Trick or treat?
I have always regarded the biennial Only Watch charity auction as one of my favourite initiatives from the watch industry, and I’m certainly not the only one to think so. Not only do we, as watch lovers, get to witness a cornucopia of creatively exceptional unique pieces from the participating brands, the proceeds from the auctions are also donated for a good cause - Duchenne muscular dystrophy research.
For the 2021 edition of Only Watch, the catalogue appears to revolve around the Halloween-esque theme of black and orange. This seems pretty apt given that the auction happened to take place around the Halloween period. This also piqued my interest as the combination of black and orange, or even the use of orange on its own, is still rather uncommon when it comes to watches.
The Only Watch auction has gone from
strength to strength. This year, in its ninth edition, it raised an incredible CHF 29,740,000 from 53 lots. Now that the dust has settled, read on to find out my five favourites from Only Watch 2021 (in no particular order) and how much they fetched!
F.P. Journe FFC Blue “Francis Ford Coppola”
This timepiece is undoubtedly one of the most widely discussed pieces of the auction, and understandably so. I mean, how often have you seen a complication that tells the time in the form of a hand?!
The hand is an automaton that is inspired by a mechanical hand created by Ambroise Paré (1509-1590), the father of modern surgery. Powered by the mainspring of the Octa Calibre 1300, it is essentially an instantaneous digital hours complication whereby the hours are indicated by the fingers of the hand which snap and retract into the various hour positions. Meanwhile, the blue arrow at 12 o’clock points to the minutes on a peripheral disc that rotates counter-clockwise.
This watch is a bonafide testament to the ingenuity of F.P. Journe, both in his creativity as well as his capacity to execute and translate concepts into reality. It smashed its low-ish estimate of CHF 300,000 - CHF 400,000 to realise a whopping CHF 4,500,000. This is certainly within the ballpark that I was expecting. The buyer should be proud that he is now the owner of an indelible heirloom.
Bell & Ross BR 01 Cyber Skull Sapphire
This piece is just loaded with uber-cool factor. Just when you think that the skull watches from Bell & Ross are already striking enough from the large multifaceted skull that is prominently featured within a clear sapphire case, this takes it to the next level with a vivid eye-catching orange skull that is just simply invigorating to look at. This marks a clear departure from the brand’s previous skull watches where the colour tones are more muted, making it truly feel like one-of-a-kind.
The other features of the watch remain the same as the previous skull offerings. After all, you don’t have to fix what is not broken. The proprietary BR-CAL 209 hand-wound automaton movement opens and closes the jaw of the skull while winding it, which elevates visual interest and gives credence to the watch as a Memento Mori.
The watch exceeded its estimate of CHF 90,000 - CHF 110,000 to realise a price of CHF 220,000. I consider this a steal as I expected it to fetch at least CHF 400,000.
Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain II “Only Watch”
Featuring a classical and symmetrical aesthetic, topped off with immaculate finishing and construction, the first edition of the Chronomètre Contemporain has already achieved grail status for most watch collectors. The second edition of the elusive Chronomètre Contemporain, the Chronomètre Contemporain II, has just made its debut in Only Watch 2021.
The successor epitomises the phrase “same but different”; while the watch may appear similar to its predecessors at first glance, closer inspection will show many notable changes. For one, the movement now features a deadbeat seconds at the sub-seconds counter. Flip the watch around and you’ll also see that the watch is now equipped with twin barrels instead of a single barrel as is the case with the first edition. The wearability and profile of the watch have also subtly evolved, with thinner and longer lugs that create a slightly more refined experience.
Overall, this watch is a great sign of things to come for the Chronomètre Contemporain series. It clearly shows that Akrivia takes pride in its famed aesthetic, while constantly innovating to make the watch even more complicated and polished. If the brand continues to align with this philosophy, I can’t wait to see what the Chronomètre Contemporain will be like in a decade. The price realised at the auction was CHF 800,000, way above its estimate of CHF 70,000 - CHF 100,000. This is certainly a fair price, and I’m sure the new owner is now looking forward to the promised trip to the Besançon Astronomical Observatory.
Krayon is criminally underrated in my opinion. This is reflected in the realised price for the Krayon Anywhere in the auction, CHF 320,000, which is not much higher than its estimate of CHF 95,000 - CHF 120,000. I would have preferred to see it closer to the CHF 1,000,000 mark for a watch of its calibre.
The calibre Cal. C030 is a masterful creation by Rémi Maillat, the founder of Krayon and who has previously served as a watch movement development engineer for Cartier. The Krayon Anywhere intuitively presents the time, sunrise and sunset hours, a 24-hour day-night indicator as well as a calendar. On paper, while all these complications may seem to make the watch too intricate to read, they are adeptly executed to make for a seamless viewing experience.
What differs with this Only Watch edition is the métiers d’art dial that is inspired by Claude Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise. Filled with lacquer, the dial is immediately evocative and dramatic, reflecting the momentous spirit of Monet’s painting which sparked a movement (Impressionism) on its own.
De Bethune x Voutilainen, Kind Of Magic
Collaborations between independent watchmakers are becoming more commonplace these days. One notable example is the collaboration between H. Moser and MB&F last year. This is welcomed as a synthesis of the trademark styles of two brands can result in a stellar creation as well as possibly advance the visual codes of watches as a whole.
An excellent example of this from Only Watch 2021 is the Kind Of Magic timepiece, borne out of the minds behind De Bethune and Voutilainen - two of the most renowned independent watch brands. Using a pivoting mechanism at the centre of the case, the watch is able to be easily flipped on both sides to feature two dials of very contrasting styles. On one side, the blue guilloché dial with simple hours and seconds is immediately reminiscent of Voutilainen timepieces. On the other side, you get a skeletonised dial with deadbeat seconds that is entirely in the unapologetic De Bethune style.
The two juxtaposing styles, when put together, indeed provide the best of both worlds in a single package. One is simple and classy, while the other is technical and highly modern. The Kind Of Magic shattered its estimate of CHF 200,000 - CHF 250,000 to realise CHF 1,300,000. This is certainly fair as it is akin to getting two entirely different watches from two highly respected independent watchmakers.
For more information on Only Watch 2021 as well as the other lots, visit Onlywatch.com.