Watches are not only convenient, wearable ways to tell time. They are complicated works of art that require amazing feats in mathematics, design, and function. Art auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s have departments devoted to watch-selling and the timepieces up for auction are truly timeless.
Here, we’re listing the top 8 watches sold in 2019 and a little about them.
1- Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime
CHF 31,000,000 (USD 32,110,700)
Last but not least, Philippe’s Grandmaster Chim wristwatch became the most expensive wristwatch ever auctioned when it sold for CHF 31 million at Christie’s, Geneva in November 2019. It is the only stainless steel Patek Philippe in existence and features two dials, one black and one rose gold.
The Grandmaster Chime was created especially for the 2019 Only Watch Auction and the stainless steel material is what makes this watch particularly exciting. Philippe rarely uses the, seemingly “everyday” metal, making this piece particularly striking.
Its exceptional design boasts 20 complications including at least five chiming modes, two of which are patented and the words “The Only One” appear at 12 o’clock on the auxiliary dial, making the piece even more exclusive.
2- Patek Philippe Reference 2423 18K pink gold two-crown world time wristwatch
HKD 70,175,000 (USD 9,027,730)
Now, let’s revisit Patek Philippe’s watches. The blue enamel dial and pink gold double-crown body are what comes with this extremely rare Philippe reference 2423 piece that was made in 1953. It is the only of its kind known to be signed both by Patek Philippe and Gobbi, the prestigious Milan retailer who took ownership of the watch in 1957.
Christie’s offered it for its second time at auction, as it hasn’t been seen since 2010 and only five similar pink gold Reference 2423’s have ever been auctioned before. It’s possible that only seven of these watches were ever made.
3- Henry Graves Jr.’s Patek Philippe yellow gold tonneau-shaped minute repeating wristwatch
CHF 4,575,000 (USD 4,738,910)
When it comes to collecting watches, Henry Graves Jr., the 20th Century American bank and railroad magnate, was the best of the best. A watch consultant at Christie’s said that owning a watch from Henry Graves Jr.’s collection was the “ultimate grail.”
Between 1922 and 1951, Graves Jr. collected at least 39 watches made by the esteemed Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe.
The watch we’re mentioning here was the first minute-repeating wristwatch that Philippe ever made and is also perhaps the first of Philippe’s in Graves Jr.’s massive collection which he acquired in 1928, making it an even rarer collector’s item.
The auction in which this watch was sold (Christie’s, Geneva on the 11th of November 2019) was considered one of the most important events of 2019. In the end, it achieved a value of CHF4,575,000.
4- George Daniels yellow gold Space Traveller I watch
£3,516,000 (USD 4,561,407)
George Daniels was a watchmaker who was deeply fascinated with space travel and this timepiece was made to honor the astronauts that Daniels so admired. Theoretically, it was designed to be used by astronauts and it incorporated mean-solar and sidereal time.
The watch was designed with impeccable accuracy and Daniels went so far as to work with a mathematician from Cambridge to make sure the calculations were correct – which he did within 1.27 seconds per year.
Daniels began working on Space Traveller I in 1979 and it was first sold in 1982. It was sold again in 1988 by Sotheby’s Geneva into a private collection and hadn’t been seen again until last year’s auction in 2019. It sold for £3,516,000 upon its first sighting in 30 years.
Daniels loved this watch so much that he regretted selling it. He created Space Traveller II which became his personal watch until his death in 2011.
5- Jehan Cremsdorff gold, enamel, and diamond-set verge watch c.1650
£2,175,000 (USD 2,832,740)
Jehan Cremsdorff was known to have worked in Paris from 1663 to 1683. Still, records from that time are difficult to confirm and some others who may have worked on this piece are unknown.
This timepiece is a masterful collection of Cremsdorff’s skills as a watchmaker, goldsmith, jeweler, and enameller. The artwork on the piece is complete with classical and theological virtues and the watch itself is considered one of the most important 17th Century examples to have surfaced.
It’s also worth noting that pieces like these made of gold and enamel were likely a commission from a royal or aristocratic family and the remarkable condition of this particular watch also contributed to its high price tag, which exceeded estimates by over £1 million.
6- Patek Philippe Skymoon Tourbillon 18K white gold double dial wristwatch
HKD 19,325,000 (USD 2,486,080)
Again, we have a Patek Philippe watch and this Skymoon Tourbillon Grand Complication is the first Reference 6002G with a black dial to ever go to auction. This version was launched in 2016 with 12 complications including standard/solar time, the perpetual calendar with a retrograde date and moon phases, the northern sky, sidereal time, and mood orbits.
The incredible white gold case is completely hand-chased and engraved which took Philippe over 100 hours to create and the black dial was made with both enamel and cloisonné that harmonizes beautifully with the case.
7- Patek Philippe Reference 2499 yellow gold wristwatch
HKD 11,935,000 (USD 1,537,347)
We return to Patek Philippe who, overall, brought in the highest watch auction sales in 2019. This Patek Philippe Reference 2499 yellow gold wristwatch by the Swiss watchmaker was the first in its series, introduced in 1950. In fact, this watch is potentially the only one of its kind.
The timepiece is considered to be one of the best first series to ever be created in gold and its incredible condition has made it one of the top lots since it surfaced in 2002. Advisors at Sotheby’s say it is the hottest and most sought-after timepiece on the market and sold for HKD11,935,000 in 2019.
8- Patek Philippe Skymoon Tourbillon pink gold double dial wristwatch, c. 2011
HKD 10,975,000 (USD 1,347,447)
Here, we have a watch from Patek Philippe. The Swiss watchmaker has such a flair for expertise and artistry that few can compare to these watches. The complicated craftsmanship is a work of art in and of itself.
The Skymoon Tourbillon was inspired by the Star Calibre 2000 where the sky and moon chart was miniaturized. It’s known as one of the greatest wristwatches manufactured in the 21st century and there is an extensive waiting list to receive one.
It’s reserved for only the most qualified clients who go through an interview process to be deemed worthy. This just goes to show how complicated the nature of the watch, complete with the northern sky, sidereal time, angular progression, and the phases of the moon. It seems that Patek Philippe wants to make sure its features are appreciated.