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Only Watch - Number crunching

Only Watch Number crunching

What do the Only Watch results say about the market for unique piece watches?

Last week’s Only Watch auction bought in a highly respectable 10.776 million Swiss francs in aid of research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This was slightly less than the total of the previous edition in 2015, due to the star lot – the Patek Philippe Ref. 5208T – fetching “only” 6.2 million Swiss francs. But this was still more than all the other 49 lots combined and proof that a unique Patek Philippe – regardless of its case material – is still worth millions to a collector.

But what of those 49 other lots? Which other brands were hot (or not) at this year’s edition of the biennial charity auction? One big surprise was the F.P. Journe Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante. As this lot came up in the sale, fellow journalist Ian Skellern whispered his own prediction to me: 250,000 Swiss francs. Within seconds he was hushed as the bidding frenzy quickly reached the million mark, with two bidders battling it out in the final increments of 50,000 Swiss francs. The watch finally sold in the room for 1.15 million Swiss francs – over twice its high estimate.

Even more impressive was the demand for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic, which sold for over six times its high estimate at 800,000 Swiss francs. Less surprising was the left-handed Tudor Black Bay Bronze, for which the bids quickly started in the hundreds of thousands, despite the 4,500 – 5,500 estimate. The hammer finally fell at 350,000 Swiss francs. Contrary to certain reports in the specialised press, this was not a record for a Tudor wristwatch sold at auction, however, since a right-handed version of the Black Bay sold for 375,000 Swiss francs at Only Watch 2015.

Number crunching

Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic - unique piece for Only Watch 2017 Audemars Piguet

Among the top ten performers in the sale (as measured in multiples of their high estimate) were the Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC, which sold for over three times its high estimate (53,000 Swiss francs), the Konstantin Chaykin Joker, which sold for precisely three times its upper estimate at 45,000 Swiss francs. The fact that the standard limited edition of just 99 pieces of this cheeky timepiece, costing 7,500 Swiss francs, has already sold out, made this unique piece all the more appealing.

The unique WOSTEP watch, without a brand name to back it up, went for over twice its high estimate, as did the MB&F Horological Machine No. 8. Hublot’s unique Big Bang came close to doubling its high estimate, selling for 150,000 Swiss francs. The opportunity for the buyer to meet Usain Bolt, after whom the watch is named, was surely a factor in the competitive bidding. The unique fruit of a collaboration between Laurent Ferrier and Urwerk, whose highly polished surfaces make it notoriously difficult to show off in photos, performed respectably, fetching 100,000 Swiss francs against a high estimate of 70,000.

Number crunching

Big Bang Unico Sapphire for Only Watch Hublot

Only seven watches in the sale failed to match their low estimates. Some missed out by only a few thousand (Speake-Marin, Moritz Grossmann, Piaget), while others such as Louis Vuitton, MCT and Christophe Claret, showed a sizeable deficit, selling in some cases below the retail price of the standard model.

The overall figure raised by the Only Watch 2017 sale was 10,776,500 Swiss francs, a figure that relatively few people in our prediction competition guessed right, giving them a better chance of winning the pack of Swiss wines with a high-end corkscrew that was on offer. See you again in two years for the next sale!

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