The biennial Only Watch charity auction for Duchenne muscular dystrophy is always one of the most anticipated and exciting events for watch collectors and hobbyists. This year, 53 brands will have their one-off timepieces auctioned on November 6th in Geneva. You’ll remember that the last Only Watch in 2019 had the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A that sold for a record-breaking CHF31 million and, though I doubt that record will be broken this year, it’s very likely that Patek may end up atop the field again this year — but with a desk clock.
Audemars Piguet will also get a lot of attention with what may be the last Royal Oak ref. 15202 with the Only Watch ref. 1520XT in titanium and bulk metallic glass that is, aesthetically, virtually identical to the original A series Royal Oak ref. 5402. There are also some pieces that we haven’t seen photos of yet; in particular, the Voutilainen x De Bethune collaboration piece will no doubt be a two-face stunner.
One of the models yet to be revealed beyond a movement sketch is the Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II, which will debut a new calibre with what looks to be deadbeat seconds and twin barrels. As of now, we only have that sketch to go on, and we know it will feature an enamel dial, as well, but we’ll be keeping a close eye here. I’d also be remiss not to mention the MB&F HM10 Panda, which is an adorable take on its HM10 Bulldog that can be seen in some sketches. The sketches of this one bring a smile to my face that will undoubtedly broaden once we see photos.
Ok, let’s get into it. Here are our favorite Only Watch 2021 releases as chosen by the aBlogtoWatch editors. Obviously, we look forward to seeing what the community thinks in the comments section.
The limited-edition El Primero Defy Felipe Pantone was one of the most memorable watches of 2021. Zenith now ups the ante of this beautifully hued concept in a complex double-tourbillon chronograph and sapphire crystal case. What’s not to lust for?
Presented in a 5.80mm-thick tantalum case, Bulgari’s 2021 Only Watch piece is a unique variation of the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar. An arguably cool and refreshing dial hides a 2.75mm-thick movement, the world record-setting BVL Calibre 305. Despite its remarkable thinness, it offers a 60-hour power reserve — no small feat when considering what’s offered by “historic” brands. A blue dial with a touch of orange adds to the uniqueness. Can you spot the “OW” in orange, referring to Only Watch? I wish such details were more common among new (and regular-production) luxury watches.
Arguably the most technical-looking watch in his hugely successful “Wristmons” series, Konstantin Chaykin has created the Martian Tourbillon for Only Watch 2021. That’s actually huge news: It’s the first wristwatch from Chaykin to have a tourbillon. Upon our visit to his manufacture, the Russian master watchmaker has shown us wristwatch prototype movements of all sorts of complications, including a tourbillon — he just simply wasn’t ever interested in finishing them up into “regular” tourbillons and minute repeaters that are otherwise proudly offered by his contemporaries. And so, for the tourbillon to happen, it had to have a twist to it: Enter the world’s first Martian Tourbillon that makes a revolution every 61.65 seconds, the duration of one Mars minute, partially reducing the effects of Mars’ gravity. If you were to have this with you on, you know, Mars. Oh, and that smile? That’s the world’s first Martian calendar device, working based on the algorithms of Thomas Gangale’s calendar system. The smile is the Martian month, consisting of 28 sols, with the sol numeral markers made with symbols of the Martian numeral system that Konstantin Chaykin invented especially for this watch.
Krayon has only been around for a couple of years, but movement-maker Rémi Maillat’s Everywhere and Anywhere watches are contemporary heavy-hitters, in my opinion. For Only Watch 2021, the Krayon Anywhere watch gets a hand-painted contemporary reinterpretation of Monet’s Impression, Rising Sun on the dial. It’s a beautiful mosaic that subtly reflects this year’s orange theme and is also a nod to the sunrise and sunset complication of the Anywhere watch.
Krayon makes some of the most beautiful movements out there right now, and this Only Watch piece uses the very first prototype calibre of its stunning C030 Series. The remarkably thin 5mm movement is, in my opinion, simply breathtaking, and this is an early piece of history from a brand that’s just getting going.
It’s not a watch, but the Patek Philippe Complicated Desk Clock Ref. 27001M-001 looks to be an absolute masterpiece and a nice way to relieve the pressure of following up on 2019’s record-breaking sale. Inspired by the 1923 piece made for James Ward Packard, the desk clock is done in a sterling silver cabinet with American walnut inlays and vermeil decorative details.
The totally new calibre 86-135 PEND IRM Q SE movement features a perpetual calendar, moon phase, week-number display, and an indicator for its 31-day (that’s 744 hours) power reserve. When you open the front panel, you can see the crank that is used to wind the movement as well as set time or functions via a series of buttons above. The whole mechanism is just awe-inspiring to me, and I won’t be shocked if this desk clock out-performs everyone else at Only Watch 2021.
As one of the last, rarest, and most visually unorthodox of the original ’70s run of Calibre 11/12 Heuer Monaco models, the black PVD “Dark Lord” and its more serious sporty take on the iconic square chronograph is one of the most collectible models in the entire Monaco lineage. For Only Watch 2021, TAG Heuer reinvents the “Dark Lord” as an aggressive, high-tech take on the current Heuer 02 Monaco with new material innovations and clever nods to the Monaco’s ‘70s lineage. The TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco reinvents the familiar square 39mm Monaco case in forged carbon. The intricate web of the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco’s dial is milled from a single piece of forged carbon fiber as well for a monolithic look. The flaming orange accents are also directly lifted from the ‘70s model, while also paying tribute to Only Watch 2021’s official orange color palette. The in-house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph movement inside the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco also receives bespoke treatment, with nearly every element of both sides of the movement featuring complex hand-finishing through an application process that takes a full 25 hours. On the technical front, this is also the first Heuer 02 and the first Monaco to be fitted with TAG Heuer’s experimental carbon hairspring, which according to the brand provides exceptional, shock resistance, anti-magnetism, temperature stability, and chronometric performance. In a left-field move, the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco’s black calf leather strap takes on the pattern of the NSA bracelet mounted to the original Monaco “Dark Lord.” By combining the look of one of the most unique vintage Heuer Monaco models with an aggressive modern forged carbon solution and impressively detailed finishing, the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco stands out in a year that has already been extremely fruitful for the Monaco line so far. Only Watch expects the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco to hammer for between 50,000 to 100,000 CHF.
If there were any lingering doubt that ‘70s-inspired Swiss digital luxury watches are currently making a comeback, this should put a stop to the debate. In a field of Only Watch entries dominated by ultra-complex haute horlogerie, Girard-Perregaux and partner Bamford Watch Department’s decision to not only go with a quartz watch but a digital one has given the two brands one of the most striking and distinctive releases in the entire auction lineup. While the new Girard-Perregaux Casquette – Only Watch Edition certainly draws from the original ‘70s Casquette, this Syd Mead-esque retro-futuristic form is given an ultramodern makeover through its use of materials. The 42.4mm by 33.6mm rounded rectangular case is made from light, striated forged carbon with a digital dial cut into the 6 o’clock side of the form. Girard-Perregaux wraps this shape around the wrist with a caseback and pushers made from Grade 5 titanium. The ruby-red LED display at 6 o’clock harkens back to the earliest digital watch designs, including the original Casquette, but the Casquette – Only Watch Edition has a trick up its sleeve here. While the original model was a time-only watch, this new iteration can swap between two time zones, a chronograph, a date display, and what Girard-Perregaux refers to as a “secret date.” This function allows the user to program in a meaningful date on a daily basis, at a chosen time. With a sleek retro-futuristic ‘70s digital look married to high-tech materials, the Girard-Perregaux Casquette – Only Watch Edition may well be the most unique and eye-catching entries in this year’s event. Only Watch expects the Girard-Perregaux Casquette – Only Watch Edition to sell for between 10,000 to 20,000 CHF.
I actually really like the Only Watch cycle — not because of the auction’s altruistic origins, or all the wild new unobtainium to gawk over, but the simple fact that many of these more approachable watches offer a hint behind secretive doors at concepts that various brands might be experimenting with for release later. One of those concepts is a more tool-esque approach to Chopard’s modern stainless steel sports watch, the Alpine Eagle. And just as I had hoped, its bead-blasted Lucent steel case and supple leather strap with curved titanium inserts start to look a lot like the Vacheron Constantin Overseas one-off prototype for Cory Richards from a few years back – another fully de-blinged luxury sports watch that gives me feelings. The idea of stripping a luxury product of all the outward things that make it “appear” luxurious is a principle I’ve always really loved, and one that works extremely well with the usually very shiny Alpine Eagle, particularly with a fully matte bezel and matching screws. I also thought it odd that the original Alpine Eagle came to market without a strap option, which was a shame, as I’d argue that the bracelet really isn’t for everyone. I’m also a complete sucker for stone dials, and this special Alpine Eagle XL Chrono for Only Watch actually houses a gorgeous, multi-colored granite dial quarried from Switzerland’s Graubünden region. It’s a neat tie-in to a watch inspired by the mountains, and it represents a broader concept that I’d love to see come to the Alpine Eagle platform, as a whole. When the dust on the auction settles, this one-of-one Chopard for Only Watch is hoped to hammer for between 30,000 and 50,000 CHF, a decent premium over the standard Alpine Eagle Chrono XL which retails for 19,200 CHF.
Let’s get one thing straight: Representation in the Only Watch auction should, at minimum, require a physical prototype — concept watch, or not. But since Akrivia and MB&F already got the nod, I’ll set aside my chagrin and add a third paper napkin sketch to the list, this one from rising indie star Czapek, which hints at the future of the Antarctique with a wild skeletonized “Rattrapante” (split-second) chronograph design, dubbed “Sunrise” for what we’re only left to assume will be the orange CVD (chemical vapor deposition) elements of the movement and dial. Given Czapek’s current skill around colored dials, it’s safe to assume this is going to be quite a spectacle, and it’s also nice to see the Antarctique getting more in the way of complication, but gee, it would have been real nice to get a better look at this one. Auction estimate for this soon-to-be-produced watch is between 60,000 CHF and 90,000 CHF.