It has become a tradition.  Every two years, on an odd numbered year, and at the invitation of his Royal Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, watch manufacturers of the world all produce a unique watch for auction with all proceeds going towards research efforts on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The auction itself has produced some memorable moments: Most of them involving a unique Patek Philippe each time around, but there have been others: the battle over a red dot Tudor Black Bay last time (in 2015) and Richard Mille’s Starck collaboration in 2005 (and 2007).

In 2015, any jaded auction observer was shocked out of complacency by the sale of a unique Tudor Submariner, the precursor to the Black Bay Black, which fetched an outrageous CHF 375,000.
In 2015, any jaded auction observer was shocked out of complacency by the sale of a unique Tudor Submariner, the precursor to the Black Bay Black, which fetched an outrageous CHF 375,000.

Once again, the bidding over the Tudor was between two committed bidders who were content to move the bidding up in lump sums of around CHF 50,000.  The end price of 350,000 for the Tudor Black Bay Bronze One (falling just shy of the amount paid for the Tudor last time around — for what is a basic watch — is remarkable and you have to suspect that two bidders are using this brand as a means to contribute to a very worthy cause. Good for them.

The manufacturers enter into the exercise with differing amounts of commitment in terms of producing a unique watch: From complete new watches and collaborations, to a change of dial. This takes nothing away from the collectability of the watches. If there is one thing that has been learned from the surge in interest in the vintage watch market, it is that a dial change, or a unique dial, can drastically alter the value of a watch from the regular production piece.

For the Only Watch auction, there is always a Patek Philippe. Never mind what any other manufacturer does, the prospect of a unique grand complication is almost too much for some collectors and bidding goes through the stratosphere; which shows the power of Patek in the market and likewise perhaps undiscovered watch brands that should have more attention paid to them.

Ahead of the sale there were some notable watches. F.P.Journe’s Chronometer Souverain chronograph was bold and original; perhaps the nearest to the idea to create something unique for this auction. The Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante Bleu is truly unique for the collector and produced by arguably one of the top horological minds on the planet right now. It showed in the bidding and coming a very credible second to the Patek 5208T.

Bidding opened up at CHF 600,000, after which it went up in increments of 50,000 until 850,000 when someone bid 1 million CHF flat out. Incremental bids then pushed the watch to the end price of CHF 1,150,000. Making it the most expensive F.P. Journe watch sold and the highest price paid for an independent produced wrist watch. For the watch and for the occasion this seems a reasonable price all things considered. Journe and the winning bidder should be congratulated for their commitment to both cause and watch collecting.

The collaboration between Urwerk and Laurent Ferrier was both unique and definitely in the spirit of the auction: The Arpal One. It was perhaps an odd mix of styles: the traditional design Laurent Ferrier and the futuristic styled Urwerk, but for avid collectors of the Geneva brands, this was a very unique watch in the offering. On the wrist, the watch was heavy and oversized for my tastes. Nonetheless the watch was something unique and will not to be produced again. With some committed bidders from Hong Kong the watch (perhaps a little disappointingly) finished up at CHF100,000.  Given the pedigree of the watchmakers involved it might have been expected to go for a little more.

Other unique watches in the same design vein did better. The MB&F HM8 after bidding between two committed bidders went for CHF 210,000. However, perhaps the most surprising result went with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in ceramic with the skylight blue dial, polished white gold counters, and an orange tinted photo realistic moon. The dial was an iridescent blue and depending on the light was either dark blue or a form of ultraviolet. This is a difficult enough watch to obtain even as a regular production model, and this one had the unique dial. Bidding started at CHF 150,000 and with some committed bidding between two bidders the watch went for an astounding CHF 800,000 accompanied (quite rightly) by a generous round of applause!

Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Only Watch, Ref 26599CE.OO.1225CE.01
Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Only Watch, Ref 26599CE.OO.1225CE.01

Outside of the more notable results, most of the watches went for prices that were generous showing the draw and the continued interest forf the Only Watch auction to collectors around the world. But when Christie’s auctioneer stood on the lectern and picked up his gavel and started to sell the watches, there were not a lot of surprises in the room. The high flyer as expected was the Patek ref 5208T triple complication in titanium with a unique dial and finish on the movement. The price was not quite as high for the Patek as the last time there was an outing on Only Watch, but still a notable price at CHF 6,200,000. The bidding accelerated swiftly up to past the 5 million mark but stalled around the 5.5 million mark. Surprisingly, after some notable bidding on the phones, it went to a phone bidder represented by John Reardon himself. Although the Only Watch Patek ceased to be the most expensive watch, this is still the fourth most expensive wrist watch ever sold; making it no slouch.

Complete sale amounted to CHF 10,776,550. For price realised on individual lots, log on to christies.com