It’s the world’s most anticipated horological auction — and its unique timepieces are coming on tour to Dubai. MOJEH counts down the wild and wonderful wares of Only Watch, and finds out how it’s all in aid of a good cause
Bespoke is trending in the watch world — but is there a way to combine the quest for the perfect unique timepiece with working towards a greater good? Enter Only Watch, where every other year the world’s most sought-after horologers donate a wholly unique timepiece to be auctioned for a very worthy charitable cause. As these special watches go under the gavel, the horological world holds its breath — and 100 per cent of the proceeds goes to funding research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which in turn benefits advances in the treatment of a whole range of muscle wasting diseases.
“Thanks to the increasing great mobilisation of the watch industry and the support of an entire ecosystem, this initiative has become a very awaited biennial rendezvous in the horology calendar for both brands and collectors,” says Luc Pettavino, founder of Only Watch. “It has allowed the charity organisation behind Only Watch, the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies, to raise nearly CHF100 million [Dhs417 million] and fund very significant scientific and medical progress.”
Only Watch was responsible for the highest price ever paid fora watch at auction — the 2019 sale saw a Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime sell for a whopping CHF31 million [Dhs130 million], making it the most expensive watch in the world. Each auction is themed around a colour, with the previous edition focusing on orange, and plenty of watchmakers followed suit including Hermès decking its HO8 watch with rubber in the brand’s signature hue, while the transparent orange of Hublot’s Big Bang Tourbillon Only Watch looked good enough to eat.
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So what can we expect from this year’s bumper crop of 62 lots? As this is the 10th anniversary edition of the auction, the theme for 2023 is rainbow, incorporating many of the past editions’ colours into one bright idea. Some brands have gone full-on dayglo, such as Bell & Ross’s BR30 Cyber Rainbow which is an absolute riot of colour, while the primary goodness of Zenith’s box set of four Chronomaster Sports in green, blue, red and yellow takes a more subtle approach. And while others have remained closer to their comfort zones with muted hues and signature palettes — such as Chanel’s faithful devotion to monochrome and the cool ice green guilloché dial of Chopard’s L.U.C 1890 Only Watch Edition — they’re all deserving of a detailed inspection. The 2023 collection will come on tour to Dubai for viewing at the Museum of the Future on the 27th of October, allowing us to get a closer look before the auction which will take place in Genevaon the 5th of November.
“The Middle East in general and Dubai in particular have always been a very important destination for Only Watch,” says Luc. “They are places where we meet people with both a great expertise and love for high-end watches and a special open-heartedness and care for the life of sick children. So yes, this community strongly bids and buys on Only Watch. They have my deepest appreciation and gratitude. That’s why we are coming back to Dubai this year to showcase the collection to the watch lovers of the region. And I am sure they will be very enthused again by this 2023 Only Watch unique collection.”With a wide variety of styles, colour ways and motifs, there certainly seems to be something for everyone. And if it’s uniqueness you’re looking for, then one thing’s for certain — this is the event of experimentation and innovation.
“The auctions are great occasions for brands to participate to an international-scale event that allows them to ‘create beauty to do good’, which is our motto,” says Luc. “It’s a unique opportunity to test innovations, whether design or mechanical. But it’s also a platform for watchmakers and watch brands to contribute very significantly and in a collective way, with their teams and their peers, to a cause. We know this means a lot to them. The 2023 collection is breathtaking in all of its diversity. What makes it so special is that each piece stands out in its uniqueness:there are so many innovations and surprises. I believe it gives all watch lovers and enthusiasts items to dream of for months or years to come!”
Bird on a Rock Mechanical Pendant Watch, Tiffany & Co.
Lot 56 | Estimate: Dhs1.46 million —Dhs2.09 million
Evoking the wit and whimsy of Jean Schlumberger’s timeless Bird on a Rock brooch, this pendant pulls together numerous Tiffany& Co. threads to create a masterpiece of watch jewellery. From the delicate gold-flecked chain to the rich Tiffany blue of the 34-carat aquamarine crystal that perches upon a dial snow-set with 461 round-cut diamonds, it’s a masterclass in craftsmanship and conveys nothing but personality. And the fun doesn’t stop there — the hand-wound mechanical movement that powers the dainty timepiece shows real watchmaking chops, while the all-important bird is as jaunty as ever. Unmissable for Tiffany & Co. fans.
Joy de Lumière, Boucheron
Lot 12 | Estimate: Dhs147,000 — Dhs189,000
An art deco triumph of cascading black spinelsand diamonds, this jewellery watch resembles at winkling night sky — and its interlinking lugs and bracelet are undoubtedly the stars of the show. More than 260 round diamonds nestle into whitegold, attached to a flexible bracelet resplendent in five rows of hand-twistable spinel, making this a boldly tactile piece. It’s classic, it’s forever, and it’s totally, unapologetically Boucheron — a unique piece of the Maison’s history.
Mademoiselle J12 La Pausa, Chanel
Lot 17 | Estimate: Dhs168,000 — Dhs210,000
Inspired by the iconic image of Gabrielle ‘Coco’Chanel at her La Pausa villa on the French riviera, this pair of black and white ceramic J12s depict the Maison’s founder in all her defiantly androgenous glory. The striped jersey and sailor pants are instantly recognisable as symbols of Mademoiselle Chanel’s stripped-back summer style, drawing the attention to the whimsically moving arms of these Mickey Mouse-style watches — the back of which sports engraving exclusive to this Only Watch pair.
Talisman Origine, Richard Mille
Lot 51 | Estimate: Dhs2.5 million —Dhs3.35 million
With a sci-fi ‘backstory’ good enough to launch a binge-worthy Netflix series, the Talisman Origine is a supposedly 1,000-year-old shamanic relic uncovered in the Swiss mountains. It’s a fantastical tale, but the craftsmanship on this pendant watch is very real. A skeletonised automatic tourbillon movement is housed in a satin-finished and symbolically engraved red gold case, suspended from a necklace threaded with Swiss grapevine wood, marble and rhodonite in a whimsical future/past representation of Swiss culture.
MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon, Hublot
Lot 30 | Estimate: Dhs1.47 million —Dhs1.68 million
Leaning further into the captivating collaboration between Hublot and Japanese art superstar Takashi Murakami, this thrilling timepiece exposes the signature daisy to the touch, finally allowing us to get our hands on those iconic petals which were previously encased. A change of horological tack places a central tourbillon, a first for Hublot, at the heart of the watch, while a rainbow of 444 colourful gemstones are set off by the bright luminescent indices. An artistic triumph.
- Words by Rachel Silvestri