Zach’s 5 favourite Only Watch 2023 lots Zach’s 5 favourite Only Watch 2023 lots

Zach’s 5 favourite Only Watch 2023 lots

Zach Blass

Only Watch is probably my favourite endeavour within the watch industry. It is the ultimate horological win-win-win scenario. First and foremost, the charity auction raises a ton of money for a great cause. Only Watch was founded in 2005 by Luc Pettavino to raise funds for research on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (a genetic disease that afflicts one in 3,500 boys and that affected Luc and Monique’s son, Paul). In a very clever twist that benefits all involved, the biennial Only Watch auction presents strictly one-of-a-kind offerings. Pieces uniques. As we all know well, rarity makes watch collectors salivate at the mouth and bidders come ready with their war chests to secure one or more of these incredibly rare offerings. As watch enthusiasts, we all get to at the very least spectate and appreciate the wild one-off lots each brand donates. For collectors who are capable, they have the potential to have the laurel of owning something nobody else has. For the brands participating, they get a ton of attention around their craftsmanship and a lot of PR. And most importantly, 99% of all the generated proceeds from the lots are given to charity – with 1% reserved for covering the running costs of the Only Watch organisation. As of November 2021, when the last Only Watch was held, the organisation has raised nearly CHF 100M. As you can see, it’s very much a win-win-win and a model that other industries should follow. And, speaking of win, if I had a larger expendable-cash watch budget, these are the five lots I would want to try and win.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport Only Watch Set

When I first saw this Zenith Chronomaster Sport Only Watch Set, my first thought was: oh man… these should be standard production models. But, in a way, this is what makes the appeal of the set so strong. Individually some of the colours are more wild than others, like the yellow and pinkish-red. But the other two, the green and blue, surely would do very well if they were standard production. So ultimately the set has enough of a wearability factor for interest to be generated, with a rarity factor that will surely stretch just how far bidders are willing to go. The watches are all the Chronomaster Sport you already know, the novelty is ultimately limited to the new dial colours and the debut of the ceramic bezel in these matching colours. Major props to Zenith for colour-matching all of the date windows perfectly, something they are known for doing even in their regular catalogue. It is a small detail that makes a world of difference, and is emblematic of how detail-focused the manufacture is. What really excites me the most about this set is the new ceramic bezel colours. It is no simple feat to achieve such distinct shades of ceramic. We already knew Zenith were up to the task considering their Boutique Edition Chronomaster Sport with its tri-colour bezel. But, hopefully this is not the last we see of these vibrant ceramic colours. Better yet, it would be very cool to see this colours extend to ceramic cases as well.

Estimate: CHF 45,000 – 55,000

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble

Only Watch is not just about distinguishing a watch by being the only one. Some brands push the envelope more than others, and Bulgari definitely pushed the limits incorporating marble into their ultra-thin baroque masterpiece. The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble accomplishes something I have never seen another watch manufacturer do. Through 800 hours of development and production, Bulgari engineered the means to incorporate Verde di Alpi marble throughout the entire watch. The dial utilises a 0.6mm layer of this green marble, the 110-facet DLC-coated titanium case a 0.5mm layer, and the DLC-coated titanium bracelet with a 0.4mm layer. The result is a stunning timepiece worthy of museum exhibition. The baroque sculptural nature of the Finissimo design, paired with the Roman architecture-inspired use of marble, is just so on-brand for the “Roman jeweller of time” and showcases their distinct talents very well in a special way. And the fact they did all this development on a watch that houses a 1.95mm thick tourbillon movement inside of a 6.9mm thick case is all the more impressively insane.

Estimate: CHF 150,000 – 250,000

Gérald Genta Only Watch 2023 (Mickey Mouse Birthday)

I know that character watches are not for everybody, but this piece unique Mickey Mouse watch from the recently reorganized Gérald Genta brand is very impressive in my book and is a good sign of things to come from the brand. No longer under Bulgari, the Gerald Genta brand is relaunching once again as a fully independent manufacture. Under the guidance of Jean Arnault (Director of Watches Development and Marketing at Louis Vuitton), with the blessing of Genta’s widow Evelyn, and Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini (who both previously worked with Gerald Genta) and on the initiative of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton leading the charge, Gérald Genta moves forward uninhibited with the full archive of Gérald’s designs at their disposal and stewards of independent watchmaking developing the next generation of the manufacture. We now have our first taste of what this new team can achieve, with a watch that celebrates both the 100th anniversary of Disney and the 50th anniversary of the first watch released under Genta’s name. Sure, it is Mickey Mouse and birthday cakes on the dial side. But, flip the white gold-cased watch over, and you can see the new debuting GG-001 calibre. Finely decorated, the 80-hour power reserve calibre powers not only the retrograde minutes and jumping hours seen on the dial, but also includes a minute repeater complication. Oh, FYI, the dial is made of white gold with grand feu enamel to create both Mickey Mouse and the backdrop. It may be a playful piece, but there is some serious watchmaking behind it.

Estimate: CHF 350,000 – 500,000

F.P. Journe Chronomètre Bleu Furtif

Anything Journe is a hot proposition, but a F.P. Journe watch with the premiere of a new calibre and a world-premiere full tantalum case and bracelet means this is likely the #1 lot collectors will be chasing after. In fact, I would not be surprised if this piece unique sets a new record for the manufacture at auction. Aesthetically speaking, the design is a bit of a remix of their Linesport watch. The tantalum has been executed with a sandblasted finish that is then complimented with polished bevelled edges. The watch gets its Chronomètre Blue Furtif name due to its blue enamel dial that can only be read with the watch facing you, the light reflecting off the frosted numerals. It is a very phantom look, with the overwhelmingly blue elements blending into each other and only interrupted with a pop of orange on the central seconds hand. Flip it over and the 18K rose gold hand-wound calibre 1522 can be seen through the exhibition caseback. Of course the finishing is top-notch, but notably you will find a full balance bridge that will better resist against shock and caters well to the sporty nature of the piece. Completely unnecessary, but certainly welcome, the movement hosts a moon phase complication and a power reserve indication on its bridges. All I can say with this one is let the game begin (and geez do I wish I had the funds for this one).

Estimate: CHF 250,000 – 400,000

TAG Heuer Monaco Split-Seconds for Only Watch

TAG Heuer are known for their racing watch icons like the Monaco and Carrera, but they are not widely discussed for their complications. Yes, they have made strides on the tourbillon front, with innovative materials used for the mechanism and housed in watches that are proportionally much less expensive than other tourbillons from big names. But while they do not explore complications often, they certainly have the know-how to do so. So I was super glad to see this Monaco Split-Seconds for Only Watch that marks the first-ever split-seconds chronograph movement from TAG Heuer. With the “AG” in TAG standing for avant-garde, I love when TAG Heuer looks to push the boundaries of their designs. I also like how on-theme the complication is for a Monaco as well, it is not a forced pairing. As a racing watch, it makes sense to offer a Monaco with a split-seconds chronograph complication that can better aid in timing laps. Split-seconds chronographs are among the hardest calibres to develop, so I have to believe they will find a way to introduce this new calibre TH81-00 into the more standard catalogue (or at the very least a piece limited in production beyond just one watch). But the “texturised titanium” that makes up the case is a new material specifically crafted in the TAG Heuer Institute for the project.

Estimate: CHF 150,000 – 300,000