Only Watch generates a ton of buzz when manufactures step outside their comfort zone and produce totally unexpected watches. Since each Only Watch in unique, manufactures can put aside the standard market research data and get creative. There are no boards or stakeholders to answer to; it’s just a singular watch that’s designed to be a crowd pleaser.
At the auction, Patek Philippe always comes out in full force; F.P. Journe debuts entirely new complications; and Tudor has historically broken its own rules. It’s an exciting event from a horological perspective, but ultimately it’s about the fight against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Proceeds from the sales go towards research to combat the disease. It’s an example of altruism from a world typically driven by consumerism.
We were lucky enough to get some wrist time with a few of the watches. Prior to the auction on November 9th, the watches were shown in Dubai, Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei. With this much travel, I hope one of the participating manufactures enters a World Timer next year!
Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
The brothers behind Grönefeld, Bart and Tim, have a knack for stripping high horology of its pretense and bringing it down from the ivory tower, despite the massive fanfare surrounding their pieces. This model was introduced in 2016, and a unique version was entered to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève that year. Now that unique piece has landed at Only Watch. It isn’t technically a “new” watch, but with looks like this, it sure doesn’t have to be.
What sets it apart, aside from the curious constant force mechanism, is the array of finishes not just on the case, but the dial. It’s a solid-silver, one-off dial with a frosted finish that’s accented by an additional “smoked” finish on the inner step of the dial. Since 2016, the 1941 Remontoire has been lauded by the world’s greatest watchmakers, particularly Mr. Philippe Dufour.
Lot 1 has an estimate of CHF 48,000 to 69,000.
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch Edition
A two-tone case comprised of a pink-gold middle case and a white-gold bezel, caseback, and lugs, encapsulates AP’s calibre 2948 Tourbillon Openworked. The philosophy behind utilizing multiple metals is to play up the architecture of the 11:59 case. It’s finished using the same techniques that are usually applied to the finishing of AP’s calibers, in terms of brushing, beveling, and polishing.
Lot 37 has an estimate of CHF 190,000 to 240,000.
Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One
Never before has Tudor produced a ceramic Black Bay, and by extension, it’s a first for Rolex. Tudor’s latest submission for Only Watch is interesting on that point alone. Of course, Tudor has already mastered ceramic case production; the Fastrider Black Shield is a testament to that, but in the Black Bay line, it’s a first.
Not only is the case ceramic, but the bezel is too. It’s been finished in matte, lending a sort of special-ops character to a watch that normally exists on the dressier side of the tool watch spectrum. Tudor has, historically, tested out ideas at Only Watch, and some of the concepts have made it into production. A neat feature of this iteration is the display back that shows off the MT5602. The rotor is, naturally, ceramic.
As we discussed on HODINKEE Radio, there’s something interesting to note about this Tudor and others at Only Watch before it. These watches have the potential to sell for nearly 1,000% over their estimates, as did the Black Bay One in 2015. While the completely stealthy aesthetic of the Ceramic One might not have such graceful looks as the Black Bay One, it does indeed have the potential to sell for well beyond its estimate.
Lot 44 has an estimate of CHF 4,500 to 5,500.
Voutilainen TP1 Pocket Watch
This is the only pocket watch slated for sale at Only Watch, but that’s perhaps not even the most interesting thing about it. It represents a collaborative effort between storied watchmaker Kari Voutilainen and his daughter, who recently finished her studies at watchmaking school. This is the first time they’ve worked together in an official watchmaking capacity, and to honor the familial partnership, the watch is marked “Kari and Venla” through the display caseback. Inside the the TV-style titanium case is Voutilainen’s TP caliber, topped with a solid-silver dial featuring two disparate engine-turned patterns. Kari took charge on the case and dial, while Venla decided on the movement finishing and color scheme.
Lot 48 has an estimate of CHF 50,000 to 70,000.
Zenith El Primero A386 Only Watch
Only Watch’s brand color is a pale shade of blue, akin to Carolina blue. Zenith has incorporated this hue in the A386 Only Watch to great effect by replacing the usual pale-blue register at three o’clock with “Only Watch” blue. There have been a number of limited and one-off A386 models recently, but this one manages to strike the careful balance of remaining relatively austere (for a sports chronograph) and playful. Of course, the white-gold case keeps it subtle as well. You might mistake it for stainless steel until you pick it up. Of course, the wearer is constantly aware of the heft of the case. When I strapped it on my 7.5 inch wrist, I found the dimensionality of the case near perfect.
It’s quite similar to the white-gold execution of the A386 Revival we saw earlier this year, except for the aforementioned 3 o’clock register.
Lot 50 has an estimate of CHF 19,900 to 29,900.
Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph Only Watch 2019
Modern Montblanc is tied to Minerva, and this Only Watch submission is based on the monopusher chronographs of yore that were popular in the 1930s. The Minerva-produced Calibre MB M16.31 is visible through the display back and sports two column wheels, a horizontal coupling, and an oversized wheel. Like the dial, the movement also has roots in the ’30s – it’s inspired by the Minerva calibre 17.29.
Montblanc sits at the intersection of true high horology and tool watch design. This 1858 Split Second Chronograph for Only Watch certainly exemplifies the notion.