D.C.’s 5 favourite Only Watch 2023 lots D.C.’s 5 favourite Only Watch 2023 lots

D.C.’s 5 favourite Only Watch 2023 lots

D.C. Hannay

The Only Watch auction not only benefits a great cause (Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research), but it’s also an event that really lets watchmakers run rampant and show off their horological chops. It’s almost like the watch world’s version of the Met Gala, where designers can truly cut loose, free of the bonds of commerce, and let their imaginations take them to new places. This year’s edition has proven to be one of the most outrageous yet, and while my tastes are still firmly entrenched in classic-era tool watches, I truly appreciate the craft that goes into these one-of-ones. Zach and Fergus have had their turns, so now it falls to me, and I think a few of my picks will surprise some.

Speake-Marin Ripples Bleu Royal

If demand is any indication, I don’t think we’ve reached Peak Integrated Sports Watch yet. But who can blame us when confronted with such well-executed beauty, like that found in Speake-Marin’s Ripples series? In a sea of sameness, the Ripples cuts an impressive profile with its 40.3mm stainless case flowing effortlessly into the integrated bracelet, while maintaining a trim 9.2mm case height. Equally as accomplished is the work that was clearly put into the SMA03-T20 movement, resplendent in all its glorious decoration. But the star of this show is that royal blue dial, which flaunts a Côtes de Genève-textured Ripples finish, shifting and playing with light with a carefree ease that belies the considerable effort behind a timepiece this attractive.

Estimate: CHF 35,000 – 65,000

Girard-Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement Only Watch Edition

If you know me, you know I’m terrified to wear most haute horology. While I appreciate the artistry, given my bull-in-a-china-shop tendencies, I tend to avoid it, because a watch is for wearing, no? And while G-P’s Neo Constant Escapement Only Watch Edition is certainly up in the stratosphere among horological heavy-hitters, the other side of my subconscious is a sucker for the intricate goings-on of mechanical timepieces, and this G-P is a technological tour-de-force. The constant escapement ensures a steady amount of energy to the regulating organ, regardless of whether the watch is fully wound. This video from when the award-winning movement was first introduced shows it in great detail. So, groundbreaking movement, check, but how does everything look? In a word, amazing. Apart from the silicon componentry, handset and indices, everything is exquisitely crafted in pink gold, including those signature G-P bridges, and just for the tool watch lover in me, there’s even lume. This is Haute horology that can seduce even a Neanderthal like yours truly.

Estimate: CHF 140,000 – 220,000

Angelus Chronodate Gold X Château Angelus

Not just a colour in this case, I love the conceit behind Angelus’ entry for Only Watch ‘23: a true wine dial. As a dad, I can really get behind a good pun, especially a horological one, and it’s easy when the result is this beautiful. Their upscale tool watch, the Chronodate, gets a vintage (sorry) update with their wine-hued dial, coloured with, I kid you not, the freeze-dried lees of a 2022 Bordeaux. Does the use of actual wine give the dial a richer, fuller hue? You tell me, but this thing is a looker regardless. The 42.5mm red gold case accentuates the warm glow emanating from the dial, and the view of the column wheel chrono movement around back is just as lovely, including the highly detailed oscillating weight. The entire effect is, if I may, intoxicating.

Estimate: CHF 50,000 – 60,000

ArtyA Purity Moissanite

Another leftfield pick from me, because I don’t normally gravitate toward bling, but damn, this is a pretty substantive expression of craftsmanship. The ArtyA Purity Moissanite has broken new ground with their use of the second hardest material known to man, Moissanite, which comes in just below a diamond’s hardness at 9.5 Mohs. In fact, the material is so difficult to machine, it’s never been used in watchmaking. The faceting on the case is mind-bendingly intricate, with 600 cuts lending an incredible brilliance that sends all the colours of the rainbow scattering. I’m all about experimenting with new case materials, and it’s hard to argue with the stunning results. Thankfully, the almost Spartan movement within lets the case take the spotlight, but trust me, it’s a masterclass in elegant understatement, with cast iron-blasted bridges and hand finished bevels. In this instance, less is more, letting the “more” of the jaw-dropping diamond-like case do all the talking.

Estimate: CHF 40,000 – 50,000

Tudor Prince Chronograph One “Big Block”

Now we’re talking. Could Tudor’s 2023 Only Watch entry be a harbinger of things to come? A direct callback to Tudor’s first autowinding chrono, the iconic “Big Block” released in 1976, this watch could not be parked further into my wheelhouse. On top of the fantastic vintage look and devil-may-care flex of its black and yellow gold Big Watch Energy, there’s something even bigger going on under the hood: a new in-house movement. The prototype column-wheel Calibre MT59XX features a silicon hairspring, accuracy of -2/+4 seconds, and a power reserve of 70 hours. But I just love all the retro touches, from the sunken gold subdials, to the aluminium bezel insert, and the “Prince Chronograph” text above the register at six. It’s utterly devastating, a direct head shot to all my aesthetic sensibilities. This is the one I want, and I think it’s easily going to shatter its estimate, given the “John Player Special” Daytona vibes it’s throwing off.

Estimate: CHF 25,000 – 35,000