HERO: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble

Big Bad Recap: The Results and Drama of Only Watch 2024

Not too long ago, I genuinely wondered about the future of Only Watch. The buzzy charity auction for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy has garnered all kinds of attention recently, though not always for the right reasons. In particular, some serious questioning of the organization’s financials raised enough red flags to put the auction on pause from its original November 2023 date until May 10th of 2024. In the end, the participating brands found the disclosures shared by the organization to be complete enough to continue with the sale, depending on what corner of the internet you’re in though, the jury is still out.

Only Watch 2023 2024

We’ll pin that controversy to the sidebar for the time being, as the auction has come and gone, with the sale of the all 47 lots totaling a whopping CHF 28,320,000. Before getting to the highlights of the sale, there’s more drama to unpack. Some have wondered if better results could have been achieved had all online bidding not been halted across all auctions being held by Christie’s due to what the firm has referred to as a “technology security incident.” The Christie’s Auctions website went down ahead of the auction and stayed down through the weekend, begging the question as to whether or not this attack was in any way related to the aforementioned Only Watch debacle; sadly, I doubt we’ll ever know. 

Beyond the drama of it all, there are always results that surprise in one way or another, so let’s get into it, shall we?

The Big Ticket Winners

We all knew that (as always) the one-of-one Patek at Only Watch would be the champion of the auction, and this year was no different. The guilloché dial Patek Philippe ref. 6301A Grande Sonnerie sold for CHF 15.7 million, accounting for a major chunk of the event’s fundraising. In contrast, it was the Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Antimagnétique that surprised the majority of the room, pulling in north of two million franks. Rexhep’s creations have been attracting tons of attention in collector circles, with demand far outweighing supply, but even still this figure is an impressive result all around. 

Then again, this wasn’t the only big winner from the broad field of indies. FP Journe’s Only Watch contribution also cracked the two million mark, with an integrated sports watch version of the Chronomètre Bleu dubbed “Furtif Bleu”. With a full tantalum case and bracelet, this new reference ticked all the right boxes when it comes to our expectations for Journe at the biannual auction.

Both Moritz Grossman and Petermann Bédat doubled their respective auction estimates this year, both showing rather conservative executions overall. For the latter, the movement adopts the Petermann Bédat’s swan-neck regulator system, while Auffret Paris’s aesthetic codes are seen on the click system, and the charbonnage at the surface of the bridges. For Moritz Grossmann, a simple yet elegant tremblage dial in German Silver sealed the deal. To be frank, this one was a bit of a surprise, especially considering the other reasonable buys that were made at the auction.

The (near) Bargains

As is the case with any major watch auction, there were some pieces that seemed to just glide by folks that were placing bids. If one thing is clear, it is that the interest in louder and more outlandish designs is tapering rapidly. Case in point, The Octo Finissimmo Tourbillon Marble. This brilliant execution of a fantastic watch kept within its estimate, pulling in a modest CHF 190,000. Why so modest, you might ask? Simply because there’s nothing else on the market quite like this, and to execute such a finish on a dangerously slim, award-winning tourbillon is a huge departure from the “slap a new dial on it” method delivered by nearly half of the auction’s entries.

Next up is the Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer — a stunning watch in any form, and the 2021 winner of the GPHG’s Innovation prize. A watch with a retail of over a hundred and fifty grand in the US, it was somehow scooped up at the auction for only CHF 45,000. This wasn’t just a bargain, it was highway robbery.

Last but not least, the results for the Trilobe Réconciliation were a big disappointment, though I can only presume this is due to the slightly polarizing design execution. It was inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which involves repairing broken objects with gold. In execution, the all-black watch was spattered with indents and imperfections throughout its indices and movement components, which then were applied with gold leaf. Though not to everyone’s tastes, CHF 17,000 for a unique execution was another spectacular buy.

What Comes Next?

Post-auction, there has been a lingering buzz about what comes next for the organization. If you ask us, we’re confident that they’ll stay the course. Timing is iffy, given the delay from last fall to this spring, but in theory the next Only Watch could come as early as 2025. Whether the non-profit will stick with Christie’s Auction House or move elsewhere has yet to be determined, but given the strong overall result (shy of the few missteps), we don’t doubt that many brands will be happy to continue participating. 

As for me, my feelings still remain mixed. While I love seeing the assortment of one-off watches come to market for a good cause, the amount of bluster surrounding the lack of transparency from the charity still leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Add to that the perpetual questions surrounding the auction market and claims of money laundering, and part of me thinks it’s just a matter of time before the proverbial other shoe begins to drop. Then again, if that hasn’t slowed the auction market yet, what’s to say that anything will change now?

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