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A powerful factor that encourages a timepiece’s value to increase over time is its rarity. At the recent Only Watch auction, held by His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Monaco Association Against Muscular Dystrophy, the Monaco Yacht Show and Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo, the world’s most sought-after ateliers banded together to put up 44, not only limited edition but, one-off or first-of-its-kind watches for auction.
Held every other year, the sixth Only Watch auction outdid its previous outings, as physical attendees and online bidders pledged €10,450,000 (S$15,864,224) for research on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and neuromuscular diseases in general.
While some reiterated their classic models in new colours and case materials, a select few engineered new movements, further bolstering each watch’s potential to rise in value. Here are eight valedictorians of this class.
1. Skeleton Pure Only Watch edition 2015
For this year’s auction, openwork aficionado Armin Strom produced a 43.4-mm stainless steel skeleton watch on black alligator horn-back leather. Endowed with a polished case to contrast the PVD treatment of its skeleton, the timepiece wields the ARM09-S, one of the manufacture’s eight in-house calibres that stores eight days of reserve power in double barrels. The calibre used is also the Armin Strom brainchild that drives its original flagship Skeleton Pure collection.
2. Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar
An obsidian beauty and a first for the house of Blancpain, the grand feu enamelled dial of the Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar displays not only Gregorian time, but also the Chinese calendar’s 60-year cycle. A unique movement was developed to indicate the Chinese zodiac, five elements and 10 celestial stems on the 45-mm rose gold timepiece. The back of the watch reveals a black champlevé enamelling of its oscillating weight, which also bears the ‘Only Watch’ inscription.
3. Type XXI 3813
Reinterpreted with a new platinum case in the maison’s fluted style caseband, the 2015 reiteration of Type XXI revives an icon of aeronautical timekeeping that enjoyed memorable acclaim during the mid-20th century. Derived from the 1935 chronometer commissioned by the French military and eventually issued to the French navy and air force, Type XXI 3813 has been bestowed a matte slate grey dial inscribed with the Breguet signature, whose date window, 12-hour counter, day and night indicator, and small seconds subdial are driven by the manufacture’s 584Q/1 calibre. This 1950s throwback model incorporates a new flyback function — a modern complication that has become integral to aeronautical chronometry.
4. Vintage 1945 XXL Large Date and Moon Phases
For this year’s auction, the Girard-Perregaux specially reproduced the Vintage 1945 XXL Large Date and Moon Phases in a one-off titanium DLC case. Beneath the transparent dial carved out of blue polycrystalline, as well as brushed markers, hands and Arabic numerals, this vanguard of Art Deco style’s delicately orchestrated layers demonstrate Girard-Perregaux’s precision engineering and finesse with finishes. Two patented discs, one opaque and another translucent, rotate in sync to read the two-digit date; a meticulously engineered aesthetic that has been the proud flagship of Girard-Perregaux ever since it decided to translucent the dial of the Vintage 1945.
5. Ocean Dual Time Retrograde Only Watch
Harry Winston’s redesign of its popular classic stands out with a chic gleam with its blue alligator leather, four-point star shuriken hands, and plates on the 44.2-mm watch dial. Its off-centred hour and minute dial resurfaces with a different appearance, while the model’s shuriken power reserve indicator rotates beside a calendar aperture and a day/night indicator. A second timezone is indicated by a blue retrograde hand that flies back after sweeping from the six o’clock to 10 o’clock positions.
6. Classic Fusion Only Watch Britto
This year marks the first time where an Only Watch piece went under the hammer along with the canvas painting from which it derived its design. For the noble cause, Hublot applied the art of Brazilian sculptor and painter Romero Britto to its vaunted Classic Fusion watch. The Swiss watchmaker transferred the cubist and pop art painting by Britto via champlevé enamelling to the blackened watch’s 45-mm dial, finishing the piece through successive firings at 800 degrees celcius. Armed with 90 hours of reserve power as well as a red alligator strap stitched onto black rubber, the Classic Fusion Only Watch Britto also proudly brandishes the six signature titanium H-shaped screws of Hublot, which are countersunk and locked upon its case.
7. Reference 5016A-010
As one of few brands that first defied the idea of only encasing luxury watches in precious metals, Patek Philippe once again made a statement by presenting its Reference 5016 model in steel. Also one of the most complicated timepieces among this year’s array, the Reference 5016’s claim to fame was combining its acclaimed Calatrava-style case with multiple complications – a tourbillon, a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar with moon phase display, and a retrograde date pointer that flies back with the use of a spiral-coiled spring. To add to the difficulty of its production, the manufacture finished all of this off-kilter and now unique grand complication’s 506 components by hand, including its blue enamelled dial and 18k gold dial plate.
8. Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées
The brand is no stranger to creating one-off timepieces, and this time, carves a masterpiece themed on the architecture of the industrial revolution’s golden age. Odes to the gothic arches and ribbed vaults of late 19th century train stations are abound in the 40-mm Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées. Parts of its Calibre 4400 were hollowed out aimed at achieving a spellbinding play of dimension, light and shadows. This timepiece not only pays homage to Vacheron Constantin’s first skeleton calibre that debuted in 1924, but also extends its tribute further back to the first watch that Jean-Marc Vacheron produced, which was already decorated with open-working and engraving. The case is encircled by a red embellishment in dedication to the monarchy of Monaco, as well as an open-worked 18k gold ring bearing old-world Roman numerals and the Only Watch logo, while a Maltese Cross above its central hands pay tribute to two and a half centuries of watchmaking.