Auctions are best suited to the sale of unique items that aren’t otherwise available on the market. For that reason, I always look forward to the interesting watches that are donated to the Only Watch auction series which is currently being run by the auction house Christie’s. Only Watch is an event that we’ve covered a lot over the years on aBlogtoWatch, and the next installment of this biennial auction sale will happen in Geneva on November 11th, 2017.
The Only Watch auction series isn’t as strong an event as it used to be, but its main theme continues to be respected. The idea is that watch brands submit unique watches made especially to be donated and sold at the auction. These are unique prototypes or are the first in a limited-edition series. The proceeds (minus all sorts of fees, I am sure) are to be given to Association Monegasque Contre le Myopathies (AMM) whose goal is to fund medical research to help treat a form of muscular dystrophy.
Only Watch is only as strong as the watches which are donated by watch brands. These are tax write-offs as well as a way to get publicity and an ego boost. Brands love to see their products go under the gavel and get bought up by collectors. With that said, there is nothing to stop brands from bidding on their own watches either directly or via a proxy. So, in my opinion, the actual numerical value of what the watches end up going for at the auction should be taken with a grain of salt. That same philosophy should be applied to the results of any auction, as they merely represent what one buyer, who happened to be present, was willing to do on that day.
This year, Only Watch decided to debut all of the watch auction lots on the same day, which is a departure from their more traditional tactic of slowly releasing watches over a several-week or several-month period. Nevertheless, certain brands didn’t quite get their acts together and get stuff done on time. I will go into that a bit more below. Another semi-new element to the auction is that many of the auction lots include an experience such as a trip or special meeting – along with the watch, of course. These experiences (which are not attached to all the lots, should help liven up the bidding quite a bit when the experiences prove as interesting as the timepieces.
A total of 49 lots will be auctioned off during the event in November that, unfortunately, won’t be able to benefit from the glitz of having an event in Monaco itself. With that said, the watches (well, the complete ones) will be traveling around the world “on tour” so that potential buyers can check them out. Click the link above to see if you are in one of the nine cities that will have the watches there for a few days at a time starting at the end of September 2017.
In the video that is embedded in this article, you can hear myself and David Bredan talk about all 49 of the watches/clocks. We spend just a few moments on each in order to bring you our take. This year’s lots aren’t bad as wearable items, but leave much to be desired when it comes to actually being interesting or unique. Allow me to go over some of the most interesting and important lots from Only Watch 2017. For a full list of the watches along with technical specifications and auction price estimates check out the watches at the Only Watch website.
Patek Philippe always uses this occasion to release a one-of-a-kind version with a titanium or steel case of an existing watch they produce or have produced. This year’s model is a bit more on the conservative side, but is very high-end and will easily be the auction’s top lot with a price that is almost guaranteed to be over a million dollars. The watch is the Patek Philippe 5208T-010, which is a version in titanium on a blue cordura strap of their perpetual calendar chronograph minute repeater. At 42mm wide, this is among the larger timepieces that Patek Philippe makes – and of course, it is considered to be a “grand complication,” which means it is far more exclusive than more standard Patek Philippe products. The 5208 is a really nifty Patek Philippe, and this version – like all the titanium or steel models for Only Watch – will be coveted by collectors.
Audemars Piguet offers a blue-dialed version of its all black ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar as the reference 26599CE.OO.1225CE.01. Audemars Piguet Watch Box Replica also points out that the caseback and the oscillating weight (rotor) on the movement are also ceramic – which I believe is a first for the ceramic Royal Oak models. It will go for a fair amount of money, but nothing mind-blowing, in my opinion. This is just another uncommon (in this instance, unique) watch for one of the world’s many Audemars Piguet fans.
The last Only Watch auction was the first that Tudor participated in, and even though their watch was among the lowest when it came to the auction estimate, it went for a really high price. Once again, Tudor comes to Only Watch with a small change on an existing model which is a lefty version with an olive green bezel and dial of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze. They call it the Black Bay Bronze One, and it is the reference 7925/001. It isn’t the most amazing thing in the world, but it is pretty and it should attract a price likely several times what the stock Black Bay Bronze goes for. With the Tudor watch comes the experience of being invited to the Tudor headquarters in Geneva – a place that is normally not open to guests.
Three new versions are being added to the Millenary set at SIHH following month, with smaller cases and much more sparkle than ever before. The Millenary is among three collections from Audemars Piguet that contain ladies’ watches, but basically, it is by far the most female-centric of their complete collections inside the brand. The Royal Oak and the Royal Oak Offshore both have women’ versions, but they started as, and are understood chiefly as men’s collections. The jewelry sets are limited-edition one-offs, certainly not made for everyday wear or pocketbooks. That leaves the Audemars Piguet Millenary, using its own unique elliptical case and off-center dial.The Millenary collection, which was launched in 1995, has always been a stage for watchmaking’s metiers d’art, about a decade ahead of the resurgence of these crafts in the rest of the watch world. Gem-setting is a specific strength of the collection identifying the watches from the sportier Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore women’ pieces. At precisely the exact same time, a partially openworked dial gives the Millenary a specialized aspect — a reminder that it comes from one of the foremost makers of mechanical motions. The Millenary, last updated in 2015, will be refreshed with three brand new versions at SIHH following month in Geneva, for example two all-gold models set with diamonds and a single gold case variant using a strap.The case on the ring variant has a “frosted gold” finish that gives it the look of hand-finished jewelry. Frosted gold is a collaboration between Audemars Piguet and Florentine jewelry designer Carolina Bucci, utilizing a technique called the Florentine technique. It’s created using a diamond-tipped instrument to make tiny indentations across the surface, culminating in a shimmering glow, such as snow. The end was introduced last year on the ladies’ Royal Oak. On the Millenary, it’s used between polished segments on the stepped bezel and lugs, as well as to regions of the case side. The signature offset sub-dials that record minutes, hours, and seconds are set with opal, a fresh dial substance for this collection. Audemars Piguet additionally adds a fashion watch element to the strap variant.
Ulysse Nardin’s Only Watch 2017 entrant isn’t all that original either, but pleasant enough, with a steel-cased version of the Marine Tourbillon known as the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Only Watch. It has the same type of engraved and then blue enamel painted dial as this Ulysse Nardin Classic watch – so it should be truly striking in person. I would love one of these if I had the money.
I have a feeling that the second most valuable watch at Only Watch 2017 will be the piece submitted by F.P. Journe. Interestingly enough, there are two watches in the auction with movements produced by F.P. Journe’s Geneva factory. The F.P. Journe Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante (chronograph monopusher split second) is likely going to be very nice looking in person. It begins with a unique tantalum case that is 44mm wide (bigger than pretty much anything F.P. Journe makes) and has a dial that is “blue chrome” with orange and yellow accents. The watch’s movement is further extremely beautiful being the caliber 1517 and was apparently developed just for the Only Watch 2017 auction. That makes it one of the few unique movements for the event. This watch has “half a million bucks” written all over it.