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“The wilder it is, the more they like it”

“The wilder it is, the more they like it”

Wednesday, 25 September 2013
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Fabrice Eschmann
Freelance journalist

“Don't believe all the quotes you read online!”

“In life as in watchmaking, it takes many encounters to make a story.”

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7 min read

The fifth Only Watch charity auction will take place on 28 September in Monaco. Thirty-three brands have donated a watch to compose what Etienne Leménager, Director of Antiquorum Geneva, considers to be a fine selection.

Created in 2005 and held every two years, the Only Watch charity auction has become a classic date in the horological calendar. The most prestigious names donate a one-of-a-kind watch to the Association Monégasque Contre les Myopathies, which uses the proceeds from the sale to finance research into muscular dystrophy, and in particular Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a highly incapacitating and rare neuromuscular disease which affects 250,000 boys, teenagers and young adults worldwide.

Thirty-three brands have joined in this fifth sale, which is taking place on 28 September as part of the Monaco Yacht Show. Auction house Antiquorum, partner to the event, staged pre-sale viewings of the donated watches in major cities around the world: Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, New York, Geneva and, of course, Monaco. Etienne Leménager, director of Antiquorum Geneva and watch expert, hopes the sale will generate the same enthusiasm as in 2011 when it achieved the record sum of EUR 4.5 million. The watch which Patek Philippe presented for the occasion, Reference 3939, fetched an impressive EUR 1.4 million.

Are you pleased with the selection for this 2013 sale? 

Etienne Leménager, Director, Antiquorum Geneva: Very pleased indeed! The brands have done us proud.

How exactly do you go about organising Only Watch?

It’s actually Luc Pettavino [President of the Association Monégasque Contre les Myopathies, which organises the event] who contacts the watch companies which then decide whether to take part… or not.

Can any brand take part in Only Watch? 

Some contact us directly but the last word always goes to Luc Pettavino.

What are the criteria that govern selection?

The brand has to be well-known so that the watch has a chance of finding a buyer.

Ikepod is offering a Horizon watch with a pre-sale estimate of EUR 5,000 to EUR 8,000, the lowest-priced lot in the sale. Is there a price you won't go under?

Two years ago, Ikepod took everyone by surprise with a sensational hourglass filled with red microbeads. It went for EUR 23,000 after a pre-sale estimate of between EUR 15,000 and EUR 25,000.

Six of the 33 brands - Backes & Strauss, Blancpain, Chanel, Frédérique Constant, DeWitt and Van Cleef & Arpels – have donated a lady's watch. A sign of the times?

I don’t think so, no. Backes & Strauss, Chanel and Van Cleef & Arpels all specialise in women’s watches anyway. The majority of watches in the sale are still for men.

In your opinion, which of the watches really stands out?

I especially like the design of the Christophe Claret X-Trem-1 Pinball. In a more classical vein, the DeWitt Twenty-8-Eight High Jewellery Skeleton Tourbillon should also have plenty of admirers.

Still, we're a long way off the head-turners and concept watches that had everyone talking in the past. This year's selection is far more conventional, with several pieces taken from existing collections.

The Claret watch has that “out there” spirit! Given that they have less than a year to come up with their watch, I think all the manufacturers have put in a lot of effort with great results.

A quick calculation gives a total pre-sale estimate of EUR 2,852,000 to EUR 3,835,000. How much are you hoping to make?

We’re fortunate that modern watches are currently more in demand than vintage, which are harder to sell. If bidding is anything like last time we can look forward to a fabulous result!

Who is the typical bidder at Only Watch?

Very much an Asian collector with a particular interest in one-off pieces. In fact the wilder it is, the more they like it!

Métiers d’art and lady's watches take pride of place

Whereas previous editions created a buzz by lining up their fair share of truly unique concept watches and other weird and wonderful creations, Only Watch 2013 stands out for a greater than usual number of women’s watches – six of the 33 brands have donated a lady’s model – and for the accent placed on guillochage, engraving, gem-setting and mother-of-pearl. The majority of pieces are, nonetheless, from existing collections.

First to propose a women’s watch is Blancpain. The mother-of-pearl marquetry dial of this timepiece from its Women collection is embellished with a dove, a symbol of hope, taking flight against a dazzling blue sky. The oscillating weight of the automatic movement, visible through the open back, also benefits from delicate engraving depicting the same dove and the inscription “Only Watch 2013”. Expected to fetch: EUR 40,000-60,000.

If there is one Maison for which lady’s watches are second nature, it is Van Cleef & Arpels. Past master in poetic complications, it proposes the Lady Arpels Une Journée à Monaco. The turquoise dial forms a backdrop depicting the legendary Rock of Monaco, the Prince’s Palace with two luxuriant palm trees, and the emblematic Fontvieille harbour with a ship sailing into the distance. A mother and daughter stroll along, appearing then disappearing against the delicately silhouetted landmarks on a rotating disc in white gold and lapis-lazuli. In the foreground, the hour and minute hands sweep a white mother-of-pearl cover. Expected to fetch: EUR 80,000-100,000.

Genevan manufacturer Frédérique Constant has donated not just a watch but a Parure Femme Double Heart. Comprising a Lady Automatic Double Heart Beat watch, a necklace, a bracelet and earrings, this matching set is crafted entirely from 18k rose gold and set with white diamonds. Expected to fetch: EUR 12,000-16,000.

Frédérique Constant Parure Femme Double Heart, EUR 12,000-16,000 © Frédérique Constant
The highest price for Richard Mille

In the men’s watch department, and still in the category of métiers d’art, Chopard has chosen to perpetuate a hand-engraving technique which has almost completely disappeared. Known as “filet” or “fleurisanne” engraving, after the village of Fleurier where the technique was invented and also home to the Chopard manufacture, this age-old expertise serves to create raised decorations, often on gold movement bridges. It is distinguished from other types of engraving by the fact that the motif isn’t incised in the metal but rather sculpted in the manner of a bas-relief by hollowing the metal around the form. The L.U.C Tourbillon Only Watch 2013 Edition comes with a dial in rhodium-plated 18k gold, engraved with the arms of the Principality of Monaco and circled by a DNA molecule as a striking reminder of the cause to which the Only Watch auction is dedicated. Expected to fetch: EUR 120,000-160,000.

On the technical – even technological – side, Christophe Claret has picked a model from his X-TREM-1 collection. This watch, which takes its cue from a pinball machine, has a flying tourbillon inclined at 30°, mounted on a titanium curvex mainplate. The retrograde display comprises two sapphire tubes, one on each side of the case, with tiny, hollowed steel spheres pulled through these tubes by magnetic fields. Expected to fetch: EUR 230,000-300,000.

Lastly, the highest-priced lot of all: the Richard Mille Prototype Tourbillon. Decked out in the colours of the Jamaican flag, this is the watch which Yohan Blake wore at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where he won three medals. Adapted from the RM 038, its plate, bridges and balance cock are in grade 5 titanium while the case is made from magnesium WE 54. This exceptionally tough alloy is one of the lightest construction-grade metals in the world. After the delicate machining stage, the alloy undergoes a special electro-plasma oxidation treatment known as Miarox®. The price of the dream: EUR 450,000-500,000. (FE)

Richard Mille Prototype Tourbillon, EUR 450,000-500,000 © Richard Mille
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