This November, the biannual charity watch auction Only Watch returns, and with it come 43 unique watches, consigned by brands across the industry.
Not all of the 43 watches have yet been made public, and among those that have – roughly half, so far – some stand out considerably more than others. Traditionally, the Only Watch sale gives watchmakers a chance to really flex some creative muscle and play with designs that would never see the light of day as part of the core collection. In recent years, there has been a more conservative move towards minor colour changes; a new dial colour here, a different seconds hand there, and it’s fair to say that 2015’s array of pieces unique contains its fair share of such entrants.
But there are a number of brands which have taken a more involved approach towards Only Watch 2015, creating watches that really do capture your attention. Never mind the fact that we will never even see these watches, much less aspire to buy them: each of them watches represents an interesting take on the respective brand’s identity – given the chance to make a one-off, the choices made tell you a lot about the watchmakers behind them. But more importantly still, they’re all utterly desirable.
Tudor Black Bay Ref. 7293/001
This is the Tudor entry for Only Watch 2015, and it’s a real stunner. A modified Black Bay, it pays very close homage to one of the most desirable vintage Tudors – the 1950s reference 7293. This was the only Tudor dive watch to use a hand-wound movement, and the only one with baton hands.
You can see just how closely Tudor’s design chief Davide Cerrato has worked from the original watch here. Gone are the snowflake hands of the Black Bay, replaced by slender baton hands. The seconds hand has been altered to match the round-tipped original, and the shade of luminova on the hour markers has been matched as well; in the modern watch, applied in yellow-gold inserts rather than painted directly onto the dial.
The bezel has had the minute markers between 0 and 15 removed, to match the original 7293. Even the bracelet has been altered, not to contain a full link at each end where it joins the watch. The movement is not Tudor’s new in-house caliber but a standard ETA, hardly surprising as that’s what the Black Bay still uses.
Credit is owed to Tudor for creating something that, although it does bear resemblance to a current model, has a direct relationship with a vintage piece rather than being an abstract variation on an existing watch. In doing so, it has shown that it understands what is most likely to really set the bidding alight come November; limited edition watches from the Rolex family are just unheard of – and given the rest of us an object to lust over in the meantime. If this were introduced to the Black Bay family as a normal production watch, it would sell like hot cakes – and that’s not something you can say of many Only Watch lots.
H. Moser & Cie Endeavour One Perpetual Calendar
At first glance this does not seem that interesting: it’s Moser’s handsome and ingenious perpetual calendar, a watch we have a lot of time for, but what’s new? The answer comes when you look again at the date window: in place of the orderly, sans serif numbers that you’d expect, you will find every day of the month written out in scrawled, child-like handwriting.
That is exactly what has happened: to mark the fact that Only Watch raises money researching for a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a disease that most commonly manifests in children under 10. So, H. Moser decided to enlist the children of its watchmaking staff to contribute hand-written numbers for the date wheel.
Only a stone-hearted Scrooge would decry this as twee; it shows the brand put some thought into its entry, and engaged with the Only Watch concept in a way that went beyond “what alterations can easily be made to one of our most popular designs”. Top marks to Moser.
Not your typical date window…
Laurent Ferrier Galet Square
As far as a recipe for huge collector interest goes, this is a pretty good one. Laurent Ferrier, formerly of Patek Philippe, makes some of the most classically understated and phenomenally-finished watches that money can buy. This year, he introduced his first non-round watch, the gorgeous Galet Square (which has just been released in UK-only limited edition form). And now, for Only Watch 2015, Laurent Ferrier has added something that Patek fans in particular are especially fond of: a sector dial.
It’s an obvious homage from LF to the brand where he spent many years honing his craft, and one that we would expect to be recognised when the auction results are in. In addition to the (fairly chunky) sector dial markings, the Galet Square gains a minute track with baby-blue five minute numerals, and a circular brushed pattern to the two-tone silvered dial.
The lugs are also unique to this piece; much larger than the usual integrated lugs which mimic the cushion shape of the case. Here we have straight lugs with oversized “bolt” style ends where the pin bar runs through the strap. Inside is the same movement as the standard Galet Square, with a 72-hour power reserve and micro-rotor.
Louis Vuitton Escale Worldtime
Like we said at the beginning, what you want in an Only Watch entrant is something that really holds your attention. This customised Escale Worldtime from Louis Vuitton does that, and then some. It was a big, bright, colourful watch to begin with, but what we like is that LV has built on that with a very tongue-in-cheek addition to the dial.
Whereas previously the central triangle was the only calm part of the dial (it’s usually black, with “Worldtime Louis Vuitton” in white and yellow), for the Only Watch version the Escale plays up its dazzling attributes with a multi-coloured, chequered, disco dancefloor-style path, receding into the distance. It’s epic, but what’s more is the slogan “The World is a Dancefloor” written across the bottom of the triangle. Talk about self-awareness.
Elsewhere, the flags between each city code (normally a multitude of random patterns) have also changed to continue the dancefloor theme. It’s worth noting that all of these are hand-enamelled and in the flesh, have a truly vivid glossy texture to them. For the final touch of colour, the watch now comes on a yellow-lined blue leather strap (previously black), and will be presented in a Louis Vuitton watch box that shares the same motto as the watch. This really is the pinnacle of jazzed-up watch designs, and we love it.
Patek Philippe ref. 5016A-010
No discussion of Only Watch would be complete without a mention of Patek Philippe’s entry. The brand has become well-known for using Only Watch to reproduce discontinued complicated watches cased in non-typical metals (something that makes Patek fans’ hearts sing even when they’re not complete one-offs). In 2013 we saw a titanium perpetual calendar split seconds chronograph – the 5004T – which was undeniably sensational. It’s also worth mentioning that it sold for Euros 2,950,000 (which constituted a significant percentage of the total auction revenue).
This year Patek Philippe is reviving the ref.5016, a 36.8mm, manual-winding, tourbillon perpetual calendar minute repeater with moon-phase display, and casing it for the first time in steel. It’s heady stuff once more, added to by the blue enamel dial (hence “Email” at the base of the dial). The combination of complications, the fact that this is a steel watch – always something that pushes Patek prices – and that it’s a watch that hasn’t been produced since 2011, means you’d be a fool to bet against it being the frontrunner in the Only Watch sale by a serious margin.
F.P. Journe and Kari Voutilainen – the new boys
Last but by no means least, we wanted to draw your attention to the Only Watch debuts for two of the industry’s most highly-respected watchmakers. Neither Francois Paul Journe nor Kari Voutilainen has previously contributed a watch to Only Watch (it is a relatively much greater outlay for a low-volume, high-end independent manufacturer to commit to creating and donating a one-off watch than it is for a big brand with global output). So, joining the lots for the first time, here are the entries for F.P. Journe and Kari Voutilainen.
This is the Tourbillon Souverain Bleu Only Watch edition; cased uniquely in tantalum with a sumptuous blue chrome dial and the traditional Journe dial layout, including exposed rose gold tourbillon with remontoire and dead beat seconds.
It is the first time a tourbillon watch anywhere has been cased in tantalum, apparently – the metal is particularly hard to work with. The announcement accompanying the watch’s release indicates that this is the start of a tradition, with more F.P. Journe tantalum watches with blue dials promised for the Only Watch auctions of the future.
For his debut appearance at Only Watch, Kari Voutilainen has not disappointed. It’s a unique version of the GMT-6, with grand feu enamel dial, hand-guillochéd and hand-enamelled in beautiful style. That alone would be good – great, even, from a watchmaker whose work was recognised last year by the GPHG with the Artistic Crafts Prize.
But Kari Voutilainen has gone one further: inside the GMT-6 is an all-new, more efficient movement. It is the first watch to use two escape wheels in a configuration that directly impulses the balance wheel, yielding improved longevity and stability, and naturally it is all designed, built and finished in-house at his workshop in Môtiers, Switzerland. If you ask us, that’s a pretty big talking point to finish on – we will bring you any more news about this new movement when we have it.
All of these watches, and 36 others, will be sold on the first weekend of November to raise money for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The auction is organised by Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo (the consultancy set up by Aurel Bacs and his wife), and hosted by the Monaco Yacht Show SAM and the Association Monegasque contre les Myopathies.
We will bring you more information on the remaining watches yet to be announced for Only Watch in the coming weeks; in the meantime you can find more information about Only Watch 2015 here.
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