Auctioning time: Only Watch 2017
The charity auction returns, with 50 timepieces from the world's top horologists up for grabs in aid of muscular dystrophy research
In watch collecting it's often a case of the rarer the better, and few things drive up the price at auction as much as the prospect of getting your hands on a piece that is truly unique. Harnessing this demand in aid of a good cause, biennial charity event Only Watch invites horology's top names to create one-off timepieces to raise much-needed funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
The 50 bespoke creations will go under the hammer at Christie's in Geneva on 11 November, but not before taking in a tour that sees them exhibited across the world. Starting on 27 September in Monaco, they will move on to Bangkok, Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Taipei, New York and Los Angeles. With each watchmaker responding to the brief in different and often surprising ways, it offers a rare chance to marvel at these exclusive pieces before they are sold to the highest bidder.
Holding the top estimate of SFr 900,000-1,100,000 is Patek Philippe's offering, which sees it reinterpret its Ref. 5208 grand complication in titanium for the first time. All eyes will be on this lot following the brand's record-breaking performance in 2015's Only Watch, which saw its Ref. 5016A-010 fetch an impressive SFr 7,300,000.
Elsewhere there are plenty of other opportunities in all price ranges to pick up a timepiece that has been designed with unusual colour combinations and materials. Frederique Constant will present its chic Perpetual Calendar model with a one-of-a-kind meteorite dial, carved from stone uncovered in the Namibian desert, while the fiery red hue of Jaquet Droz's Grande Seconde watch is derived from cuprite. Meanwhile Hublot has worked with the challenging medium of sapphire to create a transparent version of its iconic Big Bang Unico Sapphire Usain Bolt, with the lucky winner also getting a meet-and-greet with the athlete.
Such experiences have become an integral part of this year's event, with many brands offering added value to their lots beyond the watch itself. Connoisseurs will revel in the chance to go behind-the-scenes at some of the most prestigious factories and get first-hand insight from the industry's leading names; such experiences include lunch for four with Tag Heuer's charismatic CEO Jean-Claude Biver and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Tudor's headquarters in Geneva.
Others have built exclusive activities around their partnerships. Popular with petrolheads will be Bell & Ross's watch designed with the Renault Sport Formula One Team, which comes with an invitation to the last race of the championship in Abu Dhabi in November to meet the team. While Chopard is offering a similarly high-octane prize of attending the Monaco Historique GP 2018 with motor-racing legend Jacky Ickx, the inspiration behind its Only Watch 2017 model. The fashion-conscious, however, will be coveting lots from Boucheron and Chanel, which respectively come with a VIP trip to Cannes Film Festival and a seat at the fashion house's ready-to-wear show in March 2018.
The Only Watch 2017 auction takes place on 11 November; onlywatch.com