Only Watch 2019
Only Watch

Only Watch 2019: The Unforgettable Lots And Thierry Stern’s Reaction To Setting A New World Record

The biennial charity auction returned to the rostrum this year and shattered all records in the process.

By Josh Shanks

First, the biggest headline out of Switzerland, the 2019 edition of the Only Watch charity auction brought in a whopping 38,593,000 CHF! All for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In a rare moment of unity, the watch industry united for a good cause. In the end, 50 brands participated by donating a unique piece to the charity auction. You can learn more about the unique pieces on Watchonista’s Dedicated Only Watch Page.

It was mind-blowing because nobody expected such a result of CHF 38.5 million Luc Pettavino, Founder, Only Watch

Taking place inside Christie’s auction room at Geneva’s Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Only Watch was THE place to be during Geneva’s frenetic auction weekend. Watchonista was present at the sale and was able to speak with the two biggest winners of the day, Luc Pettavino (Founder of Only Watch) and Thierry Stern (President of Patek Philippe).

History in the making

About midway through the auction, the room turned silent. Lot 28 wasn’t an ordinary lot; it was, in fact, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A. A unique and highly complicated timepiece made for the first time in stainless steel. The lot had drawn a lot of interest from media and collectors, with many speculating it could not only take the top lot prize but perhaps set a meteoric record.

With a conservative estimate of 2,500,000 – 3,000,000 CHF, the Ref. 6300A piece was no slouch, but many expected it to go far beyond asking. After all, the 2017 edition of Only Watch saw a Patek Philippe ref. 5208T go for 6,200,000 CHF. Also in 2015, Patek Philippe offered a steel ref. 5016A-010 which sold for 7.3 million CHF.

While many expected the ref. 6300A to capture around 15 million CHF, what happened next took everyone by surprise. An opening bid of Five million turned the room a deafening quiet. Frantic bidding continued with the piece hovering around the 20 million mark. Nervous energy filled the room, would this be the piece to break Patek Philippe’s previous record of 23,237,000 CHF for the Henry Graves Supercomplication? The watch world hadn't seen numbers this big since Paul Newman's Paul Newman fetched $17.75 million in 2017.

Million by million, the bids came. First 25 million, then 26 million, on up to the moment the piece broke through the 30 million mark. The gavel was ready, and the auctioneer was prepared to strike and call the sale. Finally, at the last moment, 31 million! And with the swift strike of a hammer, the watch was in the history books.

While the world record is important, no doubt, but what's most important is really the amount we could raise Thierry Stern, President, Patek Philippe

Thierry Stern’s Response

Watchonista’s Co-Founder Alexander Friedman caught up with Patek Philippe's President Thierry Stern shortly after the auction. Like many, he was nearly speechless, and when asked if he was happy with the result, he had this to say, I'm very happy. While the world record is important, no doubt, but what's most important is really the amount we could raise. For helping Luc and his charity, Only Watch is fantastic. Over 38 million [total], I think it's just a dream for them.”

While the result of the spectacular lot is sure to please the Stern Family (owners of Patek Philippe) Stern had this to say about the Only Watch participation of all of the brands, “for us, we are also of course very proud, but most importantly we should all be proud. Fifty brands played a game, some of them were able to supply movements, beautiful cases, beautiful watches. Some others, maybe not - they were not capable because they don't have the possibility to do it, we have to respect that. Patek had the budget to be able to give a beautiful watch. We tried to do something unique with it, and the result is just unbelievable for me.

I didn't expect 31 million, to be frank. But, well, thanks to all those people who played the game. And, thanks to the owner of this beautiful watch. Thierry Stern, President, Patek Philippe

Lastly, we had to know, was the final bid anywhere near what Stern expected? His reply, “I didn't expect 31 million, to be frank. But, well, thanks to all those people who played the game. And, thanks to the owner of this beautiful watch.”

The Notable Lots Of Only Watch 2019

While the Patek Philippe brought in the most substantial portion of the 38,593,000 CHF auction total which is a 358% increase over Only Watch 2017’s total of 10,776, 500 CHF. There were still a few other pieces which commanded high six and seven figures. Here’s a look at a few standouts.

The next highest-grossing watch was the F.P.Journe Astronomic Blue, which tallied 1,800,000 CHF to a very lucky bidder. This one of a kind watch featured a prototype movement made by Francois Paul Journe. Cased in tantalum and featuring a rich deep blue dial with orange accents and bright orange strap. The Astronomic Blue also beat the previous record for F.P.Journe at auction, which was set by a Monopusher Split-Seconds Chronograph commanding 1,150,000 CHF at 2017’s Only Watch.

The other million-dollar piece would be Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch edition. Fetching a cool million CHF, this isn't the most expensive Audemars Piguet ever sold, but it's undoubtedly the most expensive Code 11.59 ever. A watch that continues to polarize collectors and now a watch, which brings a nice result for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

In the high six figures, we saw young upstart Akrivia bring in an impressive 360,000 CHF for their Chronomètre Contemporain Only Watch edition. A result which only further solidifies the exemplary watchmaking of Rexhep Rexhepi. Breguet also came with a refreshing Type XX Only Watch piece which pays homage to the pilots of the past and sailed to a respectable 210,000 CHF.

A Tudor Beat A Richard Mille

While Rolex hasn’t participated in Only Watch, Tudor has long been present in the auction. 2017’s edition saw a Black Bay Bronze One sell for 350,000 CHF. This year, the brand introduced the Black Bay Ceramic One. An all-black, none more black, Black Bay. While the piece also hammered for 350,000 CHF, it was perhaps who they outperformed that made the storyline for me.

With their 350,000 CHF result, Tudor official bested Richard Mille! A shocking feat considering the retail price of an RM 11-03 McLaren edition is around 200,000 CHF. In all, the RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph McLaren donated to Only Watch brought in 320,000 CHF, a 75% increase over the retail value of the watch. While the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One is a unique one-off piece, the average price of a Black Bay is around 4,000 CHF, which makes for an 8,650% increase over retail.

Final thoughts from Only Watch Founder Luc Pettavino

Pettavino continued, “Everybody wants to collaborate, to create beauty to do good. And of course, in the middle of all that, the huge surprise of the most expensive watch ever sold in the story of humankind by Patek for CHF 31 million. It's a group effort. It's what's beautiful about Only Watch. It's really comforting. It's fantastic. It's a drive for research, and we're going to make fantastic progress thanks to this.”

Before leaving the auction, we had to know what Mr. Pettavino thought about such a fantastic result. He had this to say, "We just had the fantastic auction with 50 lots at Only Watch. It was mind-blowing because nobody expected such a result of CHF 38.5 million. Very, very high results for each lot. Beautiful spirit in the room.”

(Photography by Only Watch & Pierre Vogel)

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