A record 850 people cheered on as watch collectors contributed $32.1 million in just over three hours to the Only Watch charity yesterday in Geneva. This year, 53 one-of-a-kind pieces were donated to the sale, which raises funds for the Monagasque Association against Muscular dystrophy. The highlight was, as expected, the Patek Philippe complicated desk clock inspired by one made in 1923 for America’s most famous watch collector, James Ward Packard. It sold for $10,421,500 million after a 15-minute bidding war that began at $3 million. As the price climbed, the bidding came down to two contenders—one in the room and the other on the phone with Christie’s team member Bob Xue. The room cheered the two bidders on, calling out, “Come on, Bob!” as his client and the collector in the room drove the price up in tensely spaced increments. When the hammer finally came down in favor of Bob’s telephone bidder, one enthusiast shouted, “We love you Bob!”
Although the desk clock is not in the same stratosphere as last year’s Patek Philippe entry—the Grandmaster Chime that hammered for $31 million, making it the world’s most expensive watch—it is, nevertheless, impressive. The shell is sterling silver with gold vermeil appliqués, walnut inlays and a gold-ish/salmon dial. It contains a new caliber, the 86-135 PEND IRM Q SE, with perpetual calendar, moon phase, week-number display and 31-day-long power reserve indication. It is adjusted to a precision rate of -1/+1 second per day. The clock raked in an impressive number for the charity, given its ridiculously low pre-sale estimate of CHF 400,000-500,000 ($327,000-435,400).
The second highest price paid also came from an expected contender. The FFC Blue, a collaboration between F.P. Journe and director Francis Ford Coppola, sold for $4,929,390, well above the high estimate of CHF 400,000 (approximately $438,397). The dial is dominated by a blue automaton hand that tells time by holding up fingers. It was conceived in 2012 by François Paul Journe during a dinner at the Napa Valley home of Francis Ford Coppola, who asked Journe if he though it would be possible to tell time with a hand on a watch dial. Journe replied that the idea would require some thought. Francis later sent the watchmaker sketches for the finger positions, and after seven years of development, Journe created the final prototype.
Five timepieces in the sale exceeded the $1 million mark, including an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Extra Thin, a Richard Mille RM 67-2 Charles Leclerc Prototype for $2,303,700, a De Bethune + Kari Voutilainen collaboration for $1,424,046 and the Patek Philippe and F.P. Journe pieces.
But other watches had notable performances such as the Zenith Defy Double Tourbillon with rainbow PVD coated bridges that sold for $526,560. It was created in collaboration with artist Felipe Pantone, and included a work of art he created especially for the auction. The Audemars Piguet in the sale was a unique Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin Ref. 15202XT took home $3,400,700 for charity, while an H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Cylindrical Tourbillon went for $822,750, and a Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull Sapphire with a skull machined out of orange sapphire sold for $240,992.
Several other independent makers participated in the sale, going for prices that surely represent records for those brands. Ones that commanded top bids included and MB&F HM10 Panda sold for $679,160 and an Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain II sold for $877,600 after fierce bidding.
Many of the lots were accompanied by exclusive visits to the brands’ headquarters in Switzerland. The Carl F. Bucherer Heritage Bicompax Annual Calendar includes a three-day trip to Lucerne to meet the CFB team and tour the workshop. The H. Moser & Cie piece included a visit to the firm’s headquarters in Schaffhausen. The Richard Mille RM 67-02 Charles Leclerc included two passes for the next F1 Monaco Grand Prix as VIP guests of Scuderia Ferrari, and a chance to hang out with driver Charles Leclerc.
Only Watch was founded by Luc Pettavino, the former manager of the Monaco Yacht Show, after his son, Paul, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in 2000. This is the ninth edition of the biennial sale, which has raised $110 million to date for the cause. Christie’s conducted the auction at no charge and with no buyer’s premium added to the hammer price. The proceedings were opened by long-time patron of the sale Prince Albert of Monaco, who commented, “We don’t often take the time to reflect on the progress that’s been made, but we’ve come a long way. We are at the dawn of a clinical trial of a therapeutic solution thanks to Only Watch funding. In the very near future, 12 boys and young men will be given a drug that researchers believe will alleviate the disease. To you all, Only Watch community…you have my gratitude.”