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Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and TUDOR Shine at 2021 Edition of Only Watch

By Simon de Burton | 5 minute read

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The latest edition of the one-of-a-kind charity auction brings the total raised to over £80m. Simon De Burton highlights the most successful lots.

If ever you are asked to organise a charity auction, you could do worse than take some tips from Luc Pettavino: in Geneva on Saturday, the ninth edition of ONLY WATCH grossed Sfr30 m, pushing the total raised since he inaugurated the biennial event to more than Sfr 100m, or £80m.

The undisputed star of this latest edition again came from Patek Philippe, which established a world record for any timepiece at ONLY WATCH 2019 when a unique, steel-cased version of its Grandmaster Chime soared to Sfr 31m.

This time the house donated a desk clock inspired by the one created for auto tycoon and horophile James Ward Packard in 1923. Tipped to realise up to Sfr 500,000, a 20-minute bidding battle eventually saw the hammer fall at a remarkable Sfr 9.5m \(more than £7.6m\) for the specially-crafted piece, which was housed in a sterling silver cabinet with walnut inlays.

It proved to be one of five lots to exceed Sfr1m, with an F.P. Journe made in collaboration with film director Francis Ford Coppola reaching Sfr 4.5m/£3.6m and, early in the sale, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak exceeding its high estimate by more than 10 times to sell for Sfr 3.1m/£2,500,274.

The watch was the last unique Royal Oak 'Jumbo' to be powered by the maker's ultra-thin Calibre 2121 self-winding movement. The case and bracelet were made from sand-blasted titanium combined with polished 'Bulk Metallic Glass' to create a special high-strength, semi-transparent alloy and the grey 'Petite Tapisserie' dial carried the same signature and monogram used on the original Royal Oak of 1972.

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A total of 15 brands stocked by Watches of Switzerland Group created lots for the three-and-a-half-hour Christie's auction, raising almost £13m between them.

Stand-out performers included a Tudor Black Bay GMT with an aged steel case \(£524,251\) and a spectacular Zenith Defy Double Tourbillon that made £387,139. Its sapphire crystal case housed a 'rainbow' finished skeleton movement envisioned by artist Felipe Pantone, who also supplied an original artwork to go with the watch.

The origin of ONLY WATCH dates back to 2000 when Pettavino was CEO of the Monaco Yacht Show and his five-year-old son, Paul, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a version of the illness which affects one boy in 3,500 and is characterised by progressive muscle weakening that, ultimately, compromises the function of vital organs.

Pettavino decided he would try to raise awareness of the disease and improve the level of medical knowledge surrounding it in the hope that an effective treatment might eventually be found. And the best way to do that, he concluded, was to raise as much money as possible to fund research.

After staging two art-based auctions, he hit on the idea of an 'Only One' sale for 2004 which featured one-off luxury objects made for the event by well-known brands.

The following year, the decision was taken to focus on watches was and the first 'ONLY WATCH' auction took place in Monaco on September 22, 2005, following a world tour of all 34 donated lots.

Besides this the sale received maximum publicity, the global viewings ensured that many of the world's top collectors got to see the watches ‘in the metal’ – resulting in a remarkable Euros 1.9m being raised and every lot finding a buyer.

The totals have since grown dramatically and, thanks to the Sfr 100m now raised overall, clinical trials of a drug designed to fight Duchenne muscular dystrophy are scheduled to begin next year.

Sadly, Paul Pettavino lost his battle with the illness in 2017, just short of his 21st birthday - but his legacy lives on in the remarkable charity that he inspired.

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ONLY WATCH 2021 included the following watches donated by brands stocked by Watches of Switzerland:

AUDEMARS PIGUET - the final Royal Oak Jumbo extra thin with a Calibre 2121 movement. £2,500,000

BLANCPAIN – a 'Tribute to Fifty Fathoms 'No Rad' ' with highlights in 'ONLY WATCH' orange. £104,850

BOVET - a 'Miss Audrey Sweet Fairy' convertible wrist and pendant watch with miniature painted sugar crystal dial. £145,177

BREGUET - a unique re-edition of the Type XX pilot chronograph from the 1950s. £201,635

BULGARI - a tantalum-cased Octo Finissimo perpetual calendar watch with dial detail in ONLY WATCH orange. £176,000

CHANEL - a pair of black and white J12 'Paradoxe' watches with special blackened movements. £280,000

CHOPARD - an Alpine Eagle XL chronograph with a dial made from Swiss granite. £64,523

FREDERIQUE CONSTANT - a Highlife Monolithic Manufacture with rose gold case. £19,357

GIRARD-PERREGAUX/BAMFORD - Bamford Watch Department's forged carbon interpretation of the 1970s Girard-Perregaux Casquette driver's watch. £64,523

HUBLOT - Big Bang Tourbillon ONLY WATCH in sapphire crystal with orange detailing. £259,200

MONTBLANC - Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec chronograph in yellow gold with orange pointers and date. £60,400

PATEK PHILIPPE - Complicated desk clock based on the James Ward Packard commission of 1923. £7,662,130

TAG HEUER - a carbon-cased re-interpretation of the blackened Monaco 'Dark Lord' chronograph. £233,900

TUDOR - a Black Bay GMT with a case made from 'aged' stainless steel. £524,250

ULYSSE NARDIN - ‘UFO' mechanical table clock with one-year power reserve. £306,485

ZENITH - Defy Double Tourbillon Fekipe Pantone with sapphire crystal case. £387,139.

Discover more incredible luxury watches here at Watches of Switzerland.

*Simon de Burton is a journalist and author whose articles about high-end cars, motorcycles, boats, watches, and luxury living appear in publications around the world. A contributing editor to the Financial Times ‘How To Spend It’ magazine, he also writes for the Daily Telegraph, GQ, Vanity Fair, Boat International, Motorsport magazine and more. He lives on Dartmoor, South Devon.

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