Every other November, Christie’s partners with the Association Monégasque Contre les Myopathies to host Only Watch, an auction that’s crucial to raising funds (and awareness) in the fight against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The progressive disorder, more commonly known as DMD, affects 1 in 3000 men, with symptoms manifesting as early as the age of four. It’s a problem that many watchmakers are serious about tackling, which invariably makes this biennial auction one of the most exciting and closely watched within the industry.

We’re still a ways from the actual sale date (9 November), but the 52-brand roster — a veritable who’s who of haute horology — includes everybody from Audemars Piguet to deep-cut independents like the brothers Grönefeld. All 50 lots have been crafted exclusively for Only Watch 2019, and while that makes each a unique piece, we couldn’t resist highlighting five of our favourites — no small feat given the good company they’re in!

1
Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain Only Watch

Initial estimate: CHF 40,000–60,000

For its inaugural showcase at Only Watch, Genevan independent Akrivia is releasing a variation of its much-loved Chronomètre Contemporain. The dial lures you in from the get-go with its intersecting geometries and use of early 20th-century motifs. It is, technically speaking, made of grand feu enamel which has been treated for a fine pebble grain texture through the application of hand-hammering. (The latter technique is usually reserved for use on gold dials, which makes its presence in the current model all the more impressive.) On the strength of its dial alone, this piece would warrant closer inspection — and that’s before you even get to the (strangely hypnotic) case. Cast in platinum, it is the work of Jean-Pierre Hagmann, a semi-retired casemaker who was instrumental to Patek Philippe’s output of watches during the 1980s.

2
Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 openworked tourbillon

Initial estimate: CHF 190,000–240,000

There’s no question that the launch of CODE 11.59 has proved to be the biggest controversy in the watch industry this year, but kudos to AP for sticking to its guns. For Only Watch 2019, the Le Brassus heavyweight has once again tapped the CODE 11.59 design language in service of an open-worked tourbillon. The movement powering it (calibre 2948) is integral to the watch’s overall almost architectural feeling on the wrist, and AP have taken every opportunity to exploit the medium of open-working for maximum visual impact. Individual rose gold bridges echo the multi-tiered case construction, and the sense of motion — from the tourbillon and balance wheel — is conveyed particularly well thanks to the double-curved glass.

3
F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue

Initial estimate: CHF 300,000–600,000

In 1987, Francois-Paul Journe created an ‘astronomic’ pocket watch that would go on to form the basis for F.P. Journe’s Only Watch entry this year. Unlike its predecessor, the Astronomic Blue has been expressly designed to be worn on the wrist; it’s also easily among the most sophisticated Journe watches ever made. Featuring no less than 18 complications — including a remontoire, tourbillon and minute repeater — and a movement consisting of some 758 parts, this piece reinforces Journe’s remit as a specialist in grand complication watchmaking. As in previous years, the Astronomic Blue will be made with a tantalum case and mirrored dial, though it’s widely known that this particular design will be offered in a production-friendly, stainless steel iteration sometime in 2020. 

 

4
Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire

Initial estimate: CHF 48,000–69,000

The name ‘Grönefeld’ holds a lot of sway in the world of independent watchmaking. Following a period of tutelage at esteemed marques Audemars Piguet and Renaud et Papi, brothers Bart and Tim started their eponymous brand — they continue to make no more than 70 watches per year. The 1941 Remontoire is perfect vindication for this uncompromising and attentive approach; from the moment it was introduced, it became a grail item amongst collector’s collectors. For Only Watch 2019, the brand has designed a new iteration that’s easily distinguished by its unique frosted dial and blued power governor (at 9 o’clock). Other than that, this is the same 1941 Remontoire which watch nerds know and love, featuring a whirring power governor, absorbing visual depth and what many consider to be the most beautifully finished movement in the industry.

5
TUDOR Black Bay Ceramic One

Initial estimate: CHF 4,000–5,000

Much like sibling brand Rolex, any watch that comes under the TUDOR flag is bound to generate a bit of buzz on the strength of its mindshare alone. Add to that several brand-wide firsts and you have an Only Watch release which is bound to have people clamouring to bid. The Black Bay Ceramic One embodies all of the classically handsome engineering and design principles we’ve come to expect from the eponymous collection of dive watches. Suffice to say, this is a time-only three-hander, powered by an in-house movement that generates just shy of three days’ power. That’s the boring bit. What’s plain for everybody to see is that this is the first ever diver by TUDOR to be manufactured in ceramic. Even more exceptionally, the Ceramic One is among the only watches across the whole TUDOR portfolio to feature an exhibition caseback — through which viewers can see a revised MT5602 movement, topped with a blackened peripheral rotor. Christie’s have very gingerly proposed that this hammer for anywhere between 4,000–5,000 Swiss Francs but you can be sure the winning bid will exceed that — by at least a hundredfold.

The Only Watch 2019 auction will take place on 9 November at the Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergues in Geneva, Switzerland. Members of the public will be able to view the collection in person at Christie’s Hong Kong between 2829 October. To learn more, please visit Only Watch online

Randy Lai
Watches Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.