Watch prices By the kilo
Thirty grammes of fine watchmaking at 20 million per kilo is worth every penny.
If you were to look for comparisons, fine watchmaking has more in common with pink diamonds than with supercars, more similarities to saffron than to luxury yachts. The lighter the object, the greater the price per kilo. Even comparing like with like, lightness comes at a price. It’s counter-intuitive, because it’s easy to assume that solid gold or platinum watches will be the most expensive, because they are the heaviest. But nothing could be further from the truth. A hefty diving watch with solid gold case and bracelet weighs around 250 grams. And that’s quite a hunk of metal to lug around on your wrist. They cost around €35,000, which works out at around €140,000 per kilo. Even the heaviest watch in existence, which is also one of the rarest, follows the same logic (although “logic” is perhaps not the best word for this essentially artificial and frivolous exercise...). The Patek Philippe Calibre 89 is the weightiest watch in the world, its 1728 components and 24 complications tipping the scales at 1.1 kg. The last one sold at auction went for the princely sum of 24 million dollars, which is around 19.5 million euros per kilo at today’s exchange rate. And while these figures are pretty large, they’re far from being the largest.
In the rarefied world of ultra-light watches, the more negligible the weight, the more the laws of gravity seem to have been inverted. Every time a record is broken, all the measuring devices go haywire, and all the usual points of reference go out of the window. It’s a bit like superconductors, or quantum physics. The most extraordinary example can be found at Richard Mille. The RM27-01 is the lightest of his ultra-light watches, a family of timepieces housed in composite cases made of carbon nanofibres, with complex skeletonised movements carved from titanium, aluminium or alloys thereof. Weighing 19 grams fully clothed, at an advertised price of €758,000, the RM27-01 costs... 39.9 million euros per kilo. Even a Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta doesn’t come close. €1.8 million for 1,300 kg puts it at €1,380 per kilo. At that sort of price, I might as well take two, thank you very much.
As we move further away from this record, the per-kilo price curve follows an inverse exponential trajectory. For example, a Hublot Classic Fusion Tourbillon Skull, skeletonised and made of aluminium, weighing in at a total of 35.7 grams, goes for €105,000, which comes to 2,940,000 €/kg. A bit further along the curve, Zenith is asking €15,000 for its 45-gram El Primero Lightweight, which is 330,000 €/kg. The next stop on the line is Hamilton, with its Khaki Pilot Pioneer Aluminium: 50 grams and €895, making 18,000 €/kg.
See what I mean? The curve is largely arbitrary, based on a more or less random selection of watches. It’s not representative of any statistical law of watchmaking, and besides, watches are not sold by the kilo. This kind of measurement is generally applied to raw materials, whereas a watch represents the culmination of an alchemical process in which the base metal is transformed by judicious doses of genius, engineering and imagination into something completely different. And it’s this alchemy that explains the prices commanded by record-breaking models such as those produced by Richard Mille. And yet, this is nothing compared to the fascination and speculation aroused by coloured diamonds. Ultra-rare, mysterious, collectible and transportable, they touch something in the deepest recesses of the imagination (and the pocket). The Oppenheimer Blue, weighing 14.62 carats, went for 57.5 million dollars. Given that one carat weighs 0.2 grams, this vivid blue diamond with its perfect hue and purity weighs in at... hold on tight to those scales... more than 20 billion euros per kilo.
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