time. I think that Voutilainen’s longtime collectors will be salivating over this one. High estimate is CHF 70,000.
Independent watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin donated a unique-piece Joker to the 2017 auction, which I predicted would be one of the auction’s surprise hits due to the extreme popularity of this surprising watch (see GaryG’s Joker here). And, indeed, the modified ETA-powered clown-faced timepiece in a unique zirconium case (instead of steel) tripled its high estimate to realize a price of CHF 45,000.
At the 2019 auction it is offered with an even more unique countenance: the Joker’s face now mirrors some of watchmaker Chaykin’s own facial features! Hence the added name “Selfie.” The right eye, for example, is fitted with a watchmaker loupe. But even more interesting are the “secret” features that Chaykin built into this iteration: when the watch is in horizontal position the Joker Selfie’s right eye closes, hiding the hours. At 12 o’clock is a Joker-style emoji weekday indicator, which is hidden when the watch case is vertical.
Thanks to a clever configuration of hours, minutes, and moon phase, the Joker Selfie is able to mimic approximately 20,000 facial expressions thanks to Chaykin’s Caliber K.21-O (based on Tschistopolsky Caliber 2809). Certain to make any bidder smile, I expect this to be one of the auction’s fun hits, at the very least reaching its CHF 24,000 high estimate, but likely doing much better.
As the team pretty much unanimously admonished in the 2019 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Calendar and Astronomy category predictions, the Hermès Arceau L’Heure de la Lune has experienced heavy buzz since its official introduction at SIHH 2019.
A unique piece of this fan favorite with attractive blue details is bound to do much better than predicted by the CHF 55,000 high estimate when we look at 2017’s showing of the already very good CHF 68,000 brought in by the unique-piece Slim d’Hermès L’Heure Impatiente at the 2017 auction.
Other predictions that may surprise you
Richard Mille does not donate a watch to Only Watch every year, but I have it on good authority that in those years when he doesn’t, he simply cuts a very large check for the charity. This does not surprise me in the least as Mille, who I have known for the better part of two decades, is a very kind and generous person.
At Only Watch 2015, the RM 27-02 prototype worn by Rafael Nadal during the 2015 French Open at Roland Garros not only became the highest-earning Richard Mille wristwatch at auction in 2015, it also came in second place at the 2015 Only Watch auction only following the record-breaking Patek Philippe Reference 5016A-010. It hammered for an eye-watering CHF 650,000.
This year’s entry, the prototype of the limited edition RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph McLaren, is bound to perform in an extraordinary manner. While the mechanics of this watch are well known, the new case exhibits cutting-edge novelty as it is made using Richard Mille’s own Carbon TPT, a material comprising hundreds of tiny 0.03 mm filaments of carbon arranged in parallel layers, interlaced with “McLaren orange” Quartz TPT, making it extremely resistant to shock and wear as well as being lightweight, which is not unimportant in a sports watch measuring a stately 49.94 x 44.5 x 16.23 mm.
Its high estimate is already set at CHF 250,000 – yes, that’s a quarter of a million Swiss francs – but I think it has the potential to go much higher.
While Hublot is not necessarily a collector favorite on the best of days, judging from some of the comments we get when we write about this brand’s watches, the Classic Fusion Tourbillon Sapphire Orlinksi is without doubt a stunning piece of combined material science and horology.
Anyone holding it in their hands is very, very likely to fall for it immediately thanks to its faceted sapphire-crystal-and-resin case and the 54 baguette-cut topazes on the bezel. Making this lot even more unique is the fact that is comes in a box that is part of a Richard Orlinski sculpture called “Wild Kong.” Its high estimate is CHF 180,000.
I do think it is likely to do even better than the CHF 150,000 that the Big Bang Unico Sapphire Usain Bolt brought in (more than doubling its high estimate). That watch, by the way, was endowed with its own beauty, but the flashy gold color scheme likely wasn’t to most watch collectors’ taste. This Orlinski-inspired piece might be.
At the 2017 auction, Urwerk’s collaboration with Laurent Ferrier, which begat the Arpal One, brought in CHF 100,000, CHF 30,000 more than its high estimate. No huge surprise there as it is a stunning piece of watchmaking that any collector would proudly want to own.
This year, Urwerk once again collaborated with another independent for its donation watch, and that partner is even more likely to up the desire of the resulting unique piece: Urwerk worked with De Bethune to create the Moon Satellite, a droolworthy grail piece if there ever was one.
While a cursory look at the case reveals some slight similarity to the Arpal One, the addition of De Bethune’s supremely comfortable floating lugs definitely marks this as a collaborative design. Then there is the one-off URDB01 caliber, which was jointly developed just for the charity auction. For any lover of independent watchmaking, this high-polished beauty could well be “the” only watch of this auction.
Which is probably why the high estimate is set so high at CHF 150,000. I cannot wait to witness this round of bidding!
And then there is the Track 1 from Singer Reimagined, the new brand’s first donation to Only Watch. In its very short career, Singer has managed to rack up both awards and collector appreciation even though all it has released thus far is variations on its one and only timepiece. That, however, didn’t stop the jury from declaring it the winner at the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in the Chronograph category.
This watch makes you forget everything you ever knew about how to read a chronograph: its superpower is that you can read elapsed times on the dial just like a regular watch as the chronograph’s hour, minute, and second hands are all mounted in sweep fashion from the center of the dial.
Another fantastic element of this unique piece watch for Only Watch is the black Damascus steel case manufactured by Swedish independent watchmaker GoS. And as if all that weren’t unique enough, Singer also offers the winning bidder the opportunity to visit its watch facilities in Geneva and its car facilities in Los Angeles.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get bidding!
Brown is in: Breguet and Jaeger-LeCoultre
The Breguet Classique Quantième Perpétuel En Ligne of the 2017 auction reached a price of CHF 110,000, slightly over its high estimate. This year’s donation, a gorgeous Type 20 chronograph powered by a vintage Valjoux 235 movement, is not only absolutely in line with today’s tastes in watches, it is a timepiece that is destined to never go out of style. And it is a Breguet through and through!
At a high estimate of CHF 50,000, this unique Breguet Type 20 Chronograph could bat it right out of the ballpark. I will be very curious to see how it does on November 9.
The same could well be said of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s gorgeous Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Enamel Chestnut, which coincidentally also offers a brown-hued enamel dial. Could these two masterpieces be predicting next year’s preferred dial coloring?
One of the best upgrades about JLC’s new perpetual calendar movement from the revamped Master Ultra Thin line is that the moon phase is shown in both the northern and southern hemispheres. And all of this fitting beautifully in an extremely wearable 39 mm case. This watch’s high estimate comes in at CHF 70,000, but it could really go much higher.
Sometimes there’s no accounting for taste
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the donation by Jacob & Co. While this very large, very mixed-bag design is not going to be to everyone’s taste, it comes with an irresistible extra in the package: the winning bidder will get to hang out with Jacob’s ambassador, Lionel Messi, probably the world’s best soccer player and an undeniably popular pop-culture figure.
I am in some internal disagreement over whether football fans are going to wear a watch that looks like that, adorned with 36 large baguette-cut blue sapphires around the bezel. It definitely was designed in Jacob’s signature style. And there are certainly enough superrich soccer fans out there who might bid for the good cause and the chance to meet Messi, putting the watch away in a safe for, um, safekeeping.
Either way, I’m pretty sure that this watch will reach its estimate of at least CHF 70,000 since the 2017 watch – the Epic X Chrono in a yellow-and-black color scheme, which came with an added ticket to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s annual gala in St. Tropez – reached its CHF 20,000 low estimate.
Whatever your taste, get over to the Only Watch site and put in your bid! And don’t forget to watch our social media on November 9 as we attend the auction and will report live on the happenings.
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com.
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