Only Watch 2017 uncovered numerous triumphs as well as a few potential bargains.
by James Buttery
Only Watch, the biennial charity auction of unique watches, is a wonderful thing. Since 2001 it has raised many millions to aid Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy sufferers, the genetic disorder which late last year claimed the life of event founder Luc Pettavino’s son, Paul.
In Geneva this weekend, at a sale run by Christie’s, the 7th Edition of Only Watch raised £8.2m. In an industry that deals in ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs’ this is an entirely noble project where brands donate their time and watches to raise money for a good cause, which is precisely why I feel slightly torn about extolling the virtues of Only Watch as useful event for picking up a bargain or two. However, as driving new buyers towards Only Watch will only raise more funds for a good cause in future I’ll ignore my own reservations and press on.
The star lot at Only Watch is always a Patek Philippe, usually in steel or titanium, and this year was no different with the perpetual calendar, chronograph minute repeater 5208T-010 pictured above achieving £4.76m.
While other brands signalled their growing pull at Only Watch – including a £268,000 LHD Tudor Black Bay Bronze and £882,000 for that FP Journe – the fact that one single lot represented slightly more than half of the overall total in a 50-lot sale should demonstrate that there are some very sensibly priced sales being made, especially when you consider that every watch at Only Watch is a unique piece.
Two watches within the sale carried Jean Marc Wiederrecht’s revolutionary new 6361 chronograph movement; a black and yellow (this year’s colour scheme) Faberge Visionnaire Chronograph and Carpe Diem, below, a desk clock designed by Genevan watchmaking students and housing the first example of the 6361 assembled. The Faberge came in £600 under the Visionnaire’s £31,365 retail price while Carpe Diem, admittedly something of an unknown quantity, sold for just £23,000.
Ulysse Nardin’s Marine Tourbillon is already one of the watch world’s best deals with its Grand Feu enamel dial and flying tourbillon selling at retail for £23,950. The Only Watch example, pictured below, uniquely dressed with a vibrant blue Grand Feu dial and yellow highlights only cost its new owner £650 more than had he bought one in a boutique. Even Laurent Ferrier’s much vaunted collaboration with Urwerk, the Arpal One, hammered for £76,800 despite its unique-from-the-ground-up nature.
One of my own favourites from the sale an 18ct yellow gold Piaget Black Tie with an nebulous Pietersite hardstone dial sold for £3,700 less than the collection piece commands at retail whilst Louis Vuitton’s Escale Spin Time, in fetching shades of orange, yellow and red, went for £29,200, a saving of some £5,500 on its retail price.
If you were in the market for one of these watches and a unique, never-to-be-repeated example could be had for a similar price or even less, then Only Watch should surely be on your shopping list.
Despite these bargains, the Christie’s-run sale was strong overall with every lot selling and only one piece selling for less than five figures. An H. Moser & Cie Venturer with red fume dial attracted a £12,000 premium on the £15,000 price of the closest design in the collection whilst a black and yellow TAG Heuer package of Modular 45 connected watch and 02T chronograph tourbillon watch heads and straps sold for £29,200, double what it can be purchased for.
MB&F’s playful HM8-based collaboration, above, with 15-year-old artist Cassandre Legendre went for £161,000, Montblanc’s bronze and green 1858 chronograph prompted one buyer to bid £46,000 and a blackened Hermes L’Heure Impatiente almost doubled its £28,100 price with a winning bid of £52,200.