The Most Expensive Watch in the World Is Now This $31M Patek Philippe
The stainless-steel Grandmaster Chime was auctioned off at Only Watch 2019
On Friday, the record holder for the most expensive wristwatch sold at auction was Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona, which originally cost around $200 but sold in 2017 for $17.8 million. On Saturday, a new timepiece took the record, with a similarly astonishing jump in price.
The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime ref. 6300A, a stainless steel one-off from the first name in Swiss horology, was estimated to sell between $2.5 to $3 million at this weekend’s Only Watch auction, according to Christie’s. Instead, it sold for over $31 million, becoming not only the most expensive watch ever sold at auction, but the most expensive watch in the world. Period.
You might be wondering what, exactly, makes a timepiece worth $31 million? For starters, the subdial at 12 o’clock makes it clear this is “The Only One,” so exclusivity certainly plays a big part. But it’s also a brand new piece, whereas the Paul Newman Daytona had decades of history, as did the previous record-holder for most expensive watch (a Patek Philippe pocket watch from the 1920s which went for $24 million). So where did this instant price inflation come from?
Hodinkee breaks it down like this:
- The auction: Only Watch is a biennial charity auction in Geneva where the best watchmakers in the world create one-off timepieces to raise money for Duchenne muscular dystrophy research. As it’s for a good cause, potential buyers might be likely to go over normal limits. But more than that, the fact that this is the 8th Only Watch auction, and that the stakes are raised every year for both manufacturers and collectors, create a kind of frenzy in the watch world.
- The brand: Specifically, “Patek Philippe watches at Only Watch are basically sure-fire home runs,” writes Hodinkee. The website cites the outcome of previous years, including the 2015 contribution that sold for around $7.35 million and 2017’s that sold for $6.2 million.
- The model: The Grandmaster Chime is Patek’s most complicated watch. According to the company, “The 20 complications include five chiming modes, two of which are patented world firsts: an acoustic alarm that strikes the preselected time and a date repeater sounding the date on demand.” But its most interesting detail for those outside might be the reversible case, which lets you wear it with either the “time” dial or the “calendar” dial facing up.
- The details: Apart from the phrase “The Only One” inscribed on the sub-dial, there are plenty of other covetable details. While it may seem antithetical, using stainless steel here was a huge deal: “Unique Patek Philippe watches in non-precious metals are catnip for serious collectors and will command top-dollar,” writes Hodinkee. Also, the salmon-colored dial is on-trend in watch circles, so Patek made a big bet on modernity — and won.
But if the watch ends up being a bust, and the prince or oil baron or other tycoon who bought the watch (the identity of the buyer was not released) sees the value dip in the coming years, it doesn’t really matter. It was for charity, after all.
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