The Best Pieces Of Only Watch 2023
Renowned houses and independent watchmakers alike never fail to pull out all the stops for the biannual charity auction.
Founded in 2005 by Luc Pettavino with support from Prince Albert II of Monaco, the biannual Only Watch auction has been able to accomplish a number of staggering things in its time. Firstly, it has raised well over $150 million for research on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) — a genetic disease that affects 1 in 3500 boys worldwide. Secondly, and perhaps even more surprisingly, it’s turned millionaires sitting in a room bidding on incredibly expensive timepieces into a genuine moral endeavour.
And, perhaps most notably (but by no means most importantly), it’s produced some truly memorable one-off timepieces in its near-20 years of existence, with the world’s leading watchmakers pulling out all the stops to produce watches that would comfortably steal the show at any other watch fair. The result is a celebration of watchmaking, aesthetics, and of course, altruism.
Now, the latest version of the auction is almost upon us, with more than 20 watchmakers having already unveiled the pieces set to go under the hammer this November. Some, including Patek Philippe, have elected to tease out the release of their Only Watch entry until closer to the big day, but with so many already released in a carnival of colour, we thought we’d get a head start and round up our favourite pieces set to go on sale.
Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon
Japanese superflat artist and verified king of collaborations Takashi Murakami is no stranger to having his iconic anthropomorphic flowers emblazoned on Hublot timepieces, but even by the Swiss house’s ostentatious standards, this is out there. A true fusion of art and horological design, a flower-shaped crown surrounds the face, inset with over 400 gemstones across its 12 colourful petals. At the centre lies Hublot’s first ever central tourbillon movement, boasting a monstrous 150-hour power reserve.
Estimate: CHF 350,000 – 400,000
Piaget Polo Skeleton Arty
One of the boldest and classiest takes on the classic model that we’ve seen to date, Piaget’s Polo gets a colourful skeleton variant for this year’s Only Watch, dressed in a handsome combination of rose gold, navy blue and bottle green. In typically urbane fashion for the brand, the watch’s colour scheme is derived from the ‘Hexa Grace’ artwork by Victor Vasarely—which adorns the roof of the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco—with the skeleton design revealing the multicoloured Manufacture calibre 1200S1 movement in all its glory.
Estimate: CHF 50,000 – 80,000
Jacob & Co. x Concepto Watch Factory Astronomia Revolution 4th Dimension
It’s not a Jacob & Co. conceptual release if it doesn’t push watchmaking boundaries in some way, and thanks to a timely collaboration with Concepto watch factory, they’ve delivered in their usual eye-popping fashion. The salient point is that the Astronomia Revolution 4th dimension houses the world’s first four-axis tourbillon ever fitted in a wristwatch. Surrounding it are 23 asymmetrically-placed gemstones, placed cut-side up for an eclectic finish, set inside a rose gold and transparent sapphire housing.
Estimate: CHF 700,000 – 750,000
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble
Bulgari is no stranger to using minerals to create visually spectacular pieces (see their Octo Roma Tourbillon Sapphire Malachite for further reference). Here, in what we’re fairly sure is a genuine first for a brand already renowned for pushing design boundaries, the house has dressed its iconic Octo Finissimo Tourbillion in a quintessentially Italian luxury material: marble. The unique shade of marble used is termed Verde di Alpi and comes from the Aosta Valley passage in the Italian-French Alps. Of course, accomplishing this was no easy feat, and cladding the case, dial and bracelet in marble required crafting over 100 wafer-thin slivers of the stone.
Estimate: CHF 150,000 – 250,000
Breguet Marine Hora Mundi 5555
The ultimate traveller’s companion with a suitably nautical theme to complement a life on the wave, Breguet’s dressy yet intrepid entry into this year’s Only Watch showcases an exclusive instant-jump time-zone mechanical complication, with the technical feat controlled by the rose gold pusher on the crown. A clever new movement allows the wearer to set two cities in the menu set underneath the dial, with a simple push shifting the hands to display the time in either. Meanwhile, a pretty sequence of twinkling dots on a midnight blue map of the Earth resemble the lights that shine up from our modern world when viewed from space.
Estimate: CHF 70,000 – 80,000
Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 3
Chronométre Ferdinand Berthoud is a relative newcomer to Only Watch, with this being the storied watchmaker’s second entry into the show. Even so, it’s one of its most intricate and exquisite. The patinated bronze housing is a one-of-a-kind build in commemoration of the 270th anniversary of Ferdinand Berthoud receiving the ‘Master Watchmaker’ title, at the age of 26. Fittingly, the timepiece is powered by the world’s first movement with a COSC-certified cylindrical balance spring.
Estimate: CHF 160,000 – 180,000
JC Biver Catharsis
Is it a piece of conceptual art? Is it an anti-watch? Call it what you like, but JC Biver’s entry into Only Watch this year embodies one very simple philosophy: putting time back at one’s disposal. The execution is simple: a face that simply doesn’t tell the time, instead serving as a canvas for a bejewelled ocean vista. Want to know the time? Flip it over. A minute repeater tourbillon rests beneath the sapphire glass caseback — attached to a single hour hand, it strips time-telling back to its bare essentials, so you can focus on the beauty of what surrounds you.
Estimate: CHF 500,000 – 700,000
ArtyA Purity Moissanite
Entirely new case materials are an increasing rarity in watchmaking for obvious reasons; namely that most things pretty, sturdy, and workable enough to make into watches has been already been discovered. ArtyA, however, have made a breakthrough with a material long known to jewellers and prospective proposers everywhere: moissanite. The second hardest material on earth after diamond, the stone has been meticulously faceted to provide a rainbow of colours, giving the impression that the movement is sitting within a huge gemstone.
Estimate: CHF 40,000 – 50,000
Andersen Genève Jumping Hours
A statement of minimalist elegance amidst a whirlpool of colour, Andersen Genève, which has entered a piece in every Only Watch since its inception in 2005, lets its materials speak for itself. A shimmering platinum crown and rose gold accents adorn a dial of pure black jade stone, honed down over countless hours to a thickness of 0.15mm. The effect is mesmerising, with the rich black of the face revealing more nuance the closer you look at it.
Estimate: CHF 40,000 – 50,000
The forthcoming Only Watch auction will take place at 2pm on the the 5th November at Palexpo in Geneva, with online and phone bidding also available.
Subscribe to the Newsletter
Recommended for you
Celebs pulled out all the horological stops for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
November 27, 2023
The timepieces have a romance and history to them that few others can match.
By Bryan Hood
November 21, 2023