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Patek Philippe - The two sides of a watch story

Patek Philippe The two sides of a watch story

In Conversation With Luc Pettavino and Claude Sfeir About The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime “Only Watch”.

There are two sides to every story that persists in our imagination. It’s hard for a one-sided story to go anywhere; it can be difficult to find an enduring audience and a lasting appeal. Because we’re talking about the eighth edition of Only Watch here, we know that this is one of those stories that will stay with us a long time. (It already has.) And there are two sides to Only Watch.  

There is the side that is exciting, that is charged with glamorous superlatives — the high-octane auction bidding, the incredible examples of mechanical horology, the exotic jet-set locations, the millions of dollars changing hands in the course of a few hours one evening. And there is the side that is emotionally anchored, the side that is all about human connections, about building bright futures and helping children who live with a debilitating and degenerative condition.  

When the Only Watch team announced the watches to feature in this year’s auction in November, the reaction was direct and unambiguous — that this was one of the finest and most exciting selections of watches ever to appear at auction. A significant percentage of this reaction was directed towards the watch proposed by Patek Philippe: The Grandmaster Chime “Only Watch” Edition, a stainless-steel pièce unique (as all Only Watch timepieces are) based on the ultra-complicated double-sided sonnerie wristwatch that represents the apogee of mechanical watchmaking at the most revered maison d’horlogerie in the world. 

The two sides of a watch story

Grandmaster Chime Only Watch Edition © Patek Philippe

Complicated Patek Philippe watches are a big deal. Unique complicated Patek Philippe watches will send even the most seasoned collectors into a frenzy of unadulterated desire. Just mention the idea of a stainless-steel unique complicated Patek Philippe watch, and run for cover as the collective hive mind of the global watch community explodes. 

The two sides of a watch story

Grandmaster Chime Only Watch Edition © Patek Philippe

When one speaks of seasoned collectors, there are very few names that will come up before that of Claude Sfeir — jeweller, gemmologist, watch expert and overall Big Name in our world. Think of any significant watch auction result in recent years and the chances are pretty good that Claude Sfeir would have been one of the last bidders standing, and perhaps even the winner. When I spoke with him the other day about the Grandmaster Chime for Only Watch, his enthusiasm was impossible to contain.  

The two sides of a watch story

Grandmaster Chime Only Watch Edition © Patek Philippe

“I can say now, that after 38 years of experience with auctions, I understand a bit about how the prices will develop over the years. I look at what people are willing to pay for a non-unique Grandmaster Chime, and that no one is letting theirs go even at the prices being offered — between USD 8 and 10 million for a watch that was introduced in 2014 for USD 2.6 million. I consider the fact that the Only Watch version is in stainless steel, which is a big multiplying factor for complicated Patek Philippe watches. Then there is the factor of the charity auction, that it becomes about more than having a great watch or owning something unique, that people give from the heart. Thinking of all the children we can benefit, I hope the auction makes a lot this year. We have a generation of very well educated buyers and I think we will have more collectors interested this year than before. It would be wonderful if the watch can bring in 20 million, or more.” 

The two sides of a watch story

Grandmaster Chime Only Watch Edition © Patek Philippe

This estimate may seem incredible to many, but Claude is determined to push as hard as he can for this to happen. “I will take the time to tell all my friends and the collectors I know about this watch. Some of them will probably end up bidding against me, but I don’t care. I will be happy too if the watch goes to someone that I’m close to. The important thing is the charity.” 

The linchpin of the Only Watch charity organisation, founder and tireless advocate Luc Pettavino, is also the locus for the relationships and interactions behind the creation of these watches. When he recounted the story of how the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime came to Only Watch, the strongest thing that shone through is how much he values the human element of each timepiece, the communal spirit that inhabits the auction and everything associated with it. 

The two sides of a watch story

Grandmaster Chime Only Watch Edition © Patek Philippe

“When I met Thierry Stern at Baselworld this year, we were just having a very friendly conversation about life and catching up with each other. And then he said in a very discreet and low-key way, ‘We have already done a bit of work for the Only Watch edition this year’. He didn’t even tell me the reference of the watch, because he knows I don’t really understand watches in that way, and then he handed me two sheets of paper with pictures of this beautiful watch he was proposing. He said, ‘We have done this watch, now you decide what to do with it’. No mention at all about how huge this watch was, just smiling very gently, completely humble about this amazing contribution; the way he handed me the watch proposal was as if he had handed me a croissant instead of a multi-million dollar piece of art. The only thing he did to point out how special this is was to show me the dial inscription, The Only One, a little clin d’oeil to the nature of the Only Watch auction. I went out after we finished talking and I was just looking at the display of Patek Philippe watches at the exhibition booth. It was then that I realised that their star watch was a declination of the watch he just gave us, and I realised this was really huge. I had five minutes before my next meeting, and I took that time to just stand in the corridor, thinking and feeling grateful. One of the things we talked about, Thierry and I, was how we felt about the world today and how there are so many things going wrong; there is this feeling of fear and negativity… And then when moments like this happen, they can be so normal in context, but their impact is exceptional. It’s important to take the time to be grateful, because there are months of work ahead for us, but the knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes during the creation of these watches is something that feeds you.” 

The motto for Only Watch is “Create beauty to do good”. It’s a concept both simple and profound. A child could grasp it, but there is no upper limit on the maturity needed to develop it to the fullest. It motivates and justifies everything we do in equal measure. And it is the core that holds together the two sides of the Only Watch story. 


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