Most Expensive Watch Ever: Inside Patek Philippe’s $ 31 Million Record


The next step did not come until six minutes after the start of the auction when an offer of 25 million francs arrived. There was no longer any doubt: the Patek Philippe would be the most expensive timepiece ever sold, breaking the record previously held by a Patek Philippe pocket watch commissioned by banker Henry Graves in the 1920s that sold out. $ 24.4 million in 2015.

Still, the numbers kept piling up like a Jenga tower – the end was inevitable, but right now everyone was having a good time. After a brief pause after the 27 million franc mark, Kadakia rebuked his suddenly tortured bidder. “He’s changing his story,” he joked. “The numbers are too big now. But the numbers kept getting bigger anyway: 28 and 29 million were coming and going. 30 million received a huge applause and a woman on the phone raised her hand so casually to announce, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, 31 million. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Kadakia said before finally knocking down her hammer, “once in a lifetime.”

The movement made the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime the most expensive watch ever sold by far. It is a stunning result. Unlike the Paul Newman, this watch was neither vintage nor fueled by incredible provenance. The Grandmaster Chime is a modern watch specially designed for the Only Watch auction, which donates 100% of its proceeds to research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The watch is the most advanced ever produced by Patek Philippe, which is already renowned for making the most advanced wristwatches in the world. The watch comes with 20 complications – think of it like apps for a watch – including minute repeaters that strike the time, a perpetual calendar, a second time zone, a moon phase indicator and dials for the day. and the date. In addition, the watch is, surprisingly, reversible. On one side, a sleek black dial and on the other a salmon-colored dial engraved with the words: “The Only One”. “[Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern] told me that he wrote the mention of ‘The Only One’ to emphasize its uniqueness and that he was sorry that he hadn’t had the idea before, ”Pettavino wrote via email. It would have taken Patek Philippe 10,000 man-hours in total to manufacture the watch. “From the beginning [of Only Watch’s paternship with Patek Philippe,] in 2005, their idea was to go crescendo ”, explains Pettavino. “And this time, super crescendo!

Courtesy of Patek Philippe
Courtesy of Patek Philippe

Although the watch is exceptionally complicated, marking the watch as “The Only One” is probably what armed this watch with the hammer to break previous records. There are a lot of beautiful Patek Philippes that collectors can buy, and a lot of very technical ones, but what makes this particular reference a $ 31 million watch is its uniqueness. “Obviously, that’s the exclusivity of this one,” says Wind.

Only Watch is also not the only winner of this auction. Before the auction, people whispered that Patek Philippe was there for the glory. “All the conversations before were that Patek Philippe really wanted to overtake Rolex as the most expensive wristwatch ever sold,” says Wind. “It was very uncomfortable for them not to have the record for the most expensive wristwatch. So from day one, they set about making the watch that could surpass it.”

The watch collection will also benefit a great deal from this ceiling-raising piece. The watchmaking community has long questioned why watches weren’t considered as valuable as cars or works of art. While this result alone will not put watches on the same level as these collectibles, it is certainly a step in the right direction. “It’s great to see the goalposts expanding into the watch collecting realm,” Wind said.

In the days leading up to the auction, Wind said opinions were mixed on the value of the watch. “A friend of mine who is quite connected with Asian collectors said there was a lot of talk about it outdoing the [Henry] Graves, which people said a few days ago would be so crazy. The wind laughs at the memory now. Days later, a $ 31 million wristwatch still elicits this reaction: laughter or disbelief. “I didn’t expect this level to be conceivable“Says Pettavino.” It’s so strong that I still have difficulty integrating this amount. Above Everest and the sky. Somewhere in space … “


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