Martin Green’s Top Ten Favorite Watches of Only Watch 2023
by Martin Green
I wonder if Luc Pettavino had any idea in 2005 when he started with Only Watch, what an impact he would make with this project. In his fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disease that progressively weakens the muscles, including the heart, and affects one in every 3,500 boys, he has raised over €100 million for scientific research.
An additional benefit is that some of the results of this research can also be used in the fight against other diseases.
In that light, what Pettavino has achieved in the watch world seems almost trivial. By auctioning off unique pieces explicitly made for Only Watch, he has given the brands a platform to go all in and all out. Many brands seize this opportunity to take their work to an even higher level, while collectors lust over the opportunity to own a unique watch from their favorite brands.
I am no exception and picking ten favorites feels like judging at the GPHG. So here we go, in no particular order, except for the last one, which is my absolute favorite!
Svend Andersen is the godfather of (independent) watchmaking, and he shows his considerable skill with this very understated Jumping Hours that he made for Only Watch. He has a special relationship with the cause, as he participated at the very first edition in 2005 in which his was the first lot to be auctioned. While his Jumping Hours is already incredible, it is the dial that makes this one extra special. A mere 0.4mm thick, and only 0.15mm at its thinnest point, it is made from jade with a black coating through which you can still see the veins of the stone. The case is platinum with a pink gold crown.
This watch is pure understatement! I don’t say it often, but this particular Andersen could very well be my ‘only watch.’ It is sophisticated, understated, but most of all, completely thought through in every detail, a display of true craftsmanship. However, despite the great passion that I feel for this timepiece, it is not my ultimate favorite of the bunch.
Estimate CHF 40,000 – 50,000
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/andersen-gen%C3%A8ve
Jean-Claude Biver and his son launched this brand under their own name earlier this year. While the opinions about these watches seem to vary, I like them. However, I like the model that they made for Only Watch even more. Catharsis is a minute repeater in its purest form, as the watch lacks hands on the front. To know the time, you either have to activate the minute repeater, which is the highly desirable carillon-kind, or look at the hour hand on the back.
Experienced as he is, Biver knows which materials make a carrilon minute repeater sound best, so he opted for a titanium case. Apart from its complication, the movement also stands out for three other things; its tourbillon, a 72-hour power reserve, and a breathtaking finish. The dial shows a sea of blue sapphires, representing the sea, the top half a sunset represented by meteorite, silver obsidian, and opal.
To me, this watch perfectly brings together artistic crafts and fine watchmaking, and perhaps also gives us a glimpse of the future direction the Biver brand is heading.
Estimate CHF 500,000 – 700,000
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/biver
Denis Flaegollet is a passionate man with many qualities. For De Bethune’s contribution to Only Watch 2023, he stepped outside of his manufacture and harvested iron ore from L’Auberson. This is worked into the case of the DW Seeking Perfect. The different metals have been forged into a damascuesque pattern, underscoring the unique nature of this De Bethune. Its organic shape remains mesmerizing, all the more when it is fitted on the wrist.
De Bethune wouldn’t be De Bethune if they didn’t also include many other details in this watch. The ‘dial’ is made from blued meteorite, it features a spherical moon also made from meteorite, and the crown is set with a blue sapphire cabochon. The movement is equipped with a self-regulating double barrel offering a power reserve of four days and features a tourbillon with a titanium balance wheel with white gold inserts. A watch collector’s dream.
Estimate CHF 220,000 – 270,000
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/de-bethune
For Hublot, doing collaborations is second nature. They usually nurture their relationships with the artists and celebrities they work with, and that includes Japanese master-mind Takashi Murakami. For Only Watch 2023 they took his signature smiling flower to the next horological level with their first-ever central tourbillon.
The watch has several Hublot hallmarks, from the rainbow set petals to the sapphire case. It is all brought together with a finesse and a craftsmanship that makes this, and so many other Hublot’s, much more than a gimmick. It is a progressive form of haute horlogerie that always puts a smile on my face. Here, it is also a glimpse into the future, as there is more in store for the MP-15, as well as the collaboration with Takashi Murakami.
Estimate 350,000 – 400,000
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/hublot
L.Leroy is a brand that has had its ups and downs, but is now in the hands of Miguel Rodriguez, best known as the President and founder of the Festina group, which includes Perrelet and the Swiss movement manufacturer SOPROD. Inspired by a “montre à tact” from 1810, showing the hours by an arrow, while a minute repeater can tell you the hours and minutes.
The watch is a nice blend of classic elements for a modern touch, with a case that is almost sportive and features a hunter case back.
Here we find hidden the beautiful movement that powers this watch, including its tourbillon. The power reserve is also generous, with 90-hours, and the engravings make it extra special. They also are featured on the case, which is made from titanium, which transmits sound better than most other metals.
Estimate CHF 150,000 – 180,000
For more information, please visit https://www.onlywatch.com/l-leroy
Lederer’s Central Impulse Chronometer is a very serious watch, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to have fun with it. They play extensively with bright colors for their contribution to Only Watch 2023, and it looks fantastic. It highlights in a not-so-subtle way the mechanics that make this exceptional timepiece work, particularly because Lederer opted for a black DLC coating on the case and also made most of the movement in the same color.
In the dark, they also light up, giving the watch another appeal. This will not appeal to anyone, but that is also why Only Watch is such a great platform, as it allows brands to try out some things, and support a great cause while doing so.
Estimate CHF 100,000 – 200,000
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/lederer
Don’t ask me why, but I love a split-seconds, or rattrapante, watch. I have no practical use for it, but just the way that it works and the extra hand to play with remain mesmerizing to me. To see this complication in the TAG Heuer Monaco, is a true delight. Beautifully integrated in the original design of the Monaco, yet with an almost industrial touch, I feel that this watch is another step in the future for the brand.
The movement is brand new and designed by Carole Kasapi, best known for her previous work at Cartier as the driving force behind so many complicated Cartiers. It is crafted from titanium, which is a nice match to the case of textured titanium. This material is developed by TAG Heuer and the Monaco Split-Seconds is the first to feature it. The whole watch exudes a need for speed, and that is exactly how I like my TAG Heuers.
Estimate CHF 150,000 – 300,000
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/tag-heuer
As with the Lederer, it is amazing what a dash of color, or should I say colors, can do to a watch. The Freak S is already an impressive timepiece and adding some rainbow colors it gets even better. It seems like there is more depth to the unique construction of the flying carrousel movement, making it look like it comes from outer space. Like Lederer, did also Ulysse Nardin opt for a black case to give the colors center stage.
While the colors are quite wild, Ulysse Nardin worked them in such a way that they remain pleasing to the eye. They are not here to shock but more to complement the unique movement. I have my doubts about the bright blue strap, but that might look better in real life, and otherwise, it is an easy fix if the future owner wants to change it.
Estimate CHF 160,000 – 200,000
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/ulysse-nardin
When I saw the first pictures of the Grönefeld 1941 Principia Mandala, I felt that it was too much of a good thing, but it has grown significantly on me. The watchmaking brothers Bart and Tim wanted to create a mandala design out of the colorful logo that marks the 10th edition of Only Watch. To do so, they made 60 different dials. For the final design, they need to print it 16 times, once for each color.
The result is bold and highly charismatic, with almost a hippie touch. Quite different from what we usually get to see from Grönefeld, and that is where the fun is. The fun continues with the strap, made from two different colors of salmon leather to complement the design of the dial. The case itself also hides a little secret, as it is a hunter case back with an engraving of Bart, Tim and their father Sjef, and you also get to admire the stunning G-06 automatic movement.
Estimate CHF 55,000 – 65,000
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/gr%C3%B6nefeld
And now, for my absolute favorite, the unique collaboration between Frederique Constant and Christiaan van der Klaauw, combining a tourbillon with the world’s smallest mechanical planetarium. While perhaps a somewhat obvious collaboration, as Frederique Constant’s long-time technical director, Pim Koeslag is now CEO and major shareholder of Christiaan van der Klaaw, that it would be this spectacular nobody could have ever imagined. While not an easy task, the Christiaan van der Klaauw Planetarium has become an even more desirable timepiece with the integrated tourbillon.
Visually, this also provides a treat, as it balances nicely with the planetarium on the dial side. The dial itself is made from blue aventurine, representing the space in which the planets float. Frederique Constant crafted a case especially for this watch, which is still a relatively modest 42mm. This is perhaps also one of those watches that can cause a bit of a challenge for the brands involved.
While all collectors understand the concept of a piece unique, when you have created a completely new model, desire to own one will go far beyond the single piece you made. As I am a big fan as well, I do hope that Frederique Constant and Christiaan van der Klaauw will consider making them in a slightly different version with a higher quantity as well.
Estimate 90,000 – 110,000
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/frederique-constant-christiaan-van-der-klaauw
For more information on all of the watches in the auction and how to place a bid, please visit www.onlywatch.com/
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