With the use of smartphones, the common practice of wearing a wrist-watch has gone out of use with some segments of the population, particularly with the younger generation, but there is a community of steadfast enthusiasts who will always recognize the inherent charm and dignity of horological masterpiece. Whether a pocket watch or wrist watch, these classic timepieces have long been valued as treasures among the more traditional patrons.
Whether as an accessory, a practical necessity, or a highly prized collectible, one of the finer things in life is a high end luxury watch. Prestigious watchmakers who have been in business for more than a hundred years, and newer upstarts who are vying to make a name in the industry provide us with some of the finest examples of craftsmanship, complicated masterpiece along with the unique personality that is possessed within many of the hand-made pieces. The admiration of horology is as much a mind-set as it is a lifestyle, and with this, we give you the 20 most expensive watches ever sold.
20. Patek Philippe Rare Platinum Chronograph 1946 Ref 1579 – $2,213,454
Our twentieth most expensive watch ever sold is the Patek Philippe Rare Platinum Chronograph. The watch was manufactured inn 1946. It is signed Patek Philippe & Co., Geneve. This is an extremely rare platinum chronograph in wrist watch style. The movement is number 863’875 with the case number 645;564, It was sold at auction for $2,213,454 in November of 2011.
19. Patek Philippe 1944 Wristwatch in stainless steel – $2.24 million
This rare example that sold for $2.26 million is a Patek Philippe made in 1944, in stainless steel. It sold for the auction price listed above at Christies. The sale took place in November of 2007 and the purchase was made by a private museum in Switzerland. This example, as all Patek Philippe models are only produced in stainless steel material in limited numbers. It is difficult to locate a perpetual calendar wrist watch in stainless steel material today. There are only six known examples which are currently on the market. Of these, are this example, the reference 1591, now in a Swiss museum, four perpetual calendar with chronograph wrist watches reference 1518, and a perpetual calendar featuring subsidiary seconds, reference 1526. Each of these rare pieces are representations of the value involved with the collection of rare time pieces. There is not only an aesthetic and prestige factor, many of these fine collectibles have a great historical as well as monetary value. Patek Philippe is among the most highly collected watch brands, and certain examples are among the most sought after in the world
18. Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Wristwatch in Pink Gold – $2.28 million
This example of the Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph is ref 2499 series created in 1957. This piece is crafted in pink gold material and is distinguished by the rectangular chronograph buttons, and is also characterized with a crown that is partially recessed. Additional distinguishing features include applied Arabic hours, a tachometer scale along with hands that are each crafted in the shape of a leaf. Of the series, two particular types were made, one sporting oval edge backs and the other made with flat backs. Of these, a mere fourteen are known to exist. The example we are discussing is Patek Philippe’s second most complicated wrist watch style made. It comes in second with regard to complication only to the 2571 which also included the split-second chronograph.
17. Patek Philippe Pink Gold Pocket Watch 1894 – $2.29 Million
Patek Philippe is a high end luxury watch brand that continues to increase in value with the passage of time. In particular, limited editions and those which are rare examples tend to gain the most. The unique pink gold 24 hour repeater was made in 1894 and this is also the year of its original sale to the first owner. At the time of its sale in the late 1800s, the price was 3,750 Swiss Francs. This rare Patek Philippe was created to in a way that differs from other examples in that the Patek Philippe designation is absent from the dial, and additionally,instead of the traditional 12 hour time, it features a 24 hour train dial. This pocket watch was designed to keep 24 hour GMT, which sets it apart from most other examples from the brand. It was successfully sold for $2.20 million in Switzerland.
16. Patek Philippe 1953 Heures Universelles Ref 2523 – $2.9 million
Yet another fine example of the high collectible value of the Patek Philippe brand. The ref 2523 is circa 1953. The Heures Universelles watch is among the finest examples that has been manufactured by the high end watchmaker. The company has been in business for a little over 165 years, which isn’t new and isn’t that old either. During their tenure, they have produced multiple luxury watches which have become among the most sought after collector’s pieces in the world. The Heures Universelles of 1953 is one such example, fetching a price of $2.9 million. The 18 karat gold case and a map of North America are two features which distinguish this Patek Philipe from all others. It is art in motion and luxury at a high price.
15. Piaget Emperador Temple – $3.3 million
The Piaget Emperador Temple is made by the Piaget watchmaker, the company with a lengthy history and excellent record for making highly expensive watches. The Piaget Emperador is among the most expensive manufactured with a mind boggling 481 of the most brilliant cut diamonds in the case. found throughout the watch are an additional baguette cut diamonds and one emerald cut that is neatly placed at the top of the case. There is a dual personality to this amazing and unique watch. A second watch with a tourbillon exists within the maelstrom of richness with the mechanical accoutrement of the watch with the tourbillon dial made of Polynesian mother of pearl material and a setting of 162 more diamonds of the brilliant cut variety. There are also 11 additional baguette cut diamonds here. Inside of the diamond encrusted covering is another 350 baguette cut diamonds on the bracelet. This line was launched in 1000 originally and has risen to the estate of Piaget’s most iconic in style. The one of a kind design is so highly desired that each example is sold as quickly as it is completed.
14. Patek Philippe 1928 Single Button Chronograph – $3.6 million
This Patek Philippe was previously the property of the famed musician and singer, Eric Clapton. The ref 2499 was created in 1928 and served as a magnificent example of the quality and workmanship of Patek Philippe during this era. The vintage collectible is a single button chronograph, made of 18 karate white gold materials. It makes a spectacular display which is adorned with a total of 28 different jewels. The unique dial tells the current moon phase in addition to all the other impressive functions, and it’s survived wonderfully for the nearly ninety years that it has been in existence.
13. Patek Philippe 5004T -$3.9 million
The 5004T is a series that Patek Philippe discontinued manufacturing for a brief period of time. The model was revived in 2013, and it was an instant success. Featuring a variety of designs, one of them in the reprisal was sold at auction and the fetching price was $3.9 million. This example is among the sportier designs offered by the watchmaker. In addition to presenting a sporty appearance, it is every bit as luxurious as any other Patek Philippe example. Perhaps one of the most notable features of this watch is the face which is made of titanium material. It is a chronograph that supplies the wearer with information about the current phase of the moon.
12. Patek Philippe Platinum World Time – $4 million
This Patek Philippe was a labor of love and an investment of time. The design and assembly took place in the year 1930, but the famed watch maker did not reveal it to the world until nine years later in 1939. This particular piece was a classic treasure with perfect execution, and a stunning aesthetic. It’s high value is due to the brand, of course, and the rarity of the piece. While there is not a lot of information available on the history of this watch, we do known that it is a one of a kind and there has never been another of its kind made. After its initial sale in 1939, the watch wan’t seen again until it resurfaced. In 2002, it was sold for $4 million.
11. Louis Moinet Meteoris – $4.6 million
The twelfth highest selling watch is a unique Louis Moinet creation, titled the Louis Moinet Meteoris. The Meteoris is among the most interesting in design in the world. Moinet, famed inventor of the chronograph is the creator who designed the set with four distinct tourbillion watches. Each was crafted of the most amazing materials and are famed to contain a piece of material that has come to earth directly from an assortment of heavenly bodies, including; Mars, the moon, a meteorite and an asteroid. This is a part of the initial attraction of the watch collection. The Meteoris collection of watches sold for $4.6 million and comes as a set.
10. Breguet & Fils Paris 2667 Precision 4 – 4.68 million
The Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet was a famous and skilled artisan in his time. He was the founder of the watch company during the 1770s era. He established the company and gained the reputation for crafting some of the most desired luxury pieces in the world. Upon his passing, the business passed to his son, and so forth through the generations until the family sold the company to Edward Brown. Prior to Brown’s acquisition of the company, the Breguet & Fils Paris 2667 Precision was created. This is the example that is one of the highest value watches in the world, selling for 4.68 million.
9. Patek Philippe Calibre 89 – $5 million
The Patek Philippe Calibre 89 is the pocket watch that was designed and created in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Patek Philippe watchmaking company. It was made in 1989, and is a limited edition commemorative piece. This brilliant example contains over seventeen hundred separate pieces with 24 hands. Things are beginning to sound very complicated aren’t they? Now we turn to the reason for the inclusion of so many working parts. The Patek Philippe Calibre 89 features a star chart, and a display that points directly to the current moon phase. These are amazing complications, but certainly not the extent of the complexity of this piece. In addition, a thermometer is included among several other gadget. A more complicated watch had not been created at the time that this watch was made. The total of time that it took to create this watch is nine years. This is an extremely limited edition with just four pieces produced. Each of the four watches created in this series of four, was made of a different material. One example in platinum, one in rose gold, one in white gold and one in yellow gold. Perhaps one of the most remarkable characteristics of this watch is the fact that the weight is almost one kilogram. The collection is among the most highly desired Patek Philippe collections in the world and the price of $5 million is not considered to be robbery for enthusiasts who know the true value of the set.
8. Hublot Big Bang Diamond Wrist Watch – $5 million
Tied for ninth place of the most expensive watches ever sold is the Hublot Big Bang Diamond. The Hublot watchmaker company was founded by Carl Crocco is 1980. Still a relatively new company, the brand has risen quickly in the ranks of high end luxury watchmakers. The Italian designer created the Big Bang series that this piece receives its inspiration from that line, released in 2005. Partnerships have been made between the Hublot brand and UEFA, Ferrari and FIFA as well as multiple pro sports teams. This watch is encrusted with over 1,280 diamonds. It was purchased in 2012, by Beyonce for the famed rapper Jay Z, who is the current owner of the piece.
7. Patek Philippe Reference 1527 – $5.7 million
The Patek Philippe Reference 1527 was crafted in 1943. It is one of the highest dollar watches designed by the famous watchmaker. In comparison with some of the more ornate examples, it may appear more on the ordinary side, but it has a great value to collectors who are willing to pay the price tag of $5.7 million for ownership. Although not as fanciful as the Hublot Big Bang, the Patek Philippe Reference 1527 contains more than 20 different precious stones. In addition, it is made from the very expensive material of 20 karat rose gold. This is among the most rare Patek Philippe watches in existence, for two reasons. The first, being that it is the only one of its kind that has ever been made. Secondly, the watch is believed to have served as the inspiration for sever Patek Philippe models which came afterwards.
6. Rolex Daytona – $17.8 million
What would you pay for a high end luxury watch that was previously owned by actor Paul Newman? Someone was willing to dish out a whopping $17.8 million for this Rolex piece. This wasn’t just a watch that Newman stored away in a collection vault. He is reported to have worn the watch on a daily basis between the years of 1969 and 1984. This is a lot of wear, but it’s in remarkable condition. The watch was a gift to Newman, from his wife Joanne Woodward. It was given to him at the time that he was filming the movie “Winning,” which was released in the late ’60s. Isn’t it amazing what an influence he had on fans? Upon seeing that Newman was so fond of this particular brand and model, sales soared to remarkable heights as everyone wanted to have a wrist watch just like Paul Newman’s. This particular piece was created in 1968. It was given to Newman’s daughter Nell’s former boyfriend, James Cox in 1984 as a gift. The new owner put the watch up for sale at auction. The winning bid was placed by phone and the buyer remains anonymous. The nearly $18 million watch is one of the most expensive every sold in the world.
5. Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication – $24 million
Once again, Patek Philippe tops the list with the Henry Graves Supercomplication pocket watch. The watchmakers took their time in the design and crafting of this watch with an estimated three years for the design, and the creation process taking an additional five years. This piece is circa 1930s, and for the era in which it was created, it was one of the most advanced and complicated time pieces of its kind. The word was in awe when the pocket watch sold for $11 million in 1999, but the collector’s piece would only increase in value with the passage of time. It set the record for being the most expensive watch ever sold at the time of its sale. When it was yet sold again, the watch had increased to a value of $24 million, which places it firmly in the position of the sixth most expensive watch ever sold.
4. Chopard 201 Carat – $25 million
When it comes to high end watchmaking, the Chopard watchmakers of Switzerland are no slouches. The Chopard 201 Carat made its appearance to the world in its unveiling in 2000. The Chopard 201 Carat is appropriately named for the 201 Karats of a variety of diamonds and other gems. There are 800 diamonds in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes. This brilliant masterpiece was created with a secret mechanism that can be pressed to open up and proudly display three heart shaped diamonds in blue, pink and grey colors. This isn’t the extent of the rococo style time piece. The face is filled with pave set yellow diamonds which create a shimmering background for the indications of time. Understandably, it fetched a price of $25 million.
3. Jaeger-LeCoultre Joaillerie 101 Manchette – $26 million
Jaeger-LeCoultre Joaillerie 101 Manchette is a watch that comes with a high pedigree and a name that is befitting of such. The founder of the company, Anotine LeCoultre, began the business in the 1830s. It was no more than a tiny shop, but there was enough space for LeCoultre to work his magic and further perfect his craft. The Swiss watchmaker earned a reputation for being a brilliant horologist who was expert at tending to the tiniest of details. He rose to the position of most highly esteemed watchmakers in the world. This example of his work was originally owned by LeCoultre. It has the appearance of a bracelet at first glance, but when you examine it more closely, you can then notice that there is a tiny watch that is hidden within its glory. This piece currently hods the world record for containing the smallest mechanical movement, which in itself is quite a feat. Queen Elizabeth was given a piece out of the series and wore one that is similar on her coronation day, but this piece is worth $26 million.
2. Breguet Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette – $30 million
The Breguet Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette is an example that was named after the famous historical figure because it was created specifically for her. The watch was made by Axel Von Fersen, who was a Swedish nobleman. It was requested to include with every kind of complication that had been designed at the time. Sadly, before the piece could be finished to specifications, both Antoinette and Breguet had passed away. It was finally completed in 1827. Marie Antoinette was executed 30 years prior to the completion and Breguet passed away four years before the completion. This watch had found its way to Jerusalem, where it was stored for a number of years. It was stolen during the 1980s and resurfaced in the 2000s era, and the estimated value of the watch is placed at $30 million.
1. Graff Diamonds Hallucination – $55 million
Graff Diamonds is one of the most prestigious jewelry companies in the world. They are known for brokering the finest and highest quality of diamonds in the available market today. The London based company reported that several thousand hours of work have gone into the creation of the Hallucination watch. It was released in 2014 and it’s breathtaking beauty is the result of a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes of diamonds, expertly placed and quite aesthetically pleasing. This piece is one of Laurence Graff’s most famous pieces and also the most expensive, coming in at a whopping $55 million price tag.