Held every other year since 2005, Only Watch is an auction with a difference. Not only has every timepiece offered for sale been created especially for the event – and is thus utterly unique – but it’s also one of the few major auctions in the world in which 99 percent of all revenues have gone direct to charity.
Only Watch was founded by Luc Pettavino, a former president of the Monaco Yacht Show, who in 2003 set up the Monaco Association against Muscular Dystrophy after discovering his son, Paul, was suffering from this rare and debilitating genetic condition. Quickly enlisting the support of Monaco’s Prince Albert to the cause, Pettavino then set about convincing many of the world’s most eminent watch brands to create a unique timepiece, all of which would be sold at an auction in aid of the association.
For the first Only Watch auction, which was held in collaboration with Antiquorum, 34 watch manufactures responded to the call. The event proved such a success that Pettavino decided to do it again two years later – and so it went. By 2015, when the sale moved to Geneva, the number of watch manufacturers involved had risen to 50, and when the hammer fell for the last time in the 2019 event – the eighth Only Watch auction in the series – the total funds raised to combat Duchenne muscular dystrophy exceeded €70 million.
Although his son sadly succumbed to the illness some years ago, Pettavino remains as committed as ever: for the 2021 sale at Christie’s in Geneva on November 6, he’s brought together 54 brands, each of which – in a remarkable display of collective altruism – has created a singular watch for the occasion. From the treasures on offer, we take a look at 12 of them.
If Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Jumbo Extra Thin isn’t already one of the most covetable timepieces on the planet, the maison has made its Only Watch one-off even more desirable by treating it to a case and bracelet in sandblasted titanium, with bezel and bracelet links in a palladium alloy called bulk metallic glass. We suggest you start bidding now.
Jaquet Droz has been with Only Watch from the beginning and for this year’s auction it created the open-worked Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon in a 41mm yellow-gold case. With its stunning plique-à-jour enamel dial, the timepiece appears translucent like a stained-glass window, while the one-minute tourbillon regulator is held in place by a titanium frame so slender it seems to float.
Bovet’s whimsical contribution is the Miss Audrey Sweet Fairy Only Watch, whose dial — made from pure sugar — combines miniature painting techniques with Super- Luminova, so it glows in its entirety, while the hands come together to form a heart every 65 minutes. The Amadeo system enables the watch, which features a diamond-set bezel, to be easily converted into a pendant or desk clock.
Although some might think Montblanc’s appropriation of the name of a 19th- century French watchmaker a trifle cheeky — after all, the brand only sold its first timepiece in 1997 — there’s no doubt that the Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Only Watch ’21 is a fitting tribute to the man who developed the world’s first commercially viable chronograph. Not only does it come in a 43mm pebble-shaped yellow-gold case that houses a double-barrel, monopusher-operated MB R-200 automatic movement, but it’s also accompanied by a wooden replica of Rieussec’s 1821 timepiece.
A contemporary reinterpretation of a marine chronometer, Ulysse Nardin‘s UFO Table Clock for Only Watch is based on a limited edition produced earlier this year. Here, instead of being finished in metallic blue, it comes in a dazzling electric orange colour; the removable blown-glass cover is attached to the spherical anodised base by a bayonet mount.
Based on the 2021 homage to a radium-free luminescent dive watch created for the German Navy in the 1960s, Blancpain’s Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad for Only Watch features hands, hour markers, chapter ring and bezel scale in wild orange lume, as well as an orange and yellow “no radiation” logo on the dial at 6 o’clock. Otherwise, this is your “standard” 40.3mm Fifty Fathoms in a steel case, with a 1154 calibre and water resistance of 30 bar.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola partnered with FP Journe to create the FFC Blue watch, which comes in a case made from rare tantalum, is powered by an automatic Octa calibre 1300.3 and features a gloved automaton whose fingers tell the time by extending or retracting. If not unsettlingly bizarre, this is certainly one of the oddest watches we’ve seen in ages.
This 45mm Big Bang Tourbillon is Hublot’s contribution to Only Watch, its most salient feature being the use of clear and orange-coloured sapphire crystal for its case and the bridges of its skeletonised HUB 6035 automatic calibre, the latter providing up to 115 hours of power. The watch is supplied with two pairs of quick-change, one-click straps.
“Inscrutable” might be one way to describe Urwerk’s playfully simple UR-102 Gaia in aluminium and (for the case back) platinum, which records time solely through its amusingly imprecise wandering- hour complication that’s displayed in a semi-circular slit. A hand-painted lacquered image on the reverse features a representation of a starry night sky.
Argentine-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone has added his signature rainbow aesthetic to the hands, dials and bridges of Zenith’s 46mm Defy Double Tourbillon, which for Only Watch comes in a fully transparent case hewn from a block of sapphire. Presented on a rubber strap, the watch also comes with a unique work by the artist.
Neuchâtel-based watchmaker Rémi Maillat, the founder of Krayon, is best known for his Anywhere mechanical timepieces that show the times of sunrise and sunset at any spot on the planet. For Only Watch, he created this beautiful 39mm model with métiers d’art dial inspired by the Monet painting Impression, Sunrise.
For Only Watch 2021, Tudor has reinterpreted its justly popular Black Bay GMT in a case and bracelet of deeply aged steel, which also extends to the movement bridges and mainplate, both of which can be seen through a case-back crystal. The industrial, monochromatic effect also extends to the watch’s unidirectional rotating bezel and dial, while — and unusually for the BB GMT — the movement boasts Metas Master Chronometer certification.