Live From LA: First Look At The Only Watch 2023 Line-Up In The Metal
This week, the Only Watch 2023 world tour kicked off at Christie’s Los Angeles, where all 62 lots of this November’s charity auction have been put on public display for the first time. We give you our first live impressions of some of the spectacular one-of-a-kind timepieces that will go under the hammer.
Only Watch, the biennial charity auction benefitting research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, has become one of the most important dates in the watch industry, with big brands and top independent watchmakers alike eagerly participating in this philanthropic event.
This year's auction, scheduled for November 5th, is especially significant as Only Watch enters its 10th edition. As is tradition, the full collection of 62 lots embarks on a world tour in the weeks preceding the event, and Watchonista has been at the tour’s Los Angeles curtain-raiser this week to take it all in.
The exhibit – held at Christie’s Los Angeles in Beverly Hills – has offered watch collectors and enthusiasts the first opportunity to view these exquisite and one-of-a-kind timepieces in person.
Collaboration is In
Among all of this year’s lots, at least ten of them are the fruits of some form of collaboration, with brands joining forces with other watchmakers, artists, designers, movement manufacturers, and even a winery. This coming-together of creative minds has produced some dazzling results. Let's look at a few examples.
Recently revealed at Geneva Watch Days, the Streamliner Pandamonium is an exciting collab between H. Moser and MB&F, combining a minute repeater from H. Moser with a 3-D dial side reminiscent of MB&F’s legendary LM101.
A miniature panda DJ "controls" the hammers of the chiming mechanism, making this a truly fun and unique timepiece. Perhaps most insane of all is that this new movement will only be used for this one watch, making it a true "only watch."
Exquisite and Flawless
Another intriguing collaboration is between Petermann Bédat and Auffret Paris. This pairing brings together three of the most talented young watchmakers of our time.
Their Chronomètre d'Observatoire Ref: 1342 is a simple, classic-looking watch at first glance. However, when you turn it over, you see a stunning movement with a very large balance wheel. The finishing of the movement is exquisite and flawless.
Another mechanical wonder was born from the collaboration between Singer Reimagined and Genus. Their 8-Track Watch for Only Watch features a miniature racer that travels along a figure-eight path while indicating the tens of minutes. The hour is read at 6 o'clock. This breathtaking timepiece is a combination of the Singer design aesthetic and the 8-Track caliber from Genus.
The official colors of Only Watch 2023 are blue, yellow, orange, red, fuchsia, and green. These shades are meant to be used as inspiration, but they are not compulsory. Many watchmakers did, however, incorporate the colors into their designs, making for many rainbow colorways among this year's timepieces.
One example is the Grönefeld 1941 Principia Mandala. As its name suggests, this watch boasts a colorful dial that features an intricate series of mandala-style patterns. It also has an engraved hunter caseback, which is a first for Grönefeld. This writer wore a Principia with turquoise dial to the exhibit, and duly took a wrist shot together with the Principia Mandala!
Another tasteful application of the official colors is the Arceau Le Temps Voyageur Only Watch from Hermès. This worldtimer displays 24 time zones using a circular disc. The "traveling time" mechanism is quite unique. The hour-minute disc, together with the city names, home time, and names on the map, are all decorated with this year's colors.
A Peek at the Future
A few brands have used past editions of Only Watch as a platform to showcase new watches and movements that later go into serial production, giving watch lovers a chance to get a sneak peek at potential upcoming models. F.P. Journe’s LineSport Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante, Astronomic Souveraine, and FFC all made their debuts at Only Watch, for example.
This year, Journe’s contribution is the Chronomètre Furtif Bleu, featuring a brand-new Caliber 1522. It is another tantalizing hint of a future production model. Understandably, it has attracted a lot of attention during the tour, for it is the first Journe watch to feature a central seconds hand, which is rendered in an eye-catching shade of orange.
The reverse side of the watch reveals a beautifully detailed moonphase display and power reserve indicator integrated into the back of the movement. The moon image is particularly realistic because it is based on a NASA image. The neatly finished movement, made of rose gold, echoes that of the Chronomètre Bleu or Chronomètre Souverain.
At Only Watch 2021, Rexhep Rexhepi unveiled the Chronomètre Contemporain II (RRCC II) which was followed by a very limited production run. This year, all eyes were once again on his submission, the Chronomètre Antimagnétique (RRCA). Its dial is inspired by the "scientific" dials of historical chronometers.
When you turn the watch over, you first see a closed caseback. But don't be fooled. The caseback is actually an external screw-down caseback that can be unscrewed by the wearer to reveal a sapphire display back. This double caseback construction protects the movement from magnetism while still allowing the beauty of the movement to be admired.
At this time, only Patek Philippe has not revealed its timepiece for Only Watch 2023. But the company has announced that the watch will be the first timepiece of a 30-piece grand-complication limited edition, featuring a brand-new movement, as a tribute to honorary president Philippe Stern from his son, the current CEO, Thierry Stern. Stern Sr. celebrates his 85th birthday this year.
At the Los Angeles opening of the tour, only the engraved caseback of the timepiece was on display. The engraving is in French and translates: “To my father, 85 years of watchmaking passion."
It is unclear whether this is a marketing ploy to keep us in suspense, or if the grand complication simply needs more time to be completed. But seeing the engraved caseback certainly adds to the intrigue. In any case, the mystery will certainly be resolved by November 5th, when the watch will be auctioned off.
After Saturday, September 9th, the Only Watch 2023 world tour will move on to New York, Monaco, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, and Dubai, before finishing off in Geneva. These exhibits are open to the public and no registration is needed.
(Photography by Henri Lee)