Only Watch: A hopeful outlook for the watch community

With the recent stir-up of the charity watch auction, it leaves one thing for certain: There remains the wonderfully made pièce uniques.

In two days, the watch industry would have been gearing up for November 5th. The significance of this date is that it should have coincided with Only Watch 2023.


This is normally an incredible moment for the watch industry, where a supercharged crucible of mega-collectors bid for one-of-a-kind timepieces created by the industry’s most mythical brands, technical geniuses and extraordinary artisans.

Only Watch 2021

For me, Only Watch was special because it was a moment of celebration for the entire watch community to benefit a great cause. It was an expression of love for humanity and, to some degree, a wonderfully good-natured competition to see who could create the most ambitious horological masterpieces and garner the greatest financial results.


But as you are probably aware, this charity auction benefiting Duchenne muscular dystrophy has been postponed to 2024. While the controversy around Only Watch has occupied much of our thoughts these past months, the outcome will be decided once Luc Pettavino, founder and organizer of the event, publishes his financial records next year.


Even though Revolution felt it was our responsibility to publish an interview with uber watch collector Santa Laura, the primary individual levying for greater transparency from the charity, I personally hope for a positive outcome. Why? Because I count Luc a friend and consider him to be one of the most affable, gentle and kind individuals I know.


While I support Santa Laura’s right to ask questions, I patently do not support the social media bullying and targeting of Pettavino with tasteless memes and opportunistic hateful comments.

The Only Watch legacy

One way or another, by next year, we will have clarity into the situation. In the meantime, I wanted to remind everyone of the incredible watchmaking legacy of Only Watch.


The amazing thing about Only Watch is that it has effectively become the Swiss watch industry’s concept car show, where we are presented with no-holds-barred dream watches limited only by the imagination of their creators. Indeed, Only Watch is significant and thrilling for this.

And like a concept car, often the technology presented in an Only Watch timepiece will make its way to a production model — as is the case with François-Paul Journe’s magnificent FFC and Rexhep Rexhepi’s Chronomètre Contemporain II. 

They’re beautiful watches made for a good cause

Throughout the history of Only Watch, the undisputed king has been Patek Philippe. All but one of its creations have taken top honors as the highest selling lot in their respective years and accounted for a very significant proportion — often more than half — of the total amount raised for charity.

Amongst the most extraordinary timepieces created by Patek was the incredible steel Grandmaster Chime Grande et Petite Sonnerie for Only Watch 2019, which achieved a price of CHF 31 million, becoming the most expensive watch ever sold at auction.

The other star of Only Watch has consistently been the incredible François-Paul Journe. At the same 2019 auction, his Astronomic Blue in tantalum fetched CHF 1.8 million, which at the time (just before the insane acceleration in secondary prices of Journe watches) was a record for him.


So much is our love and respect for the incredible efforts made by the watchmakers and brands participating at Only Watch that when it came time for the Revolution team to select our best watches of 2023, we were faced with a challenge. Should we or should we not include as potential candidates the watches created for Only Watch?


In the end, we decided that such was their insane horological and creative merit that we had to. To not include them would be the equivalent of not letting the world’s best athletes compete in their chosen sports.

Regarding the issue that all of these watches were once-off pièce unique objects, again I would point out that many of these will become production pieces. For example, I am fairly confident that Rexhep Rexhepi’s incendiary Chronomètre Antimagnétique will make it to a limited series in the very near future. 

The watches that made this year’s favorites

One of my favorite timepieces of the year is Bernhard Lederer’s wonderful Central Impulse Chronometer that was created for the first time in a fully skeletonized version! I also love Baltic’s charming purple dial perpetual calendar just because it’s so damn pretty.

When it comes to beauty, of course, Atelier de Chronométrie’s AdC30 is just ravishing.

I even have a personal emotional connection with several of the watches such as De Bethune’s Dream Watch made from Damascus iron and steel. I saw Denis Flageollet smelt the metal for the case of this masterpiece before my eyes when I was shooting the documentary on him named Seeking Perfect.

De Bethune DW5 Seeking Perfect
De Bethune DW5 Seeking Perfect

And I had a very small hand in helping with the relaunch of Chopard L.U.C’s transcendent 1860, which has been made in a single example with a mesmerizing ice green-toned white gold guilloché dial. I also have to say that I adore the Streamliner Pandamonium, the delightful collaboration between MB&F and H. Moser.

The point I’m making is that Only Watch has been so much a part of our industry for the past 20 years. Regardless of what the future holds, it has been an incredible 20 years from a pure watchmaking perspective.


And I want to thank everyone involved over these two decades, in particular the watchmakers, the auction’s amazing PR Marine Lemonnier-Brennan and Christie’s auction house especially Remi Guillemin, the incredible collectors (what’s up, Hadi, you rock) and, yes, also Luc Pettavino for all the wonderful moments created. 


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