There will only ever be one of each.
Between all the limited editions, special releases, and recreations of vintage models coming out of Switzerland this year, there’s bound to be a unique piece that speaks to any wearer. Hunting down an elusive model will always hold a special appeal, and that’s practically what watch collecting means to most enthusiasts. Still, the year’s most unique watches have to belong to the Only Watch auction: a biennial charity event where watch houses donate a special model to fund an equally special cause. The idea behind it is that they will only ever make one of each model, and once they get sold, that’s mostly the end of the story.
Only Watch began in 2005 as a way to fund research projects for neuromuscular diseases. Particularly, for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)—a degenerative illness that progressively eats away at the muscles. DMD affects about one in 5,000 males at birth, and to date, no cure has been found. This is precisely what Only Watch is trying to find however, and the event has raised over 40 million Swiss francs over seven occasions. The proceeds of the auctions are donated to the Association Monégasque Contre les Myopathies (Monaco Association Against Muscular Dystrophy)—an organization working to discover a solution.
Because of the cause and the nature of the watches on the block, Only Watch is one of the most important auctions in the watchmaking world. Since there will only be one of each timepiece, there’s no limit to the amount of creativity the watchmakers put in. And there’s certainly no limit to the amount the watches can go for, with each edition bringing unexpected hammer prices to the cause.
Beginning in September, the watches will go on tour, dropping by Monaco, Dubai, Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei, before ending in Geneva, where the watches will be auctioned off on November 9.
Take a look at some of the unique pieces that are going up for auction this year in the 8th edition of Only Watch. Because once the hammer falls on the auction block, we’re not likely to see them again.
Rexhep Rexhepi shot to fame over the past few years as the founder of independent brand Akrivia: a rare feat in an industry where brands have existed for decades, sometimes well over a century. After establishing his own brand in 2012 while still in his mid-20s, the Kosovo-born watchmaker has consistently come up with pieces that are slowly gaining a mainstream following.
For only Watch 2019, Akrivia is offering a one-off version of the Chronomètre Contemporain, the first line which bears Rexhepi’s name. The gray blue dial has been created in grand feu enamel, a decorative technique that uses multiple layers of differently colored enamels which are then baked in very high temperatures. The dial is finished in a hand-hammered pattern while the platinum case has been designed by the venerable Jean-Pierre Hagmann, who previously designed some of the most iconic Patek Philippe references.
Estimated price: US$40,000–60,000
Patek Philippe’s contribution to Only Watch features 20 complications, including a perpetual calendar, a moon phase indicator, and a chiming mechanism. So how do you fit all of that into a single dial? The answer is you don’t. The Grandaster Chime instead has two, and the case is reversible so you can flip back and forth between the two.
Speaking of cases, only a few Grandmaster Chimes exist (and they are rare enough to be auctioned off as well), but this is the only Grandmaster Chime that will be done in stainless steel. And to make that fact certain, the rose gold hand-guilloched dial reads “The Only One.” This is going to be a hot piece by the time the auction rolls around and could possibly go for a record amount.
Estimated price: US$2,000,000–2,500,000
1858 Split Second Chronograph Only Watch 2019
Earlier this year, Montblanc released its new 1858 collection in bronzes and greens as part of a drive to imbue it with the spirit of travel. While we personally like the green and bronze models, the 1858 Split Second Chronograph for Only Watch certainly takes the cake in the looks department.
It’s a military monopusher chronograph encased in titanium, though what makes it so stunning is the dial, which is made of degraded blue agate. The natural stone creates a very unique blue hue for the numerals and indicators to play off of. This one is very likely to exceed the estimated hammer price.
Estimated price: US$42,000–48,000
Tom & T-Rex
MB&F + L’Epee 1839
MB&F is one of our favorites here, partially due to their retro-futuristic aesthetic and primarily because you never know what to expect from the manufacture. With their famed Space Pirate bidding farewell this year, MB&F brings us something that’s just as fantastic.
Tom & T-rex is a table clock, created in tandem with renowned clockmaker L’Epee 1839. It’s made of stainless steel, brass, and bronze, with Murano glass as the dial and eyeball. So sure, it’s a clock in the shape of a robotic T-Rex, but what makes it unique (aside from being the only MB&F T-Rex with a child on top) is the story. Tom is a boy stricken with a grave illness and according to MB&F: “T-Rex offers an escape for elastic minds, carrying its little companion Tom away into fantastical realms with the earth-shaking strides of the mightiest of dinosaurs, under the protection of an all-seeing cyborg eye.”
Take all our money.
Estimated price: US$20,000–40,000
Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch Edition
Audemars Piguet is bringing a version of its latest collection, Code 11.59, to the Only Watch auction block. The collection debuted in SIHH 2019 to mixed reception, but in an industry that’s known for keeping with tradition, a little shakeup is always welcome every now and then.
The Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked’s skeletonized movement displays the intricacies and potential of the 11.59 collection, and the two-toned motif’s contrasting hues emphasizes the subtle, octagonal case. It’s certainly a complex piece that plays with shapes and angles, though everything comes together just fine. When Only Watch puts this up for auction, we’ll see just how strongly the 11.59 collection has made an impression on collectors.
Estimated price: US$190,000–240,000
ARRAW 6919 Only Watch
From the creator of the Batman watch and the Titanic Day and Night comes a tribute to the Apollo 11 moon landing. Using a space-themed design, and original Apollo 11 spacecraft material, RJ (the house formerly known as Romain Jerome) is bringing a love of the moon to Only Watch.
The moon phase indicator features a three-dimensional depiction of the moon, which rotates 360 degrees every lunar cycle, and the movement disc has a tiny applique of the Apollo 11 Command Service Module. The watch also comes with a certificate signed by the president of the Association of Space Explorers, which confirms the authenticity of the spacecraft material used. Since it’s the Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this year, this one is bound to get a lot of attention.
Estimated price: US$19,900–21,900
Aurelio Icasiano III has been in media for 14 years: as a television producer and writer, travel correspondent, book editor, and as editor of an internationally-awarded men’s lifestyle magazine. He runs an electrical construction company by day but spends all too much time thinking about the next story.