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.

By Brad Nash 07/07/2023

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.

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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy night in Sydney, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy fused with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of mixology magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci was wearing hair-to-brogue Gucci for her session of flair bartending art El Primo Sanchez. Smiling and dancing behind the bar, she was backed up by a bevy of handsome colleagues wearing smart yellow dinner jackets. IMAGE: GUCCI.
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence. IMAGE: GUCCI.

This past Tuesday Giardino 25 took bloom at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington, the Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney, a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city and curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster an atmosphere of excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas so this festival gives people the opportunity to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it, without the cost of a plane ticket.”

IMAGE: GUCCI.

Taking the bar as her personal catwalk, and dressed head to toes in Gucci, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both Bargiornale Awards and Blue Blazer Awards—prestigious accolades in the bar industry. Gucci Giardino 25 has proudly secured a spot in the 50 Best Discovery, an international list recognizing expert-recommended restaurants and bars, featuring some of the most interesting venues across the world.

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long sting at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known her use of agave, favours drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavours. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to travel to Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am-3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

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