Dubai Watch Week: The Inside Story Of Selling The Most Expensive Watch In The World

21 November 2019
DUBAI WATCH WEEK, Patek Philippe, Christie's, Most expensive watches
Two weeks ago, a Patek Philippe watch sold for more than $31m. Aline Sylla-Walbaum, Global Managing Director, Luxury, at Christie's explains how it went down

Two weeks ago, A Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A became the most expensive watch in the world, auctioned off at The Only Watch Auction for a staggering $31.2m. Held once every two years, Only Watch sees the world's most esteemed watchmakers donate specially-made, one-off pieces for sale. Ninety-nine percent of the profits go to charity, with this year's takings given directly to research projects into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Watching proceedings from a prime spot – right next to Only Watch founder Luc Pettavino, Prince Albert of Monaco and British journalist Nick Foulkes, if you must know – here's the take-home from Christie's Global Managing Director, Luxury, Aline Sylla-Walbaum.

Sometimes a watch at the auction is only slightly different…

Perhaps it’s been given a unique colour, just for The Only Watch Auction – making it a watch that you will not be able to find in any store, but perhaps it’s not so unique in terms of mechanism.

Patek Philippe has always been very generous to the Only Watch cause…

It was their decision to give us something really special. The Grand Master Chime is the model they produced for their 175th anniversary and they decided to make a very special edition for Only Watch.

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They did something that they never do…

On the dial you’ll find the words: The Only One. Now, that makes it really really special. Patek will most likely never do this again… it all added to the exceptional element of this watch.

Personally I was happy…

We all know that Patek is one of the most important brands in the world. But for me, I think it really deserves to now hold the baton as ‘world’s most expensive watch’.

The Only Watch Auction

Were we expecting a world record price? No…

We gave an initial price that we thought was attractive it was $2.5m. This was the low estimate. We knew it was modest, but this is the rule of auction. You want to give reasonable estimates for people to feel like ‘yes, it’s good to be in the competition’, because, potentially it could go for that price. That is the game.

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In reality we thought $7-10m…

But what happened above $10m took us all by surprise. The final price was $31.2m.

The auction took some time…

It took eight to 10 minutes to complete. Normally we’ll get through around 60 lots per hour.

We had some of the world's greatest watch collectors in the room

At the end it was down to two clients. They were both from Asia, but we had a number of bidders – I think about seven from the beginning. Considering the high starting price, that was rare, too.

If you’re looking to enter the resale market…

Flipping through an auction catalogue will give you a sense of what has stood the test of time. Of course, some newcomers will become involved – 10 years ago, for example, we didn’t have Richard Mille at the auction, but now we do, and they’re immensely popular. However, if you love a watch, you love a boutique watchmaker and you don’t plan to resell… just go for what you love.