The retailer is previewing 40 one-of-a-kind watches that will hit the auction block Nov. 11 for charity.
Gather together a group of watch aficionados, and it’s inevitable that they’ll be comparing each other’s timepieces within minutes.
A watch-as-conversation-piece is part of the fun of Only Watch, the biennial auction of one-off timepieces. Roughly 50 brands, from major names like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe to more esoteric, independent watchmakers, participate in Only Watch, with all donated pieces auctioned for charity. Since the event kicked off in 2005, Only Watch has raised more than 25 million euros for the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies, which funds scientific and medical research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Through Thursday at Westime’s Sunset Boulevard location, 40 Only Watch 2017 timepieces are wrapping up a world tour before heading to Geneva for the Nov. 11 auction at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. Accompanying the watches is Fred Watrelot, senior vice president and watches specialist for Christie’s, which for the first time is overseeing the auction duties. “It’s amazing that all of these brands are willing to gift such a beautiful watch for this charity,” he says. “Of course there is also a marketing aspect for them. While they’re contributing, each brand is also creating a little buzz with a special piece that perhaps isn’t the model you would find in a magazine. Some pieces are absolutely unique, and we’ve never seen anything like them, while others are a special edition of an existing model.” Many winning bidders also will enjoy the bonus of a customized experience, from a visit to a watchmaker’s workshops to private lunches or dinners with a brand president.
We asked Watrelot to select a variety of timepieces from the Only Watch 2017 collection and offer his thoughts on what makes each a worthy entry.
This Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is a unique piece created for Only Watch, featuring a black ceramic case, bezel and bracelet offset with a custom “Skylight” blue Grand Tapisserie dial. It’s also the first perpetual calendar watch in black ceramic to feature a black ceramic caseback with sapphire display, which reveals a hand-finished oscillating mass also in black. “It’s a departure from an existing model that’s popular among collectors,” Watrelot explains. “If an Audemars Piguet client is seeking a color combination no one else will have, this is the watch.”
Auction estimate: $83,000 - $124,000.
Created exclusively for Only Watch, Reference 5208T-010 is the first and only version of this timepiece to feature a 42mm case in titanium. The blue dial is hand-guillochéd in a carbon-fiber pattern, while the entire movement, visible through the sapphire caseback, has been black rhodium-plated. A grand complication, the watch’s functions include a minute repeater, monopusher chronograph and instantaneous perpetual calendar with day/night indicator. “I am a big fan of this watch,” Watrelot admits. “I love the mix of the complications with the polished titanium, which you never find on a Patek Philippe.” The winning bidder also will experience a visit to the Patek Philippe workshops and museum, as well as a private lunch with brand president Thierry Stern.
Auction estimate: $932,000 - $1.139 million.
The strap for the French label’s Only Watch gets the haute-couture treatment: The black calfskin cuff has been hand-embroidered at Maison Lesage, the atelier that crafts the custom needlework for Chanel, Dior and other high-end houses. Nestled among the beadwork is a Chanel J12-XS featuring a black onyx dial in a white gold and black ceramic case embellished with 24 baguette-cut diamonds. Watrelot pronounces it “a very pretty piece,” and acknowledges that the accompanying experience also should make this a popular lot at auction: The watch comes with one night at a Paris hotel and a ticket to Chanel’s Fall 2018 ready-to-wear show in March.
Auction estimate: $34,000 - $48,000.
The watchmaker has customized its iconic Classique for Only Watch to create the one-of-a-kind Breguet Classique Quantieme Perpetual en Ligne 7715, with the perpetual calendar day, month, date and leap-year functions lined up precisely on the guillochéd dial in a 39mm case of 18-karat yellow gold. “Breguet has used this movement before, but in a smaller watch; it’s the first time they’ve made it at 39 millimeters,” Watrelot notes. “It’s a very nice piece, beautifully crafted and also easy to read with the calendar functions lined up.” The winning bidder also will be invited to visit the Breguet workshops in Switzerland’s famed Vallée de Joux for a private guided tour.
Auction estimate: $83,000 - $103,000.
The Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante Bleu is a true unique piece from F.P. Journe: Developed exclusively for Only Watch, the watchmaker vows that the design will never find its way into its permanent collection. This “Monopusher Split-Second Chronograph” features a 44mm case in Tantalum, a blue-gray metal that because of its hardness is rarely used for watchmaking; a dial in blue chrome, accented with a tachymeter scale in orange, offsets the lustrous look of the case. “This is a true Only Watch, in that the movement, the case, the dial, every aspect was designed for just this event, and it’s a larger piece than you would normally find from F.P. Journe,” Watrelot says. “It’s highly exclusive. To have such a piece in the auction is a treat.”
Auction estimate: $208,000 - $415,000.
The Only Watch edition of the Slim d’Hermès L’Heure Impatiente is an exclusive update of a model released at Baselworld in March, and features a black opaline dial in a 40.5mm titanium case. The “Impatient Hour” is a complication introduced at Baselworld, an alarm the wearer can set within 12 hours of the appointed time, when a single chime will sound after a countdown that begins at 60 minutes prior. The watch also comes with an experience for the winning bidder: a private dinner on the rooftop of the iconic Hermès flagship at 24 Faubourg Saint-Honoré and one night in a Paris hotel. “Hermès doesn’t open up the top of its flagship very often, so this is a great plus to the watch,” Watrelot adds.
Auction estimate: $36,000 - $57,000.
The watchmaker has updated his floral-themed Marguerite watch to create the Magicafiore de Christophe Claret for Only Watch 2017. Hand-engraved dragonflies are positioned on the hour and minute hands, while the cherry blossom on the dial is accented with sapphires and emeralds, which also adorn the white-gold case. When the wearer presses a pusher at the 2 o’clock position, the numbers disappear to reveal a special message that will be personalized for the winning bidder. “This piece is really exquisite,” Watrelot notes. “The watch that it’s based on featured petals that felt a bit more two-dimensional, but here Claret has worked very hard to achieve a three-dimensional effect with these petals, which are cast in titanium.”
Auction estimate: $72,000 - $103,000.
Watchmaker Kari Voutilainen calls the 28S the house’s “sport model,” yet the look he created for Only Watch, featuring a matte-black dial in a 39mm titanium case, gives it a decidedly elegant feel. “Kari Voutilainen handcrafts less than 50 watches a year, so to dedicate one to Only Watch is very special,” Watrelot says.
Auction estimate: $57,000 - $88,000.